Don’t fear the haters – laugh at them
They were pathetic. Half a dozen white power thugs, ridiculous with their close-shaven heads and Naziinspired motifs on their jackets. Even to call them thugs gives them too much credit: they turned up to confront a peaceful rally against racism on Saturday, hurled a few epithets, then ran whimpering to police for protection.
The National Front’s little day out in Wellington yesterday should reassure New Zealanders. When extremist groups are gaining momentum in some parts of the world, they remain a laughably ineffectual presence here – and most importantly, we know how to respond to them.
We don’t shut them down or knock them down; that would be to sink to their level. Mostly, we ignore them as irrelevant. And if we must respond, we do it by speaking common sense to their bigotry.
New Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, who came to New Zealand as a young Iranian refugee, spoke at the rally against racism yesterday: ‘‘Together we stood strong against hate and division,’’ she said afterwards.
And she celebrated free speech: ‘‘I want to thank you all from the bottom of my Kiwi-Iranian refugee heart for standing with the people who are voiceless, who have been silenced.’’
In New Zealand we protect free speech – even when we vehemently disagree with others.
Today we report vile expressions of hatred of Israel by visiting speakers at an east Auckland Islamic centre, some of whom denied the Holocaust and called for the ‘‘surgical removal’’ of Israel.
Jewish community leaders want one of the speakers, Iranian Embassy first secretary Hormoz Ghahremani, thrown out after he called for Muslim nations to unite against Israel.
New Zealanders are divided in their views on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, but almost all would condemn the speakers’ proposed annihilation of Israel.
Do we, then, demand the expulsion of this so-called diplomat? That is more difficult.
New Zealand required Kuwait to withdraw its previous ambassador, who was accused of assaulting and injuring a woman in Wellington. Police would have charged him, but Kuwait refused to waive his diplomatic immunity.
It’s fair to say that this, too, reflected a clash of values. Not about beating women: both New Zealanders and Kuwaitis would agree that is reprehensible. But our two nations did clash over the accountability and transparency with which the alleged crime should be treated.
Ambassador Ahmed Razouqi was protected by diplomatic immunity, ensuring emissaries are not vulnerable to the whim or malice of foreign regimes.
Our government cannot overturn diplomatic immunity, and nor would we want to. It protects more New Zealanders, representing our nation in hostile climes, than it harms.
New Zealand officials tried hard to persuade Kuwait to front up their ambassador to police, we report today. Kuwait refused. So he could not be held to account in the criminal courts – but he will be held to account in the court of public opinion,
Winston Peters, the new Foreign Affairs Minister, says Razouqi can run but he can’t hide: ‘‘Diplomatic immunity is not anonymity.’’
That is an appropriate way to respond to Iran diplomat Hormoz Ghahremani, too. He is guilty, not of a crime, but of inflammatory hate speech that risks radicalising the young or the foolish.
We cannot charge him. We should not expel him. Rather, we should publicly expose and ridicule him and his rhetoric.
Just as we do with the laughable skinheads of the National Front.