Welcoming spirit a focus for south-west Muslim leader, Mohammed Khanyari

Proud Warrnambool man: Mohammed Khanyari has died at 55 after working to make the south-west welcoming to Muslims.

Proud Warrnambool man: Mohammed Khanyari has died at 55 after working to make the south-west welcoming to Muslims.

A man who loved Warrnambool and forged a path for other Muslims to feel at home in the pristine coastal city has died.

Mohammed Khanyari was two years into his retirement from Midfield Meat, where over more than 20 years he played a pioneering role in setting up and supervising Halal meat preparation and organised a mosque in Dixon Street, when he died after a stroke in late January.

Mr Khanyari’s brother, Ghulam, said his sibling was dedicated to the region, serving as president of the Warrnambool Islamic Society for many years. He encouraged other Muslim families to settle in the area.

“He was a bit of a character, and he lived for his daughter,” he said. “He liked the cool, he didn’t like big cities and he liked that when he walked down the street people would say ‘hello Mohammed’.”

Over the years, the leader spoke to The Standard about issues including how a mosque would attract Muslim workers and tourists from the Middle East, as well as the benefits of having a multicultural community.

Mr Khanyari was born in conflict-ridden Kashmir, in India, eventually making his way to New Zealand as an adult, and then settling in south-west Victoria in 1995.

His daughter, Farzana, was born the next year, and the family lived on a property in Bushfield. Sadly, his wife passed away in 2001.

When he wasn’t working, Mr Khanyari was keen to get out and enjoy nature, with fishing and hunting among his hobbies.

About a decade ago, he also set up a section for Muslims to be buried at Warrnambool Cemetery. He was the first person to be buried there.

His daughter said he was fond of the spot.

“We’re very proud to have been able to bury him in the place he loves, in the section of the graveyard that he chose, overlooking his favourite river, the Hopkins,” Ms Khanyari said.

Mr Khanyari’s granddaughter just started prep at Woodford Primary School – the school her mum went to – and Ms Khanyari said she would follow in her parents’ footsteps and raise her daughter in Warrnambool.