'Wogistan' MP should resign - Islamic leader
VERNON SMALL, ANDREA VANCE, HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND NICOLE PRYOR
Should MP Richard Prosser resign over his comments about Muslims?
‘‘Wogistan’’ NZ First MP Richard Prosser has blamed the confiscation of his much-loved pocket knife for his diatribe against Muslims and airline security, but it seems it was not taken from him and he still has it.
It is understood records of the Aviation Security Service (Avsec) show that the penknife was discovered at the Christchurch Airport security check on December 3 last year.
Far from confiscating the knife, security officials ‘‘facilitiated’’ Prosser back to the Air New Zealand counter where the knife was put through as checked in baggage.
In his controversial article, Prosser said the Swiss army knife, given to him years ago by an aunt and uncle when he headed off for his overseas experience, was ‘‘confiscated’’.
In the column, headlined ‘Enemies at the gates’ and published in Investigate magazine, he said he had taken the pocketknife on airlines many times before, saying: ‘‘Not so anymore it would seem.’’
Asked on National Radio’s Nine to Noon programme today what provoked the article he again said: ‘‘I had my pocket knife confiscated. This is the pocket knife that I’ve owned for – I couldn’t count the number of years – and I used to travel with internationally prior to 9/11 before the world went mad.’’
He had also carried it up and down the country 30-odd times last year.
Prosser took his seat in Parliament this afternoon, but avoided media.
APOLOGISE IN A MOSQUE
Prosser attempted to make an apology to Parliament for anti-Muslim comments he made, but was blocked by Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.
In a statement, Harawira said: "Today I opposed a request from Richard Prosser to make a personal statement to the House. I did so because if he has an apology to make for his offensive remarks to the Muslim community, then he can make his way to the nearest mosque and ask forgiveness there. I do not accept that he should be able to make such remarks and then simply wash away his venom via an unchallenged explanation in the house."
Earlier, Prosser avoided waiting media by sneaking into Parliament. This came after he apologised for calling for a ban on Muslims from Western airlines.
NZ First leader Winston Peters said it was "hard to imagine" why Prosser was "shut down" by Harawira, but was not soft on his MP.
"I think he has been given a kick where the Sun don't shine and he'll probably be eating his meals off the mantelpiece for the next week. And at the end of the experience he'll probably be a better MP."
He said the NZ First caucus are "as mad and as disappointed as I."
But it was "an in-house family matter" and there will be no further action against Prosser.
NZ First MP Tracy Martin said the comments were "exceptionally unfortunate". She refused to say if he should resign.
Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins said Prosser can't return to Parliament with any credibility and should apologise to the whole of New Zealand.
"Judith Collins should stop behaving like Joan Collins, okay," Peters retorted.
A leader in the Islamic community said Prosser should resign over his controversial comments about Muslims.
Prosser today apologised ''unreservedly'' for the lack of balance in a column he wrote for Investigate magazine calling for Muslim men to be banned from Western airlines - but has ruled out standing down.
The column, entitled Enemy at the Gates, was written after the 45-year-old MP's pocket penknife was confiscated at Christchurch Airport.
"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 . . ." he wrote.
He also made reference to "a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan".
Despite the apology, "stepping down would be an honourable thing to do," President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Dr Anwar Ghani, said.
"To take responsibility and move on from Parliament, and reflect on the damage he has caused."
Ghani said he accepted Prosser's apology: "We will take his apology at face value, but we will be watching with great interest at how he deals with the Muslim community in future.
"We will leave it there, and move on."
He said the organisation would start a formal discussion with NZ First leader Winston Peters to make sure that kind of behaviour did not happen again.
FIRM ACTION NEEDED
Another ethnic community leader today called on the race relations commissioner, MPs and the media to "take firm action to nip such ...comments in the bud."
President of the Auckland Regional Ethnic Council, Cecil Lochan, said Prosser's comments were despicable and "totally unacceptable to all self-respecting New Zealanders."
"Not only it is in contravention of the race relation legislation, but is contrary to provisions of Human Rights Act and Geneva Convention," the justice of the peace said.
He said race relations commissioner Joris de Bres "needs to act for which he is appointed."
And he also called on the media to be responsible and act in terms of its ethics and judiciously.
De Bres said concerned parties should complain to Investigate magazine, or the Press Council, and NZ First.
COMMENTS NOT ACCIDENTAL - KEY
Prime Minister John Key said despite Prosser's apology, he believed his comments on Muslims were deliberate.
"They weren't an accidental comment or a throw away line, this is a guy that penned an opinion piece."
He had not had any advice about the impact of Prosser's comments on New Zealand's international reputation but said it was not a good look.
"It's not only factually wrong, but it's also pretty offensive to what is a big Muslim community in New Zealand, most of whom are very law abiding citizens."
Key would not rule out working with Prosser but said "if this is the depth of his intellectual thinking" he was unlikely to ever be made a minister.
'I UNRESERVEDLY APOLOGISE'
Prosser this morning released a statement saying he deeply regretted any embarrassment caused by his comments.
"I accept that I impugned many peaceful law-abiding Muslims, and to them I unreservedly apologise."
Terrorism and airline safety was a serious issue and required positive solutions, he said.
"My article in Investigate magazine sadly did not contribute to that."
Prosser broke his silence to apologise in a radio interview this morning soon after Peters told Fairfax Media that the MP would issue a statement soon.
He would not be standing down as an MP. "Every new job is a learning curve. There are many different aspects to being an MP," he told Radio New Zealand.
However, fallout from his comments continued today.
His claim yesterday that Israeli airline El Al banned Muslims, which made it one of the world's safest carriers, has been criticised by Israeli ambassador Shemi Tzur.
In a statement Tzur said: "Claims by MP Prosser that Israeli airline El Al bans passengers on the basis of their ethnicity or religion are not only false but also vicious in character. All travellers are equally important on El Al and in Israel".
Prosser said he had a greater future in politics than Labour MP and former foreign affairs minister Phil Goff, who had said he had no future in Parliament.
Meanwhile, Peters said he had not changed his position on Prosser, after yesterday saying he would not ask him to stand down.
"The article is not balanced, it's not reasoned, it's not logical. In fact it rules out half the people who are legitimately going about their business".
"We are going to correct that."