Anti-Islam Dutch MP postpones visit to Australia
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.
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.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Tuesday said he would not use his ministerial powers to stop the “extremist” right-wing Dutch MP from visiting Australia for an October speaking tour.
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.
Mr Wilders, founder of the fourth-largest political party in the Netherlands, told a UK newspaper in 2009: “I don’t hate Muslims. 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 TV.
“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, he 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”.
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,” he told AAP.
“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 that preachers of “hate” should be ignored.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said while he did not approve of what Mr Wilders had to say, he favoured the “Voltairean view” of freedom of speech.
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.
Greens leader Christine Milne said the federal government had done the right thing in not providing Mr Wilders a promotional opportunity by denying him a visa.
“When the UK tried to ban his visit the appeal he mounted led to massive publicity for him,” she told reporters in Hobart.
Australia’s Muslim population is about half a million people, out of a total population of 22 million.