Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Remorse, tears from man after racist rant

Apology offered to victim; taxi company says it doesn't want to lay a complaint.

The Southland man at the centre of a racism controversy was told to stay away from work yesterday as he made a tearful apology to the boss of the taxi driver he abused.

Greg Shuttleworth of Invercargill, a technician for an engineering firm, tried to keep a low profile as his employer distanced itself from his actions - but confirmed it would conduct an internal investigation.

Last night, friends called in to see him at his semi-rural home at Otatara on the outskirts of Invercargill, half-jokingly calling out, "Greg, come out from under your bed."

Mr Shuttleworth did not appear at the door. But he did phone the taxi company that released the security-camera footage of him abusing Pakistan-born driver Tariq Humayun.

He apologised, and as he held back the tears, he vowed to meet the Southland Muslim community to become better educated on Islam.

"He was genuinely remorseful, in tears, saying he was very sorry for what he'd done.

I felt bad for him," said Mr Humayun's employer, Safinah Mohammed of Invercargill Taxis.

It was a departure from the comments Mr Shuttleworth made in yesterday's Herald, where he said he worried why Muslims had come to New Zealand for "and what we let past our borders".

Yesterday, Mrs Mohammed said: "I told him he had to meet the backbone of the local Muslim community, to see that we're not all terrorists."

In the exchange in Mr Humayun's taxi early on Friday, Mr Shuttleworth described the driver as an "Islam prick" and said: "F*** off back to where you come from."

He told Mr Humayun he would pay the $7 fare when "you tell me that you'll piss off back to the country where you come from ... You shouldn't be in New Zealand in the first place ... We don't require your Muslim bulls*** in this country."

Mr Shuttleworth's partner, Angela Fairbrother, said he was struggling with the attention he had received in the past few days.

"He's not doing that well. It's gone a bit out of control but it shouldn't have happened in the first place eh."

Ms Fairbrother was stunned by the video, saying it was "not cool" and "out of character", but despite that, she has vowed to stand by her man.

"You have to support these things, even if it's wrong."

Mr Shuttleworth's employer, Jesco Hydraulics, said in a statement "that as a company we absolutely do not condone the actions or verbal statements of racial abuse".

Mrs Mohammed said Mr Shuttleworth had promised the taxi firm a written apology and said he wanted to meet her driver when the time was appropriate.

Last night, Mr Humayun felt too overwhelmed by the incident and the media attention to comment.

But Mrs Mohammed said he had forgiven Mr Shuttleworth, and now didn't want police to pursue charges or lay a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

The Southland Muslim Association has invited Mr Shuttleworth to its mosque.

MP: Lesson to be learned

NZ First MP Richard Prosser hopes Greg Shuttleworth can learn from the controversy he has created.

Mr Prosser was slammed this year for racist remarks after calling for young Muslim men from "Wogistan" to be banned from flying, and des-cribing Islam as "a Stone Age religion".

Yesterday, he said he'd come a long way since and had had dinner at the home of Auckland Muslims Jason Kennedy and Khayreyah Wahaab, who wrote an open letter to him. That experience helped him to learn about another religion and culture and was the "silver lining" to remarks that he regretted making.

Mr Prosser hoped Mr Shuttleworth would accept invitations from the Southland Muslim community.

He also applauded taxi driver Tariq Humayun for coming forward because it helped to open dialogue about racism.

- Amelia Wade

- APNZ

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