Far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders could learn a lot about the strengths of multiculturalism during his Australian visit, community and religious leaders say.
Mr Wilders will give speeches in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth this month about what he calls the “Islamisation of Australia”.
A coalition of 24 groups – including the AFL and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne – issued a joint statement in Melbourne on Monday, reinforcing their support for Victoria’s “multicultural and multifaith community”.
“We have a collective responsibility to respect our fellow citizens and preserve the social cohesion and harmony that characterise Victoria and makes our society great,” the statement says. “We welcome challenging ideas and debate, however, inciting hatred and animosity towards specific cultural or faith-based communities has no place in Victoria.”
State Multicultural Affairs Minister Nicholas Kotsiras says Mr Wilders could learn a lot from his visit to the state. “I find it amazing that someone could travel 16,000 kilometres to tell us why he and his party have failed in his own country,” he told reporters in Melbourne. “If he wants to come to learn and to educate himself about the success of multiculturalism and diversity, Victoria is the place to be.”
See also “Cold reception for anti-Islam campaigner”, SBS, 18 February 2013
Update: The threat that Wilders poses to community relations hasn’t prevented the Murdoch-owned national newspaperThe Australian from providing him with a platform to promote his rabidly Islamophobic views. In an article headlined “Islamification of Western societies threatens everyone’s freedoms”, Wilders writes:
“Islam, rather than a religion, is a totalitarian political ideology. It is an ideology because it aims for an Islamic state and wants to impose sharia on all of us. It is totalitarian because it is not voluntary: once you are in, you cannot get out. Unlike genuine religions, Islam also makes demands on non-Muslims. We, too, are marked for death if we criticise it.”