MP apologises for anti-Muslim rant

Richard Prosser
Richard Prosser
NZ First MP Richard Prosser has apologised for the lack of balance in his controversial article about Muslims and says he's not a racist - but he stands by his comments and won't be standing down as an MP.

In the article in Investigate magazine, Mr Prosser said while he accepted most Muslims were not terrorists, it was "undeniable" that "most terrorists are Muslims".

His column was sparked by the confiscation of his pocket knife before boarding a domestic flight and he wrote that New Zealanders' rights were being "denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan, threatening our way of life and security of travel in the name of their stone age religion, its barbaric attitudes towards women, democracy, and individual choice".

"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," he wrote.

He told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon this morning he had not calculated the percentage of young Muslim men who were involved in terrorism compared to the global Muslim population.

Mr Prosser said he should have called for an investigation into the merits of racial profiling, instead of calling for a blanket ban on young Muslim men being able to fly on Western airlines.

Mr Prosser said it was silly to ignore something which was an apparent threat on the basis of not wanting to offend.

"It's a reality that because of the actions of a very small few, the entire world has had to change the way it behaves even though the vast majority of the people who travel are not going to cause any problems on aeroplanes."

He wouldn't stand down as an MP, and denied he was a racist.

"Islam is a religion, it's not a race. I don't know why people jump on the racist bandwagon."

Mr Prosser said he realised he had given cause for people to be offended "where they don't fit that profile where the vast majority of peaceful, law-abiding Muslims weren't sufficiently separated.

"I didn't have balance in that article. For that I'm sorry."

He later released a statement which read:

"Terrorism and airline safety worldwide is a serious issue which consumes great resources and causes major disruption.

"The issue requires positive solutions, and my article in Investigate magazine sadly did not contribute to that.

"I accept that I impugned many peaceful law-abiding Muslims, and to them I unreservedly apologise.

"My opinion piece does not reflect the views of the New Zealand First Party and I deeply regret any embarrassment caused by it."

Mr Prosser told Radio New Zealand he considered himself a "shock jock with a pen" but said his language in the column was not appropriate.

"Having had time to have some conversations yesterday with Winston [Peters] and a couple of others, and having had time to reflect on it overnight, I concede that some of the language that I used in the column wasn't appropriate.

"There's a style that I've developed over the previous 10 years to coming into Parliament, which is sort of 'shock jock with a pen', that even though I've gone to some lengths to try to separate my role as a columnist from my role as an MP, I can see now that it's not appropriate for me to be saying things in the way that I have said them anymore.

"The article wasn't balanced in the sense that I did say not all Muslims are terrorists, but I didn't go any further beyond that, and I should have gone to greater lengths to reiterate that we're only talking about a very small, extremist minority.

"I didn't have the balance in there that would enable a reader to separate the fact that the majority of Muslims are law-abiding people. And that's obviously caused some upset, and for that I'm sorry."

Meanwhile, Investigate's editor Ian Wishart said he only "skimmed" over the article before it went to print.

"I perhaps should have read it more carefully," Mr Wishart told Morning Report.

"I probably would have gone back to him said, 'Do you really want to say this in that way?'

"The point that he was making ... that there is a valid argument to be made about the amount of wasted time and money in profiling people at the airport and taking aside grandmas and babies for security."

Mr Wishart criticised the media for not publishing the column in its entirety and the comments about not letting Muslims on Western airline flights were being taken out of context.

"It's a ridiculous remark but in the context of the column it's a tongue-in-cheek remark," he said.

Mr Wishart said the column raised important issues about the Muslim extremists entering New Zealand.

"I would not have phrased it in the way that he's phrased it and I think, I don't know what Richard Prosser thinks, but he's probably and saying, 'Maybe I shouldn't have phrased it that way myself'."

By last night the story had spread as far as the United States, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. At least two Australian media outlets were running Mr Prosser's comments as well as the Straits Times in Singapore and The Muslim News, a UK-based news website.

The Sun Daily in Malaysia had as its lead headline, 'New Zealand lawmaker calls for Muslim Flight Ban'.

ABC in the US was reporting: "NZ politician wants Muslims banned from airlines".

Mr Prosser's comments have been slammed by politicians across the political spectrum, however NZ First Leader Winston Peters said there was an "element of truth" to Mr Prosser's comments and did not believe the MP should apologise.

British MP George Galloway, who has campaigned against Islamophobia for 30 years, told Radio New Zealand Mr Prosser's comments were "disgusting".

"I'm surprised because it's New Zealand and I'm surprised that it has come from the pen of a Member of Parliament.

"It's not surprising in another sense that there are right-wing politicians across the world seeking to scrape the barrel of prejudice in order to boost their political popularity."

Mr Galloway said it was "deeply shocking" that Prosser's party leader had not repudiated his comments entirely.

"What kind of leader would not see that talking about 'Wogistan', talking about Muslims - 1.7 billion of them - in these sweeping stereotypical and deeply insulting ways [is wrong]?

Mr Galloway said the comments could be "dangerous" for New Zealand.

"It's not good for New Zealand to be known as a country where Parliamentarians go un-repudiated when making these deeply racist comments."

I really meant Persia

jimmyjones, in light of these facts, I am willing to concede that my worldview is sometimes unrealistic. I simply have a reflexive response to the demonisation of Middle Eastern peoples, including the state of Israel. I have only met Muslims in Dunedin, associated with the medical profession. They are International people, from countries that invented much of medical science. Thanks for your post.

Rich and ancient culture ?

ffolkes, when the people of Northern Mali were taken over recently by Islamic Jihadists, it wasn't Whirling dervishes that they saw, it was primitive savages enforcing God's Law using be-headings, amputations of hands and various other types of killings and severe punishments. Mali is famous for its music, but the Islamic God put a stop to that. The people of Mali are very grateful to the French Government who defeated the Islamic forces and have now freed the people. The UN were going to deal with this urgent situation in September this year, and now that the Islamists are defeated the UN wants the Mali Government to negotiate with them. Anyway, Islamic Law (Sharia) as imposed in Mali is very similar to how it is inflicted on people in other countries like Saudi Arabia, parts of Pakistan and others.

If Richard Prosser has concerns about Islam he should learn to be specific in his criticism - insulting everybody is unhelpful. The upside of his comments is that it clearly demonstrates the very low standard of NZ First candidates that we can expect for the next general election.

I blame Rita Hayworth

Dancing, that's how the trouble started. Salome wasn't Muslim, but the Whirling dervishes are. Rich and ancient cultures should be banned, what?

Yes racism

'rational': just because a tiny majority of a population are dangerous doesn't make everyone else the same (any more than Mr Prosser's current bit of insanity represents me and my neighbours).

Yes there are some very dangerous people who do really bad things in the name of Islam, and it's not a good idea to anger them. But equally there are proud members of Islamic nations who don't take nicely to people denigrating them because of their religion. We do business with the second group, not the first, they're nice welcoming people, remember the world's 4th most populous country is an Islamic one and is almost on our door step.

From a purely practical point of view I think it's in every kiwi's interest that the crazy Islamic terrorists are annoyed at people from countries other than ours, it's why we shouldn't have troops in Afghanistan. 

And yes I think racism is a great word for NZ First's past actions, Winson's gone after people for being Chinese in the past. I'm sure Prosser thought that going after another minority group of immigrants in our society was fair game, just following his leader, after all he doesn't like that they look different from us, dress differently from us. I bet a lot of people who have cheered Winston on in the past will come to NZ First's defence here again.

[Abridged]

Dance of the seven veils

Like the dancers of old, Mr Prosser and Rational Response hide behind thin layers of rhetoric to defend their points of view.

"It's not racist!" they cry.  "We're talking about a religion, not a race!" Superficially, they're correct.  After all, both Merriam-Webster and Oxford online define racism as "Discrimination or prejudice based on race".  After all, Islam is a religion, not a race so they're in the clear right? Well no, not quite, not if we dig past the superficial rhetoric.

Mr Prosser, we're told stated:

"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,"

So, according to Mr Prosser, if you look like a muslim, or you come from a muslim country, then you're not welcome to travel on western airlines.  That, by definition, is racial segregation.

There are 49 countries in the world with a Muslim majority. They are concentrated in Northern Africa, the middle east, and South East Asia.  So then Mr Prosser in stating that anyone who looks muslim, or comes from a muslim country is arguing that:

Anybody who is middle eastern, or looks middle eastern should not be allowed to travel on an airline, on the assumption that they are muslim and therefore terrorists. In addition, anybody who is African, or looks African should not be allowed to travel on an airline not should anybody who is from South East Asia, or looks like they are from South East Asia.

And so simply by applying a modicum of reading comprehension to the statements, which, superficially are not racist, we pierce through the rhetoric to find that they ultimately have racism at their core.

All of which leaves the question of ignorance versus inherent racism open to the reader.  Either the statement was made out of ignorance or, at the heart of the matter is a relatively straightforward statement of racism using religion to provide a superficial level of deniability.

[Abridged]

Check the dictionary

MikStk and Mr Galloway need to check the dictionary.

How can you be called racist against a religion? Prosser hasn't mentioned any cultures just a religion.

MikStk, your comments back Prossers' argument. Why would it be potentially more dangerous to Kiwis to travel to Islamic countries now? Is it because muslims are in fact dangerous when their religion is questioned?

Prosser's argument may not hold much water but he's saying something causes reason for debate and that is with all the muslim terrorists why aren't the muslim community, of "1.7 billion" members, identifying and dealing with them?

Perhaps if the muslim society stood up and actively looked for these terrorists and dealt with them then the general perception wouldn't be where it is presently.

[Abridged] 

Indian clobber

These were muslin shirts, but anybody could wear them.

Turf him out

Sigh - so this bozo was stupid enough to try and carry a knife onto a plane, writes a bunch of racist nonsense, says he's sorry in the most non-apology I've ever seen and as a result makes it a lot less safer for the rest of us to travel in the world. I travel a lot for work, yes even to Islamic countries, now I have to worry about whether I should keep doing business in places that are now potentially more dangerous to kiwis because we've all been tarred by this guy's big mouth.

What a selfish twit! how did he ever get to be an MP - if NZ First doesn't turf him out we need to actively work to get them unelected as a party for our own safety.

Anti Muslin indeed!

I just LOVE that headline! Hilarious! Don't change it ODT, 'cause if you can't laugh at yourself.......

(I'm sure this story wasn't one of yours. Must have come in from elsewhere eh?)

Editor - The headline has been changed. 'Hilarious' it may have been, accurate it was not.

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