Editorial: Backseat unhappiness

Greg Shuttleworth needs to get out more.

Not on the basis that he has been doing it lately - tanking up and then as a fumey, dyspeptic taxi passenger venting ignorant racial abuse at his Pakistan-born driver - but in ways that will help his malnourished view of his world and his home.

He needs to get to know some Muslims in Invercargill. Not even befriend them, necessarily, just try talking and listening, rather more than he has been.

The abuse that he heaped on Tariq Humayun, after learning he was from Pakistan, was ugly stuff, captured on the driver's phone. It summed up in the instruction to leave this country because "we don't require your Muslim bull....".

Certainly the quantity of the very stuff pouring forth from Mr Shuttleworth's own gob during a taxi ride suggests that we may, indeed, be approaching saturation point without any immigrant top-ups being required.

Quite rightly, there has been a good deal of support for Mr Humayun from his new, and generally mortified, community.

When we first spoke to Mr Shuttleworth about the incident his regret focused rather too closely on the manner in which he had behaved and expressed his views, rather than what those views essentially were. It was only later in the day, when he had had time to reflect further on his conduct and his situation that he phoned back to expand on his apology.

Given the scale of attention that his conduct has received, Southland leaders might now consider offering a deal with the 1.6 billion Muslims or the 187 million Pakistanis out there. We'll encourage the lunkheads in our midst not to draw expansive and stupid conclusions about them, if they will resist any assumption that he encapsulates the views of his community in Invercargill.

He had been watching too much overseas news on television, he said, and had allowed himself to vent. If his views are quite this broad and emphatic, can we suggest that, for all his TV watching, he still really isn't keeping up.

He professes to be worried about who we let past our borders. Well, hell. He should look around. Southland has become a mix of ethnicities and is the better for it. We have many tertiary students from Asia and South America, dairy farmers from the Philippines and Indonesia, and many of our professions and service providers, notably Southland Hospital, draw deeply on the contributions of immigrants.

Every now and then, spasms of racial intolerance erupt. In 2008 two Indian students at the Southern Institute of Technology decided to return home after they were abused by a carload of youths for wearing turbans. In 2004 a sorely needed urologist bound for Southland Hospital didn't even make it here - his burqa-wearing wife was accosted by skinheads in Christchurch, so the family spun on its heels.

The boot has also been on the other foot when, in 2009, the Turkish Muslim owner of Invercargill's Mevlana cafe drew broad condemnation for declaring Israelis weren't welcome in his business until Israel stopped killing innocent women and babies in the Gaza Strip. His outrage was understandable, in our view, but he was reacting against the nearest people handy - utterly unfairly.

In many ways it's a maturity thing. The Southland Times, in the early years of its 150-year history, was no stranger to extravagant racial profiling - Chinese immigrants fared badly - and elsewhere jobs were advertised on a "Catholics need not apply" basis. These things we outgrow; generally, simply on the basis that people get to know people. That'll do it.

The Southland Times