Far-right and virulently anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders has postponed a planned speaking tour in Australia after his visa application took a longer-than-normal time to be processed. The visa received approval on Monday afternoon, hours after he announced he was pushing the tour date back until February, Australia’s Age reported.
Wilders, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, who, according to his website, “frequently warns about the dangers of Islamic radicalism,” has previously compared the Muslim Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, called Mohammed a “warlord” and has defended the “freedom of expression against those who respond to free speech with violence,” vis-a-vis the film “Innocence of Muslims.”
Wilders canceled his October appearances in Australia despite assurances that he would be granted a visa, Australia’s Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told ABC News, saying that he didn’t want to give Wilders the opportunity to turn a visa rejection into a rallying cry.
“I've taken the view that he's a provocateur who would like nothing more than for me to reject his visa so that he could become a cause célèbre," Bowen said to ABC’s morning radio program. "I'm not going to give him that opportunity to be the cause célèbre for his cause, which is radical and extremist. We should defeat his ideas with the force of our ideas and the force of our experience, not by the blunt instrument of keeping him out of Australia.”
Too late, it would seem.
Widlers was invited to speak in Melbourne on Oct. 16 and Sydney on Oct. 19 by the Q society, a group who “opposes Islam for Australia” and is “surely entitled to hear from Islam-critical voices.” The Society announced on their website that the new dates for Wilders’s tour would be Feb. 18-23.
A spokesman for the Q society, Andrew Horwood, told the Age that the society thought the delay in Wilders’ visa 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,” Horwood said.
“Frankly, it was embarrassing and awkward that this man has had his visa held up for so long,” Horwood said to the Australian.
Recent riots over anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” in Sydney were a cause for concern, but Muslim leaders in Australia called for calm. President of the Lebanese Muslim Association Samier Dandan told the Australian he hoped Muslims would rise above Wilders’ incendiary statements.
“He's not the first, and he won't be the last to say terrible things in this country,” Dandan said.
"We are obviously not happy having someone with this type of Islamophobic mindset coming to Australia, but am I concerned about him? No. He's done a lot of damage globally, and he's not going to say anything new here."