My hands are tied. This, in essence, is the response that Chris Bowen, the Minister for Immigration, has given to questions in Parliament this week about why he granted a visa to an Islamic fundamentalist, Taji Mustafa, who spoke over the weekend at a conference organized by Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group notorious for religious intolerance, disdain for Western values and sympathy for jihad.
"Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia and nor has it been proscribed in the United States or the United Kingdom," Bowen told Parliament on Monday. "This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals."
So Taji Mustafa came, spoke, and, by unfortunate coexistence, the weekend was marked by a violent demonstration by a group of rabidly anti-Western Islamic fundamentalists in Sydney.
What nobody knew was that at the same time, the minister had been sitting on a visa application by a member of the Dutch parliament who is an outspoken opponent of Islamic fundamentalism in the Netherlands and Belgium.
More than three weeks ago, the Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, applied for a visa to visit Australia.
Visa applications by his support group of police and staff were granted within three days. Wilders is still waiting. He applied in August.
Wilders is scheduled to give two speeches in Australia in October. Because of his parliamentary obligations, if Bowen continues to sit on the application Wilders will have to cancel the trip. That may be Bowen's intent.
Wilders has already paid a high price for his willingness to confront religious fundamentalism in his own country.
He lives under 24-hour police protection. He has had numerous threats on his life.
Being a prominent critic of Islamic fundamentalism is highly dangerous in the Netherlands, which has a large Muslim population. The most conspicuous critics of Muslim extremism in Holland, prior to Wilders, were a film director, Theo Van Gogh and another member of the Dutch parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Both were subject to numerous death threats. Van Gogh was stabbed to death on a street in Amsterdam.
Hirsi Ali was subjected to several assassination attempts. She was forced to live in secret locations. She left the country permanently and now lives in the United States.
Now Wilders, by condemning Muslim extremism, is himself condemned to live with menace, which proves his point.
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