Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Anti-Muslim rant MP builds bridges

NZ First MP Richard Prosser says the article was rightly interpreted by Muslims as maligning them. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First MP Richard Prosser says the article was rightly interpreted by Muslims as maligning them. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Eight months after his notorious "Wogistan" anti-Muslim rant NZ First MP Richard Prosser says he received more messages of support than of criticism during the resulting furore - something he now has mixed feelings about.

Mr Prosser was widely condemned for writing a magazine column in which he said Islam was a "stone-age religion" and young Muslim men from "Wogistan" should be banned from flying.

While political opponents and commentators called for his resignation, it is understood what saved his place in Parliament was the fact that having just forced Brendan Horan out of his caucus, NZ First Leader Winston Peters could not afford to lose another MP.

After apologising and keeping out of trouble since, he has worked to build bridges with the Muslim community and put in some solid work in the House. Mr Prosser now believes his future with the party is secure. The controversy did raise his profile, "but that wouldn't be my first method of choice".

"If I could turn the clock back I'd make it not happen."

That said, he doesn't believe his remarks and the ensuing controversy have hurt NZ First.

"We will have lost some supporters out of it and gained others. It's a terrible thing to say but of all the feedback I got, the slight majority was favourable and that may be a reflection of New Zealand society in general or it may be a reflection of the fact that support came in as people began to look at and understand what actually happened."

He says the article was rightly interpreted by Muslims as maligning them.

"They had a right to not be treated in that way and I cocked up and that I had to take on the chin. But having said that, a lot of the initial commentary and opprobrium came from the fact people had not read the article itself. It kind of attained a life of itself and took off in a direction that wasn't really the message that was in the article. With hindsight some people have gone back and said it's not quite what it's been beaten up to be."

- NZ Herald

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