Islamophobia or mental illness?




Mental illness is far more widespread than we often wish to admit. In fact, it is probably worth considering it a normal part of life – like the occasional cold or other ailments we all get.

But occasionally mental illness can be more debilitating – even embarrassing. Does any family not have a member who sometimes embarrasses them by behaving inappropriately?

I will be upfront and say this has been the case in my family. I can certainly understand why sometimes the law needs to take into account metal illness, or even turn a blind eye to behaviour which may be insulting or technically illegal.

That was my first response to the reported abuse of a Muslim woman in Huntly. Now that this has come to court I hope the person who was abusive gets some understanding from the court, and the help she may need, if mental illness is an issue.

Having reacted this way I now find myself in strange company – seeing a possibly similar reaction from people who I do not normally align with.

The NZ Herald reports that former Whanganui mayor and broadcaster Michael Laws has come out on Facebook expressing his sympathy for the woman charged over the attack in Huntly. Of course, he is now being attacked for this. But I find many of the comments inhumane – exhibiting a really backward attitude to the idea mental illness may be involved. Seeing it as an excuse! Just imagine treating someone with a physical disability as if they were using that as an excuse.

Something I hadn’t considered was the motivation of the complainant – although I did think it strange this woman thought to video the event and make it public. If it had been me I would have treated it as an unfortunate event, best forgotten and certainly not something to make political capital out of.

According to the Whale Oil blog the complainant is actually something of a political activist – advocating for Muslim causes (see Activist or ordinary Kiwi Muslim? What does her twitter feed reveal?)OK, I certainly don’t hold that against her but it seems to explain why the whole thing has become so public.

The way I see it this whole event seems to have been created by a mixture of mental illness and political activism (and, as alway, media exaggeration). On the one hand, this may have been unfortunate and embarrassing for the family of the women who was abusive. On the other hand, if this is a case of mental illness then perhaps the involvement of the court may bring her some help.

One thing I am sure of. Whatever the reason for the videod abusive behaviour – ethnic or religious hatred, drunkenness or mental health – this is not normal behaviour for New Zealanders and we shouldn’t let others think that it is.

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7 responses to “Islamophobia or mental illness?

  1. Mental illness or extremes on the Wilson Patterson index? What liberals might rate as as unbelievable (Islamophobia) is a normal attitude for conservatives as measured by the Wilson-Paterson index. This (perhaps controversial) index sees fear of outliers as a normal response for conservatives but unlikely for liberals. The problem with interpretations of this index is that they can sometimes be accused as leaning one way or the other. Some would say this index is a measure primarily of conservatisim, where liberal responses are perceived as “less conservative” and others condemn it as measure of “less liberal”. The debate centres on whether or not the mean point on the scale is somewhere between liberal and conservative rather than being one extreme or the other.


  2. In this case the woman was at least drunk. But I suspect also mentally ill. But, I guess the courts will determine if there is that sort of problem here.

    The other aspect is that the Muslim women who complained may have been more driven by political activism than a real concern for this sort of behaviour which is not common in New Zealand. At least from sober and sane people.


  3. You seem to be convinced that Mehpara Khan is a political activist, you reference Cameron Slater as an authority on this, even though Slater concludes: “I don’t think that Mehpara is an activist in the way Linda Sarsour is an activist. After reading her twitter feed I think her views and her desire to promote Islam to the New Zealand public are those of an ordinary ” moderate” Muslim albeit one with public relations skills.”

    Your claim that ” . . . the Muslim women who complained may have been more driven by political activism than a real concern for this sort of behaviour which is not common in New Zealand.”

    If I’d been in her shoes and someone was attacking me because of my clothing or religion I’d have the video all over Facebook in a flash, this apparently to you would be evidence that I’m a political activist.


  4. Another thing that occurs to me is that it is quite likely that alcohol influenced the attacker, that if she’d been sober the incident wouldn’t have happened. The fact that some people become aggressive when drunk is not going to be a revelation to anyone, so I have to ask: Do you think that her (likely) drunk actions warrant you publicly labeling her as suffering from a mental illness, especially when there is often an unjustified stigma attached to mental illness?


  5. Yes, possibly Andrew.

    I wouldn’t do that if I judged the person mentally ill. I have seen too much of that.

    Probably seen too much unthinking political activism as well.


  6. Yes, there is an unjustified stigma. That’s why I hope that if mental illness is a problem she will get some help.

    I haven’t labelled anyone – just raised the possibility having seen this sort of thing too many time in the past.

    But there has certainly been a lot of labelling going on here, hasn’t there?


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