Controversial Dutch MP's visa bid stalls
By Hayden Cooper
Supporters of controversial anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders fear he may be refused entry to Australia ahead of his planned speaking tour next month.
The right-wing Dutch MP has applied for a visa to come and give speeches in Sydney and Melbourne, but the application has stalled.
In a climate of tension after the weekend's Muslim protest in Sydney, the issue presents a tricky dilemma for the Federal Government.
Mr Wilders has a reputation the world over as a fierce opponent of Islam.
He has compared the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf, called Islam an ideology not a religion, and called the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile among other insults.
His speaking tour of Australia has been organised by an obscure anti-Islamic group called the Q Society, which takes a similar hard line.
Spokesman Andrew Horwood says the group are "ordinary Australians who are concerned about the march of Islam into this country".
"We are non-political, we are a secular organisation, and we've seen what's happened in Europe and we're concerned about that," he said.
"Our charter is to educate the Australian population about what Australia will be like in 20 or 30 years' time with Islam if we choose not to understand it."
Mr Wilders applied for a visa three weeks ago.
His staff and security were approved within days, but he is still waiting and his sponsors want to know why.
"We find it very strange that a visa is taking so long to come from a politician of a respected democracy," Mr Horwood said.
He's coming here to give the advantage of his knowledge, the advantage of what's happening in Europe, and I cannot see why it's not an automatic thing: 'yes, you're welcome here.'
Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood
"It should be an automatic thing. He's coming here to give the advantage of his knowledge, the advantage of what's happening in Europe, and I cannot see why it's not an automatic thing: 'yes, you're welcome here'.
"I cannot understand why everything has just ground to a halt."
The reason is that the Dutch politician is on the Movement Alert List, a database of people of concern to Australia.
It means his application is held up at the Department of Immigration headquarters in Canberra while more thorough checks are done.
He is on the list because of his previous brushes with authorities abroad.
In 2009 he was refused entry to the UK but later appealed and won.
He was also tried and acquitted in the Netherlands on hate charges over his controversial public comments.
It is not clear if he will be granted a visa.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale says Mr Wilders is not welcome in Australia.
"We don't want to see Geert Wilders in this country. His views are not welcome here," he said.
"My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, as the world gathers against the believers in Syria ... seeking to hijack our sincere and blessed uprisings, children in Sydney would like to send their message of hope and support to the Muslims of (Syria), especially to the children and mothers," Ruqaya said in her speech.
"These uprisings have demonstrated that this umma (global Muslim community) is alive and well, her love is for jihad, she is unshackled herself from the fear which she held, and she yearns to once again live under the banner of (the Islamic state).
"Children as young as myself can be seen on the streets joining the uprisings, risking their lives to bring food, water and medicine to their wounded family members, some of them never returning to their mothers ... Nobody is too young," she said.
The final tricky call could ultimately fall to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
Mr Bowen says no decision has been made and he has received no advice yet from the department.
Opponents of Mr Wilders do not want him here, but they fear rejecting the visa application is a bad idea.
"We don't think that he should come. The question of whether he should be granted a visa is a separate one," Senator Di Natale said.
We don't think that he should come, the question of whether he should be granted a visa is a separate one.
Greens Senator Richard di Natale
"I think that by denying Geert Wilders a visa, there is the potential to give his cause more oxygen.
"We don't want to do that."
After the weekend's Muslim protest in Sydney, the planned visit to Australia may well add to the tension.
The decision for the minister comes after he approved a visa for Taji Mustafa, the British head of Islamist group Hizb Ut-Tahrir.
Mr Mustafa, though, is not on the Movement Alert List.
"I inquired as to whether Mr Mustafa had any relevant criminal convictions, he did not," Mr Bowen told Parliament this week.
"I inquired as to whether he is a member of a proscribed organisation, he is not. I took all the relevant steps required methodically."
When the Wilders trip was first flagged a year ago, the MP mentioned the help of South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi.
But Senator Bernardi has told 7.30 he has had no involvement in organising the visit.