Muslim leaders have rejected an apology by Canterbury MP Richard Prosser over his call for Muslims to be banned from Western airlines.
The list MP’s remarks provoked outrage yesterday, although NZ First leader Winston Peters refused to sack him and said he did not have to apologise. However, speaking on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon show this morning, Prosser apologised. “I’m sorry … to the majority of peaceful, law-abiding Muslims who are not involved in terrorism.”
He conceded he was “only talking about a very small extremist minority”, but his article would not allow the reader to separate the fact that most Muslims were honest and law-abiding. “That’s obviously caused some upset, and for that I’m sorry,” he said.
The head of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Anwar Ghani, said Prosser’s apology was not good enough. “I wouldn’t call it an apology; it was a softening of the tone, that’s all,” he said. “It seems to me he still maintains what he said, by and large, and he’s simply trying to align his comments with what his leader has said.”
He said the damage done by Prosser yesterday had not been reversed by the apology. “He has to come out and say unreservedly that ‘I apologise if my act has caused any offence to any of the Muslims in New Zealand’,” Ghani said.
But Prosser told RNZ he did not “have any time” for Islam as a religion. “I make no apology for the fact I don’t have any time for people who denigrate women or for institutions that suppress human rights.” He denied he was being racist. “It is a religion, not a race.”
Prosser conceded his article had “a lack of balance” in calling for Muslim men to be banned from Western airlines. “I concede that some of the language that I used wasn’t appropriate,” he said.He blamed his approach as a “shock-jock” columnist. “My style as a columnist is perhaps something not appropriate any more for my role as an MP.”
Prosser said his call for the blanket ban on young Muslims was wrong. He said he should have called for an investigation into the merits of racial profiling.