Glad not to live in a world of dreary Pakeha oneness

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 08:17 18/02/2013

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Dave Armstrong

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OPINION: Though Mr Prosser has got it in the neck from his colleagues in Parliament, I suspect a large number of New Zealanders support his comments. Don't believe me? Tune into talkback some time.

Salaam! Greetings from multicultural Newtown.

It's such an ethnically diverse suburb, Newtown would horrify NZ First MP Richard Prosser, whom I suspect would view it as a Kiwi version of "Wogistan".

But I love being able to wander down the road to buy sumac, zatar and couscous from the Syrian and Turkish stores. Nothing like a Moroccan tagine when one tires of pasta with basil pesto.

A grey winter's day in Newtown will often be brightened by Somali women trooping past, on their way to the council flats, dressed in amazingly bright and gaudy creations, with beautifully dressed children in tow.

And ethnic diversity can be fun. When the first kebab shop opened in Newtown years ago, well before the hipsters moved in to nearby cafes like Monterey, I was somewhat surprised when the elderly Turkish man asked me if I wanted "anus" on my falafel. Some lengthy negotiations followed until I realised "anus" was his way of pronouncing ‘onions'.

Relations deteriorated a week later when the same man screamed "pig" at my wife as she went to pay for our kebabs. I asked the Muslim what the hell he was up to, but he was unrepentant.

"Pig", he repeated again, "you want plesstic pig for your kebab?" Crisis averted, and the delicious kebabs, with extra hummus and anus, were put into their "plesstic pig" and we left happy.

Yet according to Mr Prosser, this sort of multiculturalism should be discouraged.

Thankfully, the list MP from Waimakariri has been roundly condemned by Parliament and the media for his ridiculous fatwah against young Muslim men travelling on aircraft.

Mr Prosser's condemnation of the entire Muslim world as "misogynist troglodytes" living in the "stone age" was also pretty rich.

Which particular Muslims was Mr Prosser talking about? Perhaps Orhan Pamuk, the brilliant Turkish writer and Nobel Prize winner? Or maybe the many Muslim authors of the ghazal, an ancient middle-Eastern form of rhyming poetry, often written in Urdu, later copied by Westerners who were so taken with its beauty.

Or perhaps Mr Prosser was talking about the people who invented the Hindu-Arabic number system which replaced the inferior Roman numerals. And "algebra" happens to be an Arab word - though I suspect Mr Prosser already knows that as he daily solves quadric roots and other complicated equations which go with the difficult job of being a NZ First List MP.

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Though Mr Prosser has got it in the neck from his colleagues in Parliament, I suspect a large number of New Zealanders support his comments. Don't believe me? Tune into talkback some time.

David Shearer and John Key were thankfully vociferous in their condemnation, but what do we make of the ridiculously paranoid "homeland" security legislation which was passed by a Labour government soon after the 9/11 attacks?

And what about Mr Key's enthusiasm for our futile involvement in Afghanistan, where New Zealand troops daily battle the infidel? People who pray in glass mosques shouldn't throw stones.

Though I love living in a multicultural community, there are challenges.

A few years ago I witnessed a fracas outside my house between a Christian Assyrian youth from Iraq and a Muslim Somali. Things got heavy, especially when a scaffolding pipe was produced, so I rushed outside with two burly mates and squeakily impressed upon the youths the value of living in a tolerant society. A Camp Dave settlement was reluctantly reached and things eventually calmed down.

Relations have since improved, and today I observe Muslim Somali and Christian Assyrian kids playing soccer against each other, although it amuses me that even if numbers are uneven the kids always stick to their ethnically based teams.

But give me Newtown's multiculturalism any day over the dreary, Waimakariri, Pakeha Christian oneness that Mr Prosser seems to crave. Meanwhile, next time the Kilbirnie mosque invites me to its open day, instead of putting the brochure in the rubbish with all the other religious material, perhaps I'll pay a visit.

Though this atheist has no interest in converting to Islam, it might be nice to show them that not all overweight, middle-aged, Pakeha blokes think the same way.

- The Dominion Post

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