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NZ First MP Prosser defends anti-Muslim comments

Published: 4:31PM Tuesday February 12, 2013 Source: ONE News

New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser has defended his column suggesting Muslim men should be banned from flying on Western planes, saying his comments were not derogatory.

The list MP wrote in  a column in Investigate Magazine  that young men who are Muslim, look like Muslims, or come from a Muslim country should be banned from flying on all Western airlines.

In an interview with Newstalk ZB Prosser said he had no time for the "worst extreme elements of Islam".

"I certainly think it's appropriate for me to be making those comments," he said, adding that he believes other people think the things he wrote but will not voice them.

"I realise it's the extremists, I'm not tarring everyone with the same brush, but they're attempting to overthrow and destroy the advances that west civilisation has made in all forms, technological, and in terms of social advances."

In a statement he said the article did not represent the views of his party, and that he now agrees his article is not balanced.

Investigate Magazine editor Ian Wishart said he did not believe the column was racist, but was “probably typical of Richard’s style”.

He said Investigate had “always provoked debate and we are there to get people talking”.

Condemnation by party leaders

Prosser, who has long wanted to ban burqas, has been slammed by party leaders for the comments in his column.

Prime Minister John Key said today that the comments were "appalling" and "an example of the depth of thinking coming out of the New Zealand First caucus".

"It's an appalling thing to say, it's stupid," Key said.

"It was pre-meditated because he wrote it as an opinion piece, it's clearly what New Zealand First think of other New Zealanders. It's a bit buffoonish, if you ask me."

To find out how members of the public have been reacting  click here

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who Prosser said had not seen the column before it was published, said the MP had made a "mistake" but that he would not be stood down.

"It's an extremist view on an extreme circumstance in the world's security at this time, but you can't generalise, you cant lump everyone in the same boat," Peters said.

"People make mistakes. This is a mistake."

But Peters said "there is an element of truth to what he is saying".

The comments by Prosser could cause international embarrassment for New Zealand, Minister for Ethnic Affairs and Minister Responsible for the Human Rights Commission Judith Collins said.

"New Zealand values diversity and prides itself on being an inclusive society," said Collins.

"It is simply appalling to profile people based on their religion, skin colour, country of origin, or a perceived stereotyped 'look' as Mr Prosser has done."

Labour leader David Shearer and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira also criticised Prosser's comments.

ONE News deputy political editor Jessica Mutch tweeted from Parliament: "David Shearer says Richard Prosser's comments were "offensive and completely inappropriate".

"Hone Harawira says Richard Prosser's comments are "dumb", "racist" and he has a "tiny little mind".

'Ignorant, ill-informed and irresponsible'

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) president Anwar-ul Ghani said Prosser's marks were clearly directed towards the Muslims of New Zealand, and were "comments that we judge to be ignorant, ill-informed and irresponsible".

"It is a sad day for New Zealand when a Member of Parliament can demonise a community and can do so without due regard to the part played by that community and to the economic interests of New Zealand itself," he said.

He pointed out that the Muslim community in New Zealand is made up of around 60 ethnic groups, including Maori and Pakeha.

"As such, [it] has always seen itself as part and parcel of the wider New Zealand society."

Pocket knife confiscated

In his column Prosser said New Zealand should stop hiding behind a "facade of misplaced tolerance born of spineless fear" and face head on "the identifiable threat to modern aviation security" which he claims is posed by young Muslim men.

Prosser's comments came after his pocket knife was confiscated at Christchurch Airport, an item he claims he was able to carry on countless trips both nationally and internationally without issue before "the world went mad".

He said as a Member of Parliament he should not be targeted at airports and in order to ensure the safety of passengers and crew it is necessary to send a message.

"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."

Ghani encouraged New Zealanders to "recognise the ignorance" of Prosser's remarks and reject them, and to respect and appreciate each other's differences