Dutch MP Geert Wilders, known for his controversial anti-Islam stand, postponed his speaking engagement in Australia to February 2013 due to what the organisers of the talk considers delay in the issuance of the legislator's visa.
Mr Wilders was initially scheduled to speak in Melbourne on Oct 16 and Sydney on Oct 19 in a forum organised by the Q Society. Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said on Tuesday that he would not block the visa application, but it took him several weeks to process the visa application, fueling speculations that the delay was deliberate so Mr Wilders would run out of time.
"We thought it was very odd. We don't understand why it took so long - five weeks - for a respected member of Parliament from a respected European country to get a visa," Stock and Land quoted Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood.
Due to his controversial statements, the Dutch MP requires 24-hour police protection, particularly after he received death threats when he compared the Koran, Islam's holy book, to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Speculations are that his remarks in the Q Society forum could fuel more protests from Muslim groups similar to a violent rally that took place in Sydney three weeks ago over the Innocence of Muslim YouTube video which has more than 14 million hits now. Q Society is an organisation based in Victoria that aims to keep Australia's democracy based on Judeo-Christian ethics and values.
Mr Bowen admitted that the Dutch lawmaker's views are offensive and ignorant, but he decided he would issue the MP a visa anyway.
"The way to deal with Mr Wilders is to defeat him with the force of our ideas and the force of our lived experience of multiculturalism. And I think our society is robust enough to withstand a visit from his fringe commentator from the other side of the world," Mr Bowen said.
Mr Wilder has insisted that he does not hate Muslims, but hates Islam.
Muslim leaders questioned the decision of Mr Bowen to grant the Dutch MP a visa.
"I am disappointed they will let this inflammatory man into the country. It won't matter when he come 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 Australian quoted Islamic Council of NSW Chairman Khaled Sukkarieh.
"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 call for calm and peace," added Samie Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association.
The Greens supported the issue of a visa to Mr Wilder.
"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," The Australian quoted Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
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