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Australia: Muslim leaders call for calm over visit of anti-Islam Dutch politician Wilders
FAR-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has postponed a speaking tour of Australia until early next year, after Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he would not block his visit.
Mr Wilders, who has likened the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf and delivers talks on the theme of Islam's alleged destruction of western values, was originally due in the country this month but now plans to make it to Melbourne, Sydney and possibly Perth in February, say tour organisers.
Muslim leaders say they are disappointed the politician, labelled “extremist” by Mr Bowen, is being allowed into the country, but have called for calm.
At the same time the Coalition accused Mr Bowen of double standards over his delay in approving Mr Wilders' visa, while recently granting Muslim leader Taji Mustafa entry almost immediately.
The organisation bringing Mr Wilders to Australia, the Q Society, said: “Frankly, it was embarrassing and awkward that this man has had his visa held up for so long, given he is a politician in the Netherlands.”
“We're really hoping the Prime Minister will invite him to speak at parliament when he arrives and we're hoping to add Perth to the public speeches list,” added Andrew Horwood, whose Q Society is a Victorian-based organisation that seeks to keep Australia's democracy based on “Judeo-Christian ethics and values”.
A spokesman for Julia Gillard said she will “not be extending such an invite”.
Mr Wilders founded and still leads the Party for Freedom in The Netherlands and has spent much of his political career attempting to “save” his country from what he calls “Islamisation”.
Mr Bowen, writing in The Australian, labelled Mr Wilders an “extremist” but said he would not intervene because Australia's democracy was strong enough to handle his anti-multicultural views.
Muslim leaders questioned Mr Bowen's decision, particularly given community tensions following last month's violent Muslim protests in Sydney.
“I am disappointed they will let this inflammatory man into the country,” said Islamic Council of NSW chairman Khaled Sukkarieh.
“It won't matter when he comes here, he will incite hatred whenever it is. Do we really need someone like that in our country who will influence nothing for the better?”
The President of the Lebanese Muslim Association, Samier Dandan, hopes Muslims will rise above whatever it is Mr Wilders might provoke.
“He's not the first and he won't be the last to say terrible things in this country,” he said.
“We're obviously disappointed he has been allowed in, I don't know enough about the policy but when Kevin Andrews was immigration minister he wouldn't let Snoop Dogg into the country because he failed a character test.
“The Muslim community needs to rise above people that have only poisonous and vile messages to spread. I can't speak on behalf of the young men that protested in Sydney but I hope they will listen to the many Muslim leaders who called for peace and calm.”
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Mr Bowen had required the Dutch politician to “run a steeplechase” to get his visa, forcing him to wait six weeks, while Mr Mustafa, the controversial Hizb ut Tahrir leader, was granted entry into the country immediately.
“In this case the minister has some explaining to do about the appearance of double standards,” Mr Morrison told The Australian.
“Mr Bowen also chose to be far more publicly critical of Mr Wilders' extreme views than he was of Mr Mustafa. Based on his handling of these two cases it would seem Mr Bowen is a bit more concerned about some extreme views than others.”
Mr Wilders applied for a visa in August.
Members of his staff and police assigned to protect him received visas within three days but Mr Wilders has been waiting until now.
Mr Bowen said he was right to have carefully considered Mr Wilders' visa application.
“It was a difficult decision and I make no apologies for mulling it over, but in the end that's the view I have come to,” he told ABC News 24.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Wilders should be allowed passage into the country, even if his views were not agreed with.
“We can't simply deny visas to people based on their views, no matter how much our opinions differ from theirs, because of the precedent that can set,” Senator Hanson-Young told The Australian.
“Across the board denouncing of his opinions is needed, however, to ensure that people who hold extremist views like Mr Wilders are not encouraged to come to Australia and spread their hatred.”
Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis said while he did not approve of what Mr Wilders had to say, he tended towards a “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,” Senator Brandis told Sky News.
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