Reluctantly…..Australia issues Geert Wilders a visa

Controversial anti-Islamist Dutch politician Geert Wilders will be granted a visa to conduct a speaking tour in Australia. Just weeks after violent protests exploded on the streets in Sydney and around the world over an amateur video parodying Islam, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he would not block the visa – but condemned Mr Wilders’ views as offensive, ignorant, and wrong-headed.

Brisbane Times (H/T Alastair)  “Wilders is a provocateur who no doubt revels in the spotlight and would like nothing more than to be denied entry to Australia and garner his cause more attention,”

Mr Bowen (photo left) wrote in The Australian today. “I have decided not to intervene to deny him a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator from the other side of the world,” Mr Bowen says.

Mr Wilders is scheduled to give two speeches in Australia this month. Last year, controversial Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi provoked outrage by offering to help Mr Wilders during his visit.

Mr Wilders gained attention for comments such as “the Koran is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror”, calling the prophet Muhammad a paedophile and comparing the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In 2009 he was refused entry to the UK, a decision that was was overturned on appeal.

“I see Islam as more an ideology than a religion. It’s not to be compared with Christianity or Judaism; it’s more compared with other totalitarian ideologies like communism or fascism,” Mr Wilders told the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent last year.

Mr Bowen said that Australia has laws against vilification and inciting violence and said Mr Wilders, like anyone else in the country, would have to abide by these. Revoking the visa would only play into Mr Wilders’s hands, the Immigration Minister said.

Mr Bowen said he believed the best way to handle “offensive” and ‘extremist’ commentators such as Mr Wilders was to defeat their ideas in a contest of rational thought.”Mr Wilders and people who agree with him are very simply wrong in their beliefs,” he said. “But in a democracy such as Australia’s, you are entitled to be wrong, as long as you don’t vilify people or encourage and incite violence.”

Last month, the Senate defeated a Greens motion calling on Parliament to condemn the “hateful anti-Muslim views” of Mr Wilders. Australian Greens senator Richard Di Natale said it was crucial that politicians and community leaders across the partisan divide condemned Wilders’ views.