Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has spoken out in support of anti-immigration Dutch MP Geert Wilders, saying a double standard on free speech is emerging in Australia.
Mr Wilders, who is on a speaking tour of Australia, has in the past called Islam “a retarded culture” and in Melbourne on Tuesday called the prophet Muhammad a “warlord, terrorist and paedophile” and called for a ban on migration from Muslim countries.
His comments drew widespread condemnation, and a large group of protesters delayed the onset of his speech in Melbourne.
Senator Bernardi, who has spoken in support of the controversial Wilders in the past, said Mr Wilders’ views should have an airing “in such a tolerant and open society like Australia”.
“There are a myriad of (sic) reports from a previously harmonious and tolerant Dutch society where Jews and gay people no longer feel safe from attack by Islamic fundamentalists,” Senator Bernardi wrote in a blog post on his Common Sense Lives Here website.
“These fundamentalists are the same people who want to kill Wilders and establish sharia law under a global Caliphate because Muhammad commanded them to back in the 7th century. And yet, it is Wilders who is characterised as an extremist.”
He said there was a clear double standard at play, when Saudi Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais – a cleric who has described Jews as “accursed by Allah”, “apes and pigs” and “scum of the earth” – was due to come to Australia to speak at the Australian Islamic Peace Conference next month with little controversy.
“Why is it so easy for this man to come to our country and share his bizarre views in a public forum without public controversy and yet it is so hard for Mr Wilders?”
Senator Bernardi resigned as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary last year after his comments linking gay marriage to bestiality and polygamy.
There is indeed a double standard being applied here, but it is quite the opposite of what Bernardi claims. If a Muslim extremist proposed to visit Australia with the aim of making the same inflammatory comments about Judaism that Wilders is currently making about Islam, there would be no prospect at all of the Australian government allowing that individual into the country. The principle of free speech would rightly be set aside in such a case. But it is used by the government to justify its decision to grant Wilders a visa.
As for Al-Sudais, who is the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, he has visited the UK on a number of occasions and, whatever he is alleged to have said in the past back in Saudi Arabia, he has always preached a message of moderation and integration here. The parallels with Wilders – who used his UK visit to promote the same Islamophobic hatred he is now inciting in Australia, while the far-right thugs of the English Defence League took to the streets to show their support for him – are non-existent.