'Ban young Muslims from flights': outrage over NZ politician's column

Provoking outrage ... New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser.
Provoking outrage ... New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser. 

Muslim leaders have rejected an apology by New Zealand MP Richard Prosser over his call for Muslims to be banned from Western airlines.

The NZ First MP's remarks provoked outrage on Tuesday, although NZ First leader Winston Peters refused to sack him and said he did not have to apologise.

However, speaking on Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon show, Prosser apologised.

"I'm sorry ... to the majority of peaceful, law-abiding Muslims who are not involved in terrorism."

He conceded he was "only talking about a very small extremist minority", but his article would not allow the reader to separate the fact that most Muslims were honest and law-abiding.

"If you are a young male ... and you're a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West's airlines."

"That's obviously caused some upset, and for that I'm sorry," he said.

The head of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Anwar Ghani, said Prosser's apology was not good enough.

"I wouldn't call it an apology; it was a softening of the tone, that's all," he said.

"It seems to me he still maintains what he said, by and large, and he's simply trying to align his comments with what his leader has said."

He said the damage done by Prosser yesterday had not been reversed by the apology.

"He has to come out and say unreservedly that 'I apologise if my act has caused any offence to any of the Muslims in New Zealand'," Ghani said.

But Prosser told RNZ he did not "have any time" for Islam as a religion.

"I make no apology for the fact I don't have any time for people who denigrate women or for institutions that suppress human rights."

He denied he was being racist. "It is a religion, not a race."

Prosser conceded his article had "a lack of balance" in calling for Muslim men to be banned from Western airlines.

"I concede that some of the language that I used wasn't appropriate," he said.

He blamed his approach as a "shock-jock" columnist.

"My style as a columnist is perhaps something not appropriate any more for my role as an MP."

Prosser said his call for the blanket ban on young Muslims was wrong.

He said he should have called for an investigation into the merits of racial profiling. "I shouldn't have said certain things in certain ways."

Prosser, 45, penned a provocative column for Investigate magazine titled 'Enemy of the State' after his pocket knife was confiscated at Christchurch International Airport.

He wrote: "I will not stand by while their [his daughters'] rights and freedoms of other New Zealanders and Westerners are denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan.

"If you are a young male, aged between say about 19 and about 35, and you're a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West's airlines ..."

Reacting yesterday, outraged Muslim leaders said recent overtures Peters and NZ First had made to their community were now meaningless.

A NZ First source said its MPs were furious and believed Prosser "acted like a stupid idiot".

In an interview he stood by his views and said that an Israeli airline that banned Muslims was one of the world's safest carriers.

Peters issued a statement saying his Waimakariri-based MP "wrongfully impugned millions of law-abiding, peaceful Muslims".

Prosser polled just 538 votes at the last election.

"After a rational discussion he has changed his mind," Peters said. "We can't take it any further than that. He's had a chance to reflect ... he admits it was unbalanced."

Former Labour and Muslim MP Ashraf Choudhary called on Peters to "remove this cancer".

"It's uncalled for and racist," he said. "This kind of person has got no place in our Parliament."

Khoder Nasser, agent for Muslim sports star Sonny Bill Williams, said: "It's offensive and ignorant. Does he not realise he is taking about one in six people on the planet?"

Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins said the controversy would cause "international embarrassment".

Prime Minister John Key said the comments were "premeditated" and "buffoonish", and Labour leader David Shearer branded them "offensive and completely inappropriate".

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said it "beggars belief that a member of Parliament would say these sorts of things".

"This is not an off-the-cuff remark. It's a deliberate column written by an MP that should know better, published by a magazine that should know better," he said.

"He's not being provocative, he's being revolting."

AIRING HIS VIEWS

This is not the first time Prosser has aired his provocative views.

In his Investigate column, on Twitter and on his "Climate Change" Facebook page he has also called for:

- A ban on the burqa: "This is my culture and my country, not yours. Get some respect and conform."

- Compulsory military training: "There will be the pacifists, the weaklings, the other cowards and bludgers ... who will conscientiously object ... they can spend a couple of years picking up rubbish off the beaches and digging out long-drops for DOC instead."

- Arm all bank tellers, dairy owners and taxi drivers. "Taxi drivers as well as cops should almost be required to have at least a Walther PPK clipped to the sun visor."

- "The madness that is belief in the insane idea of Man-made Climate Warming needs to be countered."

- The Press

Comments