Australia is currently being visited by controversial Dutch parliamentarian and right wing Islam hater, Geert Wilders. Lucky us! It seems Mr Wilders has extended his world wide crusade against the Islamisation of the West to include the land down under. As one would expect, he is being chaperoned by local sympathisers including shock jock, Alan Jones, right wing blogger, Andrew Bolt, and "volunteers" of a little known organisation called the Q Society - the official sponsors of his speaking engagements.
Using freedom of speech as his segway, Wilders will warn us of the perils that lay ahead from mass Islamic migration to our sandy shores. Then he will cite the mistake the Netherlands has made in permitting aggro Muslims to take over the country, crowd out churches with their mosques, bring in their funny habits, their aberrant apparel, and generally turn nice, white, Holland into a slum of brown, religious nutters. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslim immigrants are well intentioned religious moderates who care more about their jobs than Jihad doesn't seem to have entered his mind.
After Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, dragged his heels in providing Wilders with a visa, he eventually stated: Our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator from the other side of the world. And indeed it is. However, freedom of speech comes with responsibilities, individually and as a nation. We always need to be mindful of protecting minorities from discrimination and safeguarding the unformed, impressionable minds of our youths.
Wilders is a curious type of bigot. Though his language is often infammatory and offensive he cannot necessarily be labelled a racist - his aversion to far-right political parties and his reported appreciation of Middle Eastern culture bears this out. Apropos the Wilders world view, foreign cultures are fine, just as long as they stay out of his country ... or anywhere else where Judeo- Christian civilization flourishes. And though his crusade is based on a belief that the Koran and Islam per se is a bringer of violent confrontation and hate-filled radicals, its difficult not to get the sense that his hatred is a manifestation of something else.
Fear of difference takes on many forms. Ethnocentrism, or in Wilders case, a yearning for mono-culturalism is but one that seems to betray a deep seated insecurity in people and even entire societies. Alas for Wilders, although the fair land of Australia is only a youngster, insecurity over immigration - notwithstanding a small but vocal minority of right-wing critics - is not part of our national makeup. After all, we ARE a nation of immigrants. And so, apart from the usual suspects with microphones, the good Geert's proselytising is destined to fall on deaf ears. Freedom of speech will have a win, and so will common sense.