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Below is my letter published in today’s Australian (plus a square bracketed section omitted by the Ed), together with other supportive letters also published and an editorial, on the decision by Immigration Minister Bowen to grant a visa to Geert Wilders, whose intended visit has now been postponed for unexplained reasons.

I am aiming to write further about this decision and related matters. Suffice to note, for the present, that the labelling of Wilders as being from the “far-right” is wrong: he is not a fascist. Further, while he is outspoken about Islamic beliefs, there is a very considerable difference between his statements and those of many Islamic leaders.

Des Moore

Far-right politician has endorsement of Dutch voters
(letter published in The Australian, 3 October 2012.)

CHRIS Bowen's commentary on Wilders's application for a visa is of serious concern.

While the visa's approval is welcome, it should not have been delayed for the elected leader of a political party in Holland.

Further, to suggest that Wilders's views are based on "ignorance" and "wrong-headed views of other people's beliefs" reveals an astonishing and worrying failure by Australia's immigration minister to understand the extent of extremism in the Muslim community both in Australia and overseas in countries such as Holland. [That Bowen appears unaware of the extensive analyses by many researchers demonstrating these views is something that he should quickly remedy and, at the same time, enhance the checking of migrant applicants from countries where the Islamic religion is dominant.]

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

HOW generous of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to allow Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders a visa ("Critic of Islam in line for visit visa", 2/10).

That will be the same Wilders who leads a party that has more than 20 members in the Dutch parliament. In fact, it has far more representation than the Australian Greens Party on which Bowen relies for his position in government.

How inconvenient democracy can prove to the likes of Bowen. I might not like Wilders's views but they have struck a chord with the Dutch voters.

Chris Watson, Carlton River, Tas

CHRIS Bowen is quite wrong to call Geert Wilders a "fringe commentator" and an "extremist".

Wilders gives voice to a range of concerns about the role of contemporary Islam in Western societies that are shared by millions of people. Bowen quite arbitrarily dismisses these concerns, declaring that Wilders and those who agree with him are very simply wrong in their beliefs without providing any argument of supporting evidence.

Mervyn F Bendle, Townsville, Qld

CHRIS Bowen does a vicious pen sketch of Wilders as someone who is wrong, offensive, ignorant, wrong-headed about other people's beliefs and a provocateur and extremist commentator. Yet there is not a single example to support his characterisation.

Robert Bruce Gates, Port Douglas, Qld

IN response to Chris Bowen's opinion of Geert Wilders, may I ask what is the difference between Wilders's and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's opinion regarding Islam? Not much, to be honest.

Both are fierce and unapologetic critics of Islam based in Holland.

Why then was Hirsi invited to speak in Sydney without incident or condemnation, and Wilders had his visa delayed until the last minute and then, when granted, was critiqued by Bowen for good measure?

Jonathan Smith, Maroochydore, Qld

Valuing freedom of speech
(editorial in The Australian, 3 October 2012.)

IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Bowen has made a prudent, if belated decision to grant a visa to Dutch politician Geert Wilders to visit Australia. Whatever Mr Wilders's views may be, Mr Bowen is right when he says Australia's democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough for the nation to withstand the visit of a "fringe commentator".

Mr Wilders, a Dutch MP, founded and leads The Netherlands' Party for Freedom. His campaign to stop what he claims is the "Islamisation" of his country, which is 5.8 per cent Muslim, struck a chord, initially, with some Dutch voters, but the party was thumped in last month's election, plunging from 24 to 15 seats after opposing government austerity measures and advocating a withdrawal from the EU.

As Mr Bowen wrote in The Australian yesterday, Mr Wilders, whose visit has now been postponed until February, will be subject to Australian laws against racial vilification and inciting violence, like any visiting speaker. Mr Wilders, who has likened the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf and berated what he regards as Islam's alleged destruction of Western values, is outspoken. So is British preacher Taji Mustafa, who was granted a visa to enter Australia and who told a conference of fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir in western Sydney last month that Islam was not only a religion but also a system of government that needed to be implemented "radically" and "completely" through a return to the Islamic Khilafah (caliphate) system.

The violent hatreds expressed by the Islamic fringe a fortnight ago in Sydney in protest at the insulting film Innocence of Muslims underlined the need to reconfigure Australian multiculturalism to foster the values of democracy, free speech and tolerance. In a free society, it is not the role of governments to use the visa system to censor speakers whose views are likely to cause aggravation.

Australian Muslim leaders took a responsible stand yesterday in calling on Muslims to remain calm and to rise above any provocation from Mr Wilders. Free speech is a vital part of our democracy, and defending it sometimes requires us to defend views with which we strongly disagree.

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