A bus driver slammed the door on a Muslim girl. Three girls fought back.
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/111634116/-

2019-03-29 02:03:31

​Roseanne Tia, 15, was standing at the bus stop three days after the Christchurch mosque attacks.

She and her friends Amiria Tikao, 15, and Yasmin Sadlier, 16, were on their way home from a student vigil at the Deans Ave memorial outside Al Noor mosque.

They were there to commemorate the 50 people who died in the terrorist attack, including two teenagers from Cashmere High School, and one student from Burnside High School.

The purple line Metro Bus pulled to the stop. The driver let one white woman on the bus. The next in line was a young woman wearing a hijab.

As she went to walk up the stairs, the bus driver slammed the door in her face.

"He just closed the doors on her and took off, the bus wasn't full at all," Roseanne says. "We were just in shock, especially after what had happened on Friday. She had come from the memorial as well.

"We asked her how she was and she said she was all right, but you could tell she was sad. Her friend had dropped her off at the bus stop so obviously things didn't feel safe for her. We were just so mad."

Amiria says the incident made them realise: "This actually is real, people are really racist. ... We were disgusted."

The girls waited with her for the next bus, travelling to the depot together. There, they tracked down the bus and the driver's name, and went to tell the company what they'd witnessed.

They couldn't understand why the adults behind the front desk didn't seem shocked. "We thought they would be freaking out, but they were just like 'Well, there's nothing we can do, but you can make a complaint'," Amiria says. "So we did."

Red Bus chief executive Paul McNoe says the company reviewed security footage and found the girl's complaint that the driver had closed the doors on a young Muslim woman was justified. "The driver's actions were completely inappropriate, and we are going through a disciplinary process. It's not an experience we would expect any of our customers to have when they're using our services."

McNoe would not say if the driver had been suspended, saying he could not comment on individual cases. "I can be very clear that there will not be a repeat of this incident." The company would like to apologise to the woman, he says.

Roseanne says since the mosque attacks, students are realising how important it is to stand up against racism.

"We don't just want to be bystanders and just watch something happen and not do anything about it, because that makes us just as bad. We were surprised no-one on the bus said anything.

"I just feel like when that kind of stuff happens it's so obviously wrong there's no way it should be tolerated. Even if it's not you, if you see it happen you can't stand by."

RACIST GRAFFITI

This incident occurred just three days after the devastating terror attack, as communities in cities and towns around the country were banding together for vigils in grief and solidarity.

But, while the overwhelming national response has been one of love and tolerance, this has not been universal.

In the days following the attack, a swastika was painted on a fence where the alleged terrorist was apprehended by police on Brougham St.

Christchurch City Council contractors have removed one piece of racist graffiti on average each day since the March 15 attacks. This is far more than usual, with racist vandalism previously a "relatively rare" occurrence, according to the council's Transport Operations Manager Steffan Thomas.

In Lyttelton, police were called after a man was seen scrawling anti-Muslim sentiments on a restaurant blackboard, a witness told Stuff.

Police could not say how many cases of racist abuse or attacks there had been nationwide, as they do not collect this data. "Hate crime is not a specific, standalone offence," a police spokeswoman says.

Hate-motivated hostility could be considered an "aggravating factor" in sentencing, and staff could note when a crime was motivated by hatred, but these are not officially counted.

Human rights advocates – including Muslim community members, former race relations commissioner Susan Devoy and her predecessor Joris de Bres – say they have pushed for years for hate crimes to be recorded.

'URGENT NEED' TO RECORD HATE CRIMES

The Human Rights Commission collects "race-related complaints" and those alleging racial harassment and disharmony. In the past five years these have increased by 20 per cent, to 417 last year.

HRC legal advisor Janet Anderson Bidois says these statistics are not the full picture, and urges that a national recording system be established.

"We maintain that a discussion about our current hate speech laws is overdue, and that urgent action is required in relation to the recording of hate crimes."

Since the attacks, non-governmental agency Human Rights Foundation has begun a website for people to report Islamophobia, after becoming frustrated there was no official mechanism.

Incidents reported since March 15 alone include a woman on a bus in Auckland being verbally abused, a trail of manure left around a family home in South Auckland, a boy who said "you look like a Muslim and I want to shoot you" to another boy in Hastings, and several reports of gun gestures and shooting noise being directed at people.

Human rights lawyer and committee member Deborah Manning says she's been dismayed at the amount of abuse reported since the deaths of 50 of the Muslim community. Manning says there should be a dedicated line for recording race crimes to police.

"What's been concerning to us is the number of terrible things happening since the Christchurch attacks, it's been shocking to see to be honest," she says.

"In the immediate aftermath it's very hard to comprehend that this is happening ... we've received some Islamophobic comments ourselves."

Manning says the foundation's site was started after Muslim women began to share their stories of racist abuse while waiting in Starship Hospital for four-year-old Alen Alsati to go through surgery for three bullet wounds sustained in the Al Noor attack.

They realised they were targeted on the street, on the bus, and even in the supermarket. "One woman had been pushed past by another woman with her trolley and called a terrorist, and she didn't even think to report it."

'SHOW US WHAT'S RIGHT'

In the United Kingdom, hate crimes are recorded and prosecuted separately by the police, with figures reported annually. Incidents are also collected by independent monitoring group Tell Mama, who say the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes across Britain increased by 593 per cent in the week after the attacks here.

Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand spokeswoman Anjum Rahman says her organisation has been raising the recording of hate crimes with police since at least March 2017.

"We also raised the issue of recording the ethnicities of victims, so we could get a sense of how many people from ethnic minority communities were victims of crime. We need to get a sense of the level of hate crime and where it's occurring so we can work on prevention and safety."

Anecdotally, Rahman says Muslim women report being targeted more when they are out alone or with their children than when they are accompanied by their husbands. "One, they're more visible, and two, they're seen as less likely to fight back. This shows us these people are looking for vulnerable victims."

A police spokeswoman says they are in "ongoing conversations with community leaders and representatives" about how police record allegations of hate crime and crimes of prejudice. Justice Minister Andrew Little has been contacted for comment.

Back at Christchurch Girls' High School, the three girls don't know what the hold up is. In their world, racism should be reported, bus drivers who discriminate against their passengers should lose their jobs, and adults need to be be leading by example.

"They should be our role models," Yasmin says. "They need to show us what's right."

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