Fined for ordering woman to remove burqa

A foreign student had nightmares after a shopper in a Dunedin supermarket told her to either take off her burqa or leave New Zealand.

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 her studies.

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.

how about budgie smugglers?

As an Aussie l should not face condemnation for wearing budgie smugglers.Agreed?

No Burqa

But, if the burqa is the full dress with a 'slot' to see out of, the student wasn't wearing such, but a headscarf (niqab), familiar streetwear, worn by students, clinicians and academics. Prejudice lets the City down.

Send her back to where she came from

Rappard has been here since she was a child. She should have adapted to kiwi ways or she should go home. If anyone is fanning the flames of racial and religious discord and destroying the social fabric of New Zealand society, it is her and her ilk. 

We do not need people like this. 

If indeed the young lady

If indeed the young lady in question was wearing a full Burka I understand and relate to Rappard's reaction. I also feel sorry for the lady who feels that she should need to wear the Burka. I live in Moscow in Russia where thankfully Muslim woman do not feel the need to wear the Burka. Burka's are for men only who have a childish insecurity and try to control their women. Women who state otherwise and claim they feel more comfortable in Burka's usually wear the Burka so they feel protected from the reactions of the men in their family or society. You just need to take a quick look at the countries where the majority of women wear Burkas. These countries have exceptionally poor women's rights to the point where women are not allowed to drive a car, and are stoned to death for wanting to go to school or for loving someone other than the person they must marry by force. And I will not begin to rant about the security issues which can be related to the Burka. Perhaps everyone would feel comfortable if all the men wore Balaclavas around town? No Mr Barekzai, the Burka and 'Freedom' do not relate in any way. The Burka has no place in New Zealand or any other country with a modern educated society. 

I don't understand

How does this woman's clothing affect your freedom from religion?

Illegal face coverings

But in NZ it is against the law to have your face covered or disguised while in public, so what is the difference to entering a bank or walk down the street wearing a balaclava, (in winter) or any other time, a motor cycle helmet or a burqa, if your identity cannot be seen that is against the law end of story, if you went to the middle east and wanted to bring your religious beliefs and enforce them in public you wouldn't stand a chance. So why do it in NZ?

Whats the difference?

What's the difference between a burqa and a crash helmet?

As any motorcyclist will attest, many businesses have signs at doorways advising crash helmets are not allowed to be worn inside. This is done in the name of safety. As far as I'm concerned, a burqa is no different.

If these people wish to come here, they need to abide by our laws. If I'm ever confronted re removing a helmet when there is a burqa-clad person in the store, I can have them for discrimination. Right?

Religious freedom

For those who espouse the concept of "religious freedom" remember that it must also include freedom from religion.

There are many countries that claim to have religious freedom but where freedom from religion is not acceptable.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry has gone on record stating that Americans have no right to freedom from religion.

No excuses

i would like to know if Yuet Rappard would do the same thing to a Christian shopper who was wearing a cross pendant, or a Jew wearing a Star of David, or a nun in habit and wimple. these are also symbols of religious devotion and no different from the burka, or other islamic headwear. Yes, here in New Zealand there is no requirement to wear one, but it is still a choice for people who practise this religion to wear it. 

Islam may have a bad rep at this point in time, but that does not excuse behaviour such as this.  

Burqa incident

While Yuet Rappard should be condemned for being a bully and for humiliating someone in public, we must understand where she is coming from. In the Netherlands, there is a big public debate about Islam, Muslim migrants and the burqa. It is a phenomenon present in other European countries like Britain, France, and Germany. In the Netherlands, a film maker named Theo van Gogh was murdered in the streets for collaborating with a Somali woman named Aryaan Hirsi Ali in the production of a film that was critical about the treatment of women in Islam.

A few years earlier, a Dutch politician named Pim Fortuyn, who was a gay rights activist and critic of Islam, was murdered by a man who alleged he was an Islamophobe. There has been an upsurge of right-wing anti-immigrant sentiment in the Netherlands as shown by the rise of Geert Wilders and his Freedom and Democracy Party.

While Yuet Rappard's actions should be condemned by every right-minded person, we should take note of developments in Europe and learn what not to do. I am not anti-Islamic and I have friends and acquaintances who are Muslims. What I'm saying is that, we must be careful to not allow religious and racial discord to blight New Zealand/Aoeteroa.


I would suggest that if Ms Rappard no longer wishes to live a country such as New Zealand where religious tolerance is valued then she could  go back to her own country of birth. As they say, when in Rome...

Burqa fine

I am pleased this woman was fined for her behavior. Getting into someone's face and hurling abuse, following that person and continuing the abuse is intimidating and totally out of order. The accussed certainly does not come across as being intimidated, as was her claim. 

When in Rome? What about live and let live? In this country we value the freedom of personal choice, and personally I find the wearing pyjamas in the supermarket more offensive than wearing a burqa, but others personal choices are not my concern so long as my own freedom is not impacted.

Freedom of speech does not give you freedom from the responsibility of that speech.


Niqab, not burqa

It's not clear from the story whetehr the accused used the word "burqa" - but even if she did, surely a good paper such as the ODT should correct and educate, by telling us that it's a niqab, not a burqa.  Burqas are the strange, usually blue, full coverings with even the face area covered by a cloth grille, used only or mainly by some women in Afghanistan.  

Burqa has a strong pejorative sense to it, after the conduct of the former Taliban regime.  The niqab is worn by millions of women, with or withjout the veil.  To label it a burqa perpetuates discord and brings us no closer to religious understanding.

Disclosure: I am a happy Presbyterian, who wants to see religious freedom and understanding and free speech. 

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