Yuet Rappard appeared before Justices of the Peace in the Dunedin District Court and was found guilty of offensive behavior and fined $500 for telling a foreign student to remove her burqa.
ODT Rappard did not dispute that she told a University of Otago student to take off her burqa at Gardens New World, but told the court she was expressing her freedom of speech. ”I said, ‘Shame on you, you should take it off. When in Rome you should do as the Romans do’.”
Rappard, who moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands when she was a child, believed burqas should be banned and felt ”intimidated” when she saw people wearing them.
The student, whose identity was suppressed, said being shouted at, first when she was at the checkout and then a few minutes later outside the supermarket, left her shaken. ”I was crying and shocked. I just felt lonely and scared,” she told the court.
She had since had nightmares and the incident had affected her studies.
Burqas have now become the preferred disguise of bank robbers
Checkout supervisor Caitlin Jenkins, who was serving the student when the incident happened, said Rappard moved to within 10cm to 15cm of the student’s face before shouting at her to take off the headscarf.
”I think she called her a dirty Muslim and I think she said, ‘You’re from New Zealand – take off the headbag.” Rappard said that she did not use the words ”dirty Muslim” and was not shouting.
Police prosecutor Tim Hambleton said Rappard’s actions were ”morally repugnant” and qualified as offensive behaviour because onlookers were shocked. (Gee, imagine how “shocked” they would be if this Muslim had a suicide vest under her burqa)
In finding her guilty, justice of the peace Ashley Broad said he did not deny the importance of freedom of speech, but said people exercising the right ”must not be offensive”. (Freedom of speech does not give you the right NOT to be offended, otherwise it isn’t free speech. Besides, seeing a burqa is offensive to all non-Muslims)
Speaking outside court, Rappard was unrepentant. The guilty finding was an example of political correctness ”gone mad”, she said.