CAIRO - The racial abuse of a New Zealand Muslim taxi driver caught on video has sparked angry comments, with many groups saying it has become a fact of life for many ethnic drivers.
"It's absolutely disgraceful and unfortunately it still continues here in New Zealand, Race relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy told TV ONE's Breakfast on Monday, July 29.
"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.
Devoy was referring to an incident which occurred last Saturday when a Pakistan-born taxi driver Tariq Humayun was working in Invercargill.
Picking up Greg Shuttleworth, a technician for engineering firm Jesco in his mid 40s at about 12.30am, the passenger unleashed a string of racist comments telling the driver he doesn't belong in New Zealand and to "f*** off" back to Pakistan
"You're a Muslim prick aren't you?" the passenger says in footage of the incident posted on YouTube.
"So you're here infiltrating our country and you're quite happy about it.
"I'll pay you your $7 when you tell me that you'll p*** off back to the country where you come from."
Throughout the ordeal, Humayun remained calm, referring to his passenger as "sir" and reminding him he is being filmed.
After the incident, Humayun droveto police to report the case, supported with the video of the taxi camera which were made compulsory in taxis in 2011 after drivers were physically abused by passengers.
As the video went viral on the internet, condemnations followed describing the incident as appalling.
Yet, New Zealand Race relations Commissioner regretted that the Commission was "limited" in what action they could take.
"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," Devoy said
"We can't prosecute...People can be virtually say what they like," she explained.
Facing growing criticism, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt admitted residents may be more "fearful'' of foreigners due to their lack of exposure to other cultures.
"Generally speaking, there just aren't these issues. My partner is half-Indian and she was born here,'' Shadbolt told The New Zealand Herald.
"I think...that the reason you get those sort of red-neck views expressed a bit more [in Invercargill] than other areas is that generally speaking it is a very, I suppose, a very isolated part of New Zealand.''
"Here, a lot of people would have never met people from other countries hardly, in terms of their schools and things.
"So they tended to be a bit, I suppose, fearful of the unknown in a way that others haven't,'' he added.
Nevertheless, New Zealand Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish said racist rants were common in New Zealand.
"It's concerning, but not surprising," Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish told NZ Newswire.
"For many of them it's just a fact of life in their taxi driving profession.
"The fact remains that it is an element of New Zealand society unfortunately that are racist, especially when they're full of booze they'll let their racist attitude show."
The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to 36,000 Muslims, according to the 2006 census.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net