by Jan Logie
The beliefs of New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser are anathema to a truly inclusive society. Despite his apology, he has a history of comments that strongly suggest that his widely-panned column represents his real view, regardless of any retraction he needed to make due to the uproar.
The role of a Member of Parliament is to represent diverse communities, but Prosser has shown he is incapable of this. His bizarre reaction to having his pen-knife confiscated (in accordance with air safety regulations!) has not only caused embarrassment for his Party and New Zealand as a whole, but it has done very real damage to the 36,000+ Muslims in this country.
Saziah, a Bengali Muslim (and New Zealand citizen), has eloquently discussed this harm in her blog post, Sticks and stones and weed and bombs, Mr Prosser. She says:
This hurts particularly because, on an official level, it goes to the heart of the question of my identity.
I am a Bengali New Zealander. I am also a feminist, a bookworm, a foodie and a cinephile. Some days I have good taste in music and some days I have bad taste in music. I love the beach but hate getting sand everywhere. I speak several languages. I still get upset at the thought that Dumbledore dies. When I lived in Auckland, I thought of West Auckland as home. Now that I live in Wellington, I think of Auckland as home, and of Wellington as “my city,” whatever that means. I bake decent brownies (oh the irony).
Oh, yes, I am also a Muslim.
You would think that would be the only thing about me that would be relevant to this conversation. But it is not. We are a sum of all our parts. Reducing us to one characteristic, especially one that is viewed with a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding, dehumanizes us. It is destructive. It is destructive to our personhood, in your eyes. And it is destructive to my identity in my own eyes.
Meanwhile, in today’s NZ Herald, Auckland couple Jason (Naveed) Kennedy and Khayreyah Wahaab have written an open letter to Mr Prosser, inviting him to their house for dinner to discuss his views. I commend their stance, and hope Mr Prosser takes them up on their generous invitation. Perhaps, through exposure to other cultures, he may finally begin to genuinely change his bigoted views.