A foreign student had nightmares after a shopper in a Dunedin
supermarket told her to either take off her burqa or leave
Farm worker Yuet Rappard appeared before justices of the
peace in the Dunedin District Court yesterday and was found
guilty of offensive behaviour and fined $500 for telling a
student to remove her burqa on May 17.
Rappard, representing herself, did not dispute that she told
a University of Otago student to take off her burqa at
Gardens New World, but told the court she was expressing her
freedom of speech.
''I said, 'Shame on you, you should take it off. When in Rome
you should do as the Romans do'.''
Rappard, who moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands when
she was a child, believed burqas should be banned and felt
''intimidated'' when she saw people wearing them.
The student, whose identity was suppressed, said being
shouted at, first when she was at the checkout and then a few
minutes later outside the supermarket, left her shaken.
''I was crying and shocked. I just felt lonely and scared,''
she told the court.
She had since had nightmares and the incident had affected
Checkout supervisor Caitlin Jenkins, who was serving the
student when the incident happened, said Rappard moved to
within 10cm to 15cm of the student's face before shouting at
her to take off the headscarf.
''I think she called her a dirty Muslim and I think she said,
'You're from New Zealand - take off the head scarf'.''
The incident left her and others in the supermarket shocked
and she and another customer apologised to the student.
''I was quite offended. I didn't really know what to do.''
When she witnessed the woman shouting at the student again
outside the supermarket she told her boss, who called police.
Rappard said that she did not use the words ''dirty Muslim''
and was not shouting.
Police prosecutor Tim Hambleton said Rappard's actions were
''morally repugnant'' and qualified as offensive behaviour
because onlookers were shocked.
In finding her guilty, justice of the peace Ashley Broad said
he did not deny the importance of freedom of speech, but said
people exercising the right ''must not be offensive''.
Rappard was fined $500 and ordered to pay court costs of $130
and witness expenses of $50.
Speaking outside court, Rappard was unrepentant.
The guilty finding was an example of political correctness
''gone mad'', she said.
''Telling a woman to take a burqa off is in my mind not
offensive,'' she said.
Asked if she would act in the same way again, she said: ''Not
in a supermarket, probably.''
Muslim University Students' Association vice-president Bilal
Barekzai said people in Dunedin were generally ''quite
tolerant'' and this case was an isolated one.
Muslim women chose to wear headscarves and outlawing them
would be restricting their freedom, Mr Barekzai said.