Tariq Humayun, a taxi driver for Invercargill Taxis, captured the exchange on his iPhone and it has since gone viral. The taxi passenger has been identified as Gregory Shuttleworth, who is believed to be aged in his mid-40s.
In the recording, Mr Humayun is polite and appears to remain calm throughout the racist tirade which began after he picked up the Southland technician just after midnight on Friday. Mr Shuttleworth describes Mr Humayun as an “Islam prick” during the exchange, and demands to have another taxi. “I’ll pay you your $7 when you tell me that you’ll piss off back to the country where you come from,” he said.
Mr Humayan says he does not want to argue with Mr Shuttleworth and will leave. “You shouldn’t be in New Zealand in the first place … we don’t require your Muslim bulls*** in this country,” Mr Shuttleworth can be heard saying.
Following the incident, Mr Humayun drove to Invercargill Police station and reported the incident. In a statement today, police said that it appeared Mr Shuttleworth was intoxicated at the time and will speak with both men again.
Mr Humayun told Fairfax it was the worst abuse he had experienced in the five years he had been a taxi driver in Auckland and Invercargill. He said he did not want to continue driving his taxi, saying that he felt “unsafe” and “upset” following the ordeal.
Dame Susan Devoy says the Human Rights Commission cannot prosecute Mr Shuttleworth for his actions. Race relations Commissioner Dame Susan told TV ONE’s Breakfast that while she thought the incident was “appalling”, the Commission is “limited” in what action they could take. “It’s absolutely disgraceful and unfortunately it still continues here in New Zealand.
“Freedom of expression and freedom of speech allows us to be as offensive as we like without being able to do anything, but equally I think the gentlemen concerned should know that freedom of religion and freedom of belief is really important too,” she said. “Obviously he should be extraordinarily ashamed of himself and I hope that he makes the appropriate amends to try and form some sort of reconciliation with this gentlemen.”
She said it was an embarrassment for New Zealand, but thought it was great that it had been highlighted, because you can’t just sweep it under the carpet. Dame Susan said it was for the police to decide if they prosecute him. “We can’t prosecute…People can be virtually say what they like,” she explained.
Mr Shuttleworth told Fairfax that what he did was “wrong”, and that it was “going to affect a lot of people”. “It doesn’t look good I realise. I guess I’m regretful it ended up where it ended up.” He said he had made the comments after viewing what had been happening overseas on the news, and had allowed himself to vent. “If you could wind back a clock it would be a great thing.”
Meanwhile, Mr Shuttleworth’s employer, JESCO, said that they will be conducting their own investigation into the incident. “JESCO would also like to note that this incident took place in personal time and is in no way linked to the company or company policy. However, due to the serious nature, we will be conducting an internal investigation into this matter as per our misconduct procedures,” the company said today.
Mr Shuttleworth told the NZ Herald while it was a “one-off situation” he was still concerned about Muslims in New Zealand. “They don’t stand in a pretty light overseas. And I am worried about what they’ve come to New Zealand [for] and what we let past our borders.” Mr Shuttleworth said he had attempted to contact the taxi driver to apologise as he was “remorseful”, but said Mr Humayun did not want to talk to him.
Taxi Federation executive director, Tim Reddish, said the driver had handled himself “very professionally and very calmly”. “You’ve got to remember that he’s in a taxi on his own putting up with this type of abuse and really he has no alternative other than to carry out because these things can escalate into physical violence.”
He said provincial New Zealand has it’s “red neck element”. “I think this sort of stuff is far more prevalent in (provincial New Zealand) than in multi-cultural main centres.” He said the country should fully publicise this, even if it is at an expense to our international reputation. “The only way to cure racism is to bring it out in the open.”
He said there had been a reduction in abuse since cameras were introduced two years ago, and that they had been acting as a “deterrent”.
Update: The New Zealand Herald reports that Shuttleworth has phoned the taxi company to offer a “tearful apology” for his behaviour. The report notes: “It was a departure from the comments Mr Shuttleworth made in yesterday’s Herald, where he said he worried why Muslims had come to New Zealand for ‘and what we let past our borders’.”