Experts say Wilders’ narrow views ignore Australian truths
Claims by the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders that Islam is incompatible with freedom and are devoid of intellectual substance ignore the successes of Australian multiculturalism, according to experts at the University of Western Sydney.
Ahead of a visit to Australia next week, Mr Wilders, the head of The Netherlands’ third largest political party, says Islam and freedom are incompatible, and has warned against the mass migration of people from Muslim countries.
Dr Jan Ali, from the Religion and Society Research Centre at UWS, conducted a study on social inclusion among Muslims in the aftermath of the Cronulla riots, and his PhD thesis on Islamic Revivalism is a widely consulted work internationally.
He says Mr Wilders’ idea of Islam is filled with self-serving rhetoric and is pure falsity.
“Mr Wilders fails to recognise that Islam is not monolithic, and ignores the fact that its principal tenet centres on justice, humanism, and communitarianism,” says Dr Ali.
“There is no acknowledgement in his rhetoric that Islam gave women rights, abolished infanticide, and established a sophisticated social justice system.”
Dr Ali says, contrary to Wilders’ assertions, honour killings and genital mutilation are cultural practices prevalent in many cultures and societies without any roots in Islam.
“As much as Mr Wilders wishes Islam away, it is here to stay in The Netherlands and Australia and will be here long after he has gone from politics.”
Professor Margaret Vickers, from the Centre for Educational Research, works in western Sydney schools and within UWS to support refugee-background students, and has researched extensively on the education of students from other cultures.
She says the Islamic students she teaches at UWS are eager to contribute to the UWS community as a whole, as well as to connect with students from all cultural and religious backgrounds.
“The University of Western Sydney has hundreds of Muslim students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, and the way they help and interact with students from other upbringings is a beautiful demonstration of multiculturalism,” says Professor Vickers.
“For example, our student program to provide mentoring and assistance to first year students is very well represented by Muslims, and indeed people of all faiths, and demonstrates the meaningful contributions our Islamic students make to the community.
“The idea that there should be a moratorium on Islamic immigrants in Australia ignores the work they are doing to help make our society stronger. Wilder’s proposal clearly illustrates the racist tactic of labelling all people who belong to a particular category by pointing to the worst possible examples that can be connected to that category. His ideas are ill- considered and would make our country a poorer place.”
14 February 2013