Nazis, conservative columnists and LNP MPs turned up at Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders’ noisy appearance in Sydney last night, reports Dr Benjamin Thomas Jones.
Around 50 noisy protesters turned up in Sydney’s south-west this evening to protest a speech by anti-Islam campaigner and Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
A sizable police presence kept the protesters well away from the Roma Function Centre in Liverpool, but they made their voice heard shouting:
“Muslims are welcome, racists are not.”
The protesters came mainly from the Socialist Alliance, but there were also representatives from Islamic groups and a small group of curious onlookers.
Around 500 people gathered to hear Wilders speak, including the Liberal National Party member for Dawson, George Christensen, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan and the leader of the Christian Democrats, the Reverend Fred Nile.
Gathered also were a number of young skinheads dressed in neo-Nazi garb.
In his speech, Wilders repeated his public claims that Islam was “evil” and that the Prophet Muhammad was a “terrorist”, “war-lord” and “paedophile”.
Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, had been under pressure to deny Wilders a visa, but ultimately decided not to interfere.
“I have decided not to intervene to deny him a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough … [to] withstand the visit of a fringe commentator from the other side of the world.”
From the Liberal side, Tony Abbott claimed Wilders’ stance on Islam was “substantially” wrong.
West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett candidly said, “I don’t want him here”. The conservative Q Society of Australia, who hosted the Wilders tour, were unable to find a venue in Perth. Barnett, who had ruled out the use of government buildings, was happy to take credit for the eventual cancellation of the Perth speech.
Controversial Liberal Senator, Cory Bernardi, who has orchestrated an Australian version of the United States Tea Party, was quick to defend Wilders claiming:
“In such a tolerant and open society like Australia, why is it so difficult to accommodate a speaking tour by a member of the Dutch parliament who has a different perspective?”
Bernardi contrasted the visa difficulties faced by Wilders with the relative ease of Islamic speakers Taji Mustafa and Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, who are both on record making anti-Semitic remarks.
During the speech, Wilder’s justified his anti-Islamic stance, by noting the overt anti-Semitism expressed by many Islamic clerics. It was no small irony then that the member for Dawson was present to show his support. In the lead up to the 2010 election, concern was raised about anti-gay, anti-female and anti-Semitic comments Christensen had made, including the persistent accusation that “the Jews killed Christ”. Abbott dismissed the comments noting that everyone says some “colourful” things during their university days.
Wilders received a standing ovation for his speech, which included a warning that Australia was facing a “stealth jihad” and that immigration from Islamic countries must be stopped. He emphatically added that no more mosques should be built, to which the crowd cheered and applauded.
Wilders condemned both the major political parties in Australia for failing to support his right to free speech, but finished with a clear indication of where his preference was. He closed by stating he wanted to return in a couple of years to find a very different government, before joking that he would start his own party here if change does not occur.