A Saudi Arabian student was left crying on the street after a bus driver refused to let her board because of her Muslim veil.
The Consulate-General of Saudi Arabia has written to the Government to complain about the incident, and another, two days earlier, when a driver for the same company told another woman to remove her veil.
NZ Bus said both drivers had been sent on counselling programmes – and had been found to be suffering from “maskophobia”. “Both drivers … claim it’s not religious … but they genuinely have a phobia of people wearing masks, hence why we have not dismissed them,” general manager Jon Calder said yesterday.
Sameer Aljabri, the husband of one of the women, said he would lodge an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission on behalf of his wife, whom he would not name. She had been travelling with the couple’s one-year-old son in Auckland in May.
Dr Aljabri said the driver was opposed to her “full hijab” – a face veil with only the eyes exposed. The driver told her: “I do not want you on my bus but I have to serve you. Take off your face cover because I need to see your face.”
The letter from the Saudi consulate to the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said that, two days later, student Gawheer Saud Al Thaubity was left crying on a street in Auckland. “As she stepped on to the crowded bus, the driver shouted, ‘Out!’ She asked why and was told, ‘Because you cover your face’. He insisted that she get off the bus, then closed the door and drove off.”
Update: See “NZ PM: Muslim veil no excuse for discrimination”,AFP, 5 July 2011