It is just impossible to dismiss the prejudice behind a lot of the criticism targeted at the rookie Green MP
The fact that Green MP Golriz Ghahraman now requires special security protection is an unqualified embarrassment. She's far from the first MP to get special security, but it is an abridgement of very rights and freedoms the MP's critics claim to stand for. And it is an indictment on everybody from the right of politics who doesn't stand up against harassment and bigotry perpetuated by their own side.
I think I may have come down on the opposite side of Ghahraman on almost every matter of public controversy. I don't think I've ever heard or read her say or write anything that I've found interesting or engaging. What's more, I take particular issue with her illiberal leanings on matters like freedom of expression.
But the level of notice she attracts from some quarters on the right is deranged. There are so many people holding down-the-line, garden-variety liberal views that the special attention given to Ghahraman requires explanation. And it is just impossible to escape the conclusion that prejudice is a driving force in much of the visceral hatred some people feel for her.
People like this are damaging New Zealand politics. It needs to stop. And if principled conservatives don't visibly separate themselves from that attitude, conservatism in this country will be justifiably damaged.
I submit the following baby steps as starting points on the road to curing yourself of Ghahraman-Derangement-Syndrome:
- Don't call her "Golly". Using an infantilising nickname for somebody is childish at best and bullying at worst. Just don't do it.
- While you're at it, don't call her "Golriz" either. The woman is an elected member of Parliament. Accord her the dignity of not being overly familiar. If you're going to criticise her then, unless the you’re confident that it’s appropriate in the circumstances, use her surname in the same way that you would do for any other politician.
- Don't throw her origin story in her face. Ghahraman is a New Zealand citizen. She is entitled to all the rights of other New Zealand citizens. This includes the right to hold opinions that you think are bad to be bad. The fact that she was born in Iran is irrelevant to any critique of her ideas.
- Don't accuse her of being a secret Islamist theocrat. Ghahraman has said she is an agnostic, bordering on an atheist. The idea that such a person wants to implement an extreme interpretation of Islamic law is beyond ridiculous. People who argue that this is something she is secretly pushing for are also ridiculous.
- If you really can't bring yourself to treat an opponent with a minimum of dignity and respect, consider just not saying anything. Ghahraman is a first-term, backbench MP, not the PM. She's not even a government minister yet. It really isn't compulsory to be super-concerned with everything she says or does. Any compulsion to let Ghahraman live rent free in your head really says more about you than it does about her.
- Don’t bring her partner into it. Guy Williams can be something of lummox but it’s hard to see why Ghahraman should be answerable for the dumb stuff he says. There are a number of politics-media pairings and there's not usually an expectation of joint and several liability. Not trying to make trouble for people’s domestic lives seems a pretty low bar to clear.
- Don't nod along politely to bad faith attacks. Far be it from me to advocate for a call-out culture. But when people cross the line, make your disagreement known. You don't actually have to be super-aggressive about it for them to get the message.
None of this is really that hard. You don't have to agree with Ghahraman or even like her. You really just have to treat her the way you'd probably like to be treated yourself.
It’s hard to believe the point has to be made. But here we are. Let's try not to have to come back again.