Racism: More education on globalised world needed, says Muslim advocate Bariz Shah

11:28 am on 2 September 2019

A well-known Christchurch Muslim community advocate says he encountered racist abuse throughout his New Zealand upbringing.

Afghanistan-born Bariz Shah, who is the president of the University of Canterbury Muslim Students' Association, was one of four tertiary students and staff who spoke to RNZ about racism in New Zealand.

Mr Shah said he was particularly targeted after the September 11, 2001 terror attack in the United States, for being a Muslim school student living in Auckland at the time.

He said he brushed off the abuse and bullying until one day he just snapped.

"I just brushed it off, throughout my entire years of being a young person. I brushed it off, brushed it off, until one day in Year 10, I would never forget, semester (term) two, there was one person, he used to always pick on me and do gun signs at me and basically tell me I am a terrorist," Mr Shah said.

"And all those years of experiencing hatred and me brushing it off, I had absorbed enough and had enough, so I lashed out."

Mr Shah said throughout his high school years in Auckland, the people who abused him racially were never punished.

He said it started a cycle of not believing in New Zealand's education system, and also caused him do dislike "people of fairer skin".

Mr Shah doesn't blame anyone for the discrimination he faced.

"Looking back at it now, I don't blame that kid [bully] at all. That kid had no idea why he was doing that. That kid had no education about my religion, my background," he said.

"I can't even blame the teachers because the teachers didn't have any knowledge."

He said New Zealand needed more education about other cultures and religions, which will help reduce racism and xenophobia.

"The bad side of New Zealand was always with people who were uneducated and had no knowledge of the globalised world," he said.