Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Bigotry lurks below surface

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I thought I'd be writing about Richard Prosser again.

Not because I thought he would achieve anything of importance or significance as a list MP for NZ First, you understand.

He'd barely been elected when one of his columns for Investigate magazine created a minor controversy.

In December 2011, Dick (it seems appropriate to call him that) penned a column that, among other things, called for the banning of the burqa.

He scoffed that the only people who'd be against the reintroduction of compulsory military training would be the cowards, the weaklings and the bludgers among us - and he called for the arming of taxi drivers, dairy owners and most householders.

He even had a weapon of choice - a Walther PPK that could be clipped to the sun visor of every cab and police car.

I had a feeling in my waters we'd be hearing more of Dick's view of the world - and I was right.

This week, a column of Dick's came to light in which he demanded that all Muslim men be denied travel on Western airlines on the basis that they were likely to be terrorists.

The catalyst for this outburst was the confiscation of his pocket knife at airport security and he was mad as hell. Going through airport security is enough to make even the most temperate individual think malevolent thoughts about al Qaeda.

But I'm sure the list MP has made enough taxpayer-subsidised flights to know what is, and isn't, allowed as hand luggage on an aircraft.

His mistake, and yet a stream of vitriol is directed at millions and millions of law-abiding people around the world.

If his temper is on that much of a hair trigger I'd hate for him to be carrying his beloved Walther PPK around as a sidearm.

But more disturbing were some of the comments on talkback that night. I know, I know - it's talkback. What do you expect?

But the first three or four callers out of the blocks all thought Prosser had a point and came up with the same sort of ignorant generalisations. All male Muslims marry 10-year-old girls. They all wish the West harm. They stone women to death. They. They.

As if all 1.6 billion people have exactly the same beliefs, values and attitudes.

It was incredible. I had no idea people really thought like that - yet they walk among us.

Prosser's comments went global and 24 hours later he apologised. His comments, he said, did a grave disservice to the millions of decent, law-abiding Muslims and he was sorry for the offence caused.

An interviewer asked if he was going to resign. His response came more quickly than his apology. No, he retorted.

What he really meant was: "Are you mad? Resign? Have you seen my CV? Of course I'm not going to resign. Where the hell would I get this sort of money and these sorts of perks with my limited skill set!"

So we're stuck with him, at least until the next election.

That Winston can pick them, can't he? First Brendan Horan; now Richard Prosser.

The hypocrisy from some politicians in the wake of Prosser's comments was breathtaking though.

It's a wonder Hone Harawira wasn't struck by a bolt of lightning when he opposed Prosser's request to make a personal statement to the House.

He shouldn't be able to make such remarks and then "wash away his venom" via an unchallenged explanation to Parliament, said Hone, self righteously, like butter wouldn't melt. Now that took the biscuit.

Of course there are individuals who have contorted the teachings of Islam to do evil, just as there are individuals who use the Bible to justify their wrongdoing.

But they are individuals. To say all Muslims think the same way is to say that all New Zealanders agree with Prosser's comments.

While it's alarming to think that there are even a handful of bigots who think he's on the money, it should be clear now that the vast majority find his remarks ignorant, hateful and pathetic.


Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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