The anti-Islamic presentations by leading Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, during his visit to Australia have produced dismissive reactions from many quarters. But these are instinctive reactions that indicate a failure to properly examine the analysis presented by Wilders (and others). By comparison, the Muslim organisers of a "Peace Conference and Exhibition" at Melbourne Showgrounds appear to have been allowed to import 15 international speakers who include extremist Muslims who have made outrageous statements.
The organisers also claim that Prime Minister Gillard will attend the conference.
The key issue raised by Wilders is that "rather than a religion, Islam is a totalitarian political ideology which aims to impose its legal system on the whole society ... to impose Islamic Sharia law on all ... (and) is totalitarian because it is not voluntary. It orders that people who leave Islam must be killed...lays obligations on non-members".
In support Wilders quotes Australian theologian Mark Durie: "Islam classically demands a political realization, and specifically one in which Islam rules over all other religions, ideologies and competing political visions. Islam is not unique in having a political vision or speaking to politics, but it is unique in demanding that it alone must rule the political sphere."
An important feature of the Wilders visit is the charter presented by his colleague Solomon, who is a convert from Islam to Christianity. This charter lists principal Western values and "invites" believers in Islam to sign it.
It immediately becomes clear that to do this would conflict with the Qu'ran and could not be signed by Muslims. For example, "we commit to upholding the value of freedom and in particular freedom of belief and expression ... that religion is a private and personal matter and a personal choice".
Another important development is the emergence of the Q Society, which sponsored and arranged the visit. This does not come across as an aggressive body but seeks to educate people about Islam, its government funded promotion and what it describes as "creeping Sharia compliance". The Society is secular and has no party-political affiliations. Formed by individuals who can be described as ordinary Australians, this Society has brought into the public arena an issue that has not hitherto been seriously addressed at such a level. Importantly the Quadrant magazine has been the principal source of published critical analyses of Islam in the media.
I have now been assessing Islamic views and actions for several years and support the analysis by Wilders, Durie and the Q Society. Based also on analyses of ASIO reports, my conclusion is that Australia faces continuing conflict with domestic extremist Islamic groups that take or threaten to take violent actions against non-Muslims and have no compunction in killing fellow Muslims if they stand in the way of such actions.
Last September David Irvine, ASIO's Director-General of Security told the Security in Government Conference 2012 that "it is ASIO's assessment that Australia remains a target for a range of individuals and groups who would promote their belief systems and seek to destroy our democratic way of life - not by some imagined, slow-time conspiracy or slow-burning action, but in a violent and irreversible instant. So violent Islamic extremism remains a focus for ASIO. The threat posed by this form of extremism is ongoing, pervasive and persistent".
The Director-General did not raise the question of what the government might do in response - other than through ASIO and other similar agencies. In short, while Australians are spending considerable sums on detecting and trying to prevent terrorist acts, that appears to be as far as the government will go.
It is surprising that such assessments were given such little public attention at the time and in the context of Wilders' visit. No mention has been made of the 25 or so convictions of extremist Muslims who have attempted violent action in Australia but were caught before harm was done.
Unlike the USA, the UK and Spain we have yet to experience any losses of lives. But any reading of ASIO publications would indicate that this fortunate experience is unlikely to be sustained. Indeed, based on a reading of a judge's summing up in one case, it seems likely that at least some of those imprisoned will continue their activities when their sentences finish.
Des Moore is Director, Institute for Private Enterprise and a former Deputy Secretary, Treasury. He authored Schooling Victorians, 1992, Institute of Public Affairs as part of the Project Victoria series which contributed to the educational and other reforms instituted by the Kennett Government. The views are his own.