Brittany Keogh is a reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Racially-motivated attack not surprising: Islamic Women's Council

A racially-motivated attack on a young Muslim New Zealander on Saturday was of the more extreme kind but was not unique, the Islamic Women's Council says.

Mehpara Khan, 28, was accosted and assaulted by a stranger on Saturday when she and a group of friends who were travelling from New Plymouth to Auckland stopped for a toilet break in Huntly.

She videoed the woman yelling abuse at her on her cellphone.

"I don't care if you were born here, you don't have the right to be here. Now get the **** off, you ugly ******* Muslim *****," the attacker yells in the footage, which Khan posted to Twitter.

Islamic Women's Council spokeswoman Anjum Rahman said it was "very disappointing but not surprising" for such an attack to happen.

"Muslim women are often the ones who bear the brunt of attacks by strangers in public places.

We get a lot of drive-by comments. People yelling at us.

"Many Muslim women have reported incidents in supermarkets, when they're just doing their own shopping. It does happen and it is disturbing whenever it happens."

Rahman told the Herald the attack directed at Khan was among the worst in recent months.

"With the stuff that's been happening in America, with the Muslim ban and so on, we've felt that people have actually come out and been more supportive and sympathetic, so it was sad to see this kind of thing happening.

"But the thing is that even though these are isolated attacks, what it is does is make people, particularly women within our community, a bit more afraid to be going out, a bit more afraid to be interacting with people. So I think it's important to take action on this."

The council wanted to meet with Khan's attacker and talk to her about Muslim women's contributions to New Zealand, Rahman said.

"It would be really good to try to understand the young woman and what has been going on with her that she lashed out like this."

The attack also presented an opportunity for New Zealanders to start a dialogue about what it meant to be a Kiwi, Rahman said.

"I think it's time for the narrative to change around the fact that Kiwis are now different colours, different ethnicities, practicing different religions and we're all part of this country."

Khan is New Zealand-born and can be heard in the video telling the woman attacking her: "Hey, I was born here. I've got the right to be here".

The council condemned all racism and bigotry and offered support to Khan and her friends. Its members appreciated the frustrations of tangata whenua, Rahman said.

"Our community is diverse, and a number of our Muslim sisters are tangata whenua. We encourage all Muslim women to report instances of harassment and abuse, either to us or the Human Rights Commission, and to the New Zealand police where appropriate."

- NZ Herald

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