Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says he won’t use his ministerial powers to stop “extremist” Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders from visiting Australia for a speaking tour because that would make him a hero.
The controversial anti-Islam politician has applied for a visa and intends to make two public speeches in Melbourne on October 16 and Sydney on October 19 organized by the Q Society, a local group concerned about the “Islamisation of Australia”.
Mr Wilders, founder of the fourth largest political party in the Netherlands, in 2009 told a UK newspaper, “I don’t hate Muslim; I hate their book and their ideology.”
Mr Bowen on Tuesday condemned Mr Wilders’ views, calling them “extremist and offensive”.
“I’ve taken the view, in the end, that I didn’t want to make him a cause celebre,” he told ABC television.
“I think probably what he would like me to do is refuse his visa so he can make a hero of himself and get his cause more attention.”
It would be better to “defeat him with the force of our ideas and the force of our lived experience of multiculturalism”, the minister said.
Muslims Australia vice-president Ikebal Patel said the Muslim community would welcome the opportunity to engage with Mr Wilders to “explain what Islam is and try and work out with him what his problems are with one of the great religions” (sic).
He said Australia had a long association with Islam and was a country built on multiracial harmony.
“We would like to think the authorities are vigilant on what he says, so he doesn’t break the social fabric and harmony.”
“Freedom of speech is one thing, but once that fine line is crossed when it gets into religious vilification and bringing about hatred, then authorities should take appropriate action.”
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told an interfaith gathering in Melbourne’s north that preachers of “hate” should be ignored.
“When anyone comes to this country and preaches hate and division … we are strong enough and robust enough as a country and a community to weather that and to absorb it, and frankly, I hope, to ignore it,” he said.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said while he did not approve of what Mr Wilders had to say, he favored the “Voltairean view” of freedom of speech.
“I think that if people have crackpot ideas, then let them express those crackpot ideas in the public arena so they can be exposed for the crackpot ideas they are,” he told Sky News.
Australian Greens senator Richard Di Natale, who led an attempt in the Senate to condemn the Dutch politician, said it was critical politicians and community leaders rejected his views.
“Australia’s democracy and the institution of multiculturalism are strong enough to withstand the hate speech of one man,” he said in a statement.
“But our politicians should be the first line of defence, especially in the context of recent events.”
Australia’s Muslim population is about half a million people, out of a total population of 22 million.
Late Update: Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has postponed a visit to Australia after the government announced it would not stand in his way by denying him a visa.
Controversial anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders has postponed his visit to Australia; on the same day the federal government announced it would not block his visa.
Mr Wilders was scheduled to make two public speeches in Melbourne and Sydney later this month at the invitation of the Q Society, a local group concerned about the “Islamisation of Australia”.
But shortly after Mr Bowen made his decision public, the Q Society said the visit had been postponed.
The group’s media representative Andrew Horwood said the long delay in the visa approval had left them without enough time to get the logistics in place.
“We’re hoping to postpone until February. We think that’s the next window of opportunity that will be good for all parties,” Mr Horwood told AAP.
“Geert is 100 per cent committed to coming out here.”
Mr Horwood said he believed Mr Wilders’ visa application would still be valid in February.
*dhimmi reports courtesy of multiracial news broadcaster SBS
My interview with Q Society Deputy President and Stop islamization of Nations CO-President >HERE<