Wellington - A New Zealand politician offered a qualified apology on Wednesday for saying young Muslim men were a terrorist threat who should be banned from flying on Western airlines.
After his remarks were condemned across the political spectrum, Richard Prosser of the New Zealand First party said he had failed to acknowledge the vast majority of Muslims were law-abiding and did not support extremism.
Prosser said his call for all males aged 19 to 35 who were Muslim, looked Muslim, or came from Muslim countries, to be banned from flights was too broad, but said he still supported “targeted profiling” of airline passengers.
“I shouldn't have called for a blanket ban, I should have called for an investigation into the merits of targeted profiling,” he told Radio New Zealand, without elaborating.
“That was something I shouldn't have done and I'm apologising for that.”
However, he said he had no regrets about calling Islam a “stone age religion” in a column published in the conservative current affairs magazine “Investigate”.
“I was talking about Islam and I make no apology for the fact that I don't have any time for people who denigrate women and I don't have any time for institutions, whatever they might be, that suppress people's human rights,” he said.
Prosser also denied that a reference to people's rights being “denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from 'Wogistan'“ was racist, saying “there are probably some people who get upset too easily”.
Prime Minister John Key has described Prosser's remarks as appalling, while Islamic community groups have called for him to stand down from parliament, something he says he will not do.
Former Labour Party politician Kelvin Davis responded to Prosser's initial remarks with a tweet paraphrasing Mark Twain which read: “Better to stay silent and have everyone think you're an idiot, than to open your mouth and confirm it.”