Geert Wilders finally arrived in Australia this week for his controversial speaking tour on the grand theme of 'Freedom, Islam and the West'. The delay, due to Immigration minister Chris Bowen needing over a month late last year to decide on the Government's position on hate-preachers, meant people in Australia had to wait an additional three months to hear Wilderian fantasy – such as the call for all Muslims to immediately embrace Christianity or atheism (or 'whatever they want') to save themselves and society from themselves.
In the past Wilders has called for things like the banning of the Quran, a tax on the hijab, a ban on Muslim immigration, a ban on building of mosques, and shooting youth of Moroccan descent who commit crime in the knee cap, all, believe it or not, in the name of the wonderful western value called freedom.
Such positions and the 'arguments' (long-discredited orientalist fiction) they are based on are more worthy of mockery than intellectual engagement. Nevertheless, insofar as they are typical of the broad approach of the right-wing, they are instructive. In two main respects.
The first respect is the need for the far-right to look closer to home if its concerns are indeed bona fide. The charges it hurls against Islam – totalitarianism, actively encouraging violence, causing problems in social harmony, and discriminatory treatment of the Other – are in fact accurate descriptions of secular liberalism, particularly in the way it is practiced by modern western liberal democracies.
The totalitarianism of liberalism is found in the moulding of social norms along liberal lines within which people who hold other values are forced through 'soft' state policies and a media monoculture. A celebrated 'formal' freedom is used as a weapon to restrict 'actual' freedom. 'Intolerance of the intolerant' is not only the war cry of the right but also the policy guideline of the 'mainstream'. What it effectively boils down to is that liberalism cannot tolerate anything other than itself.
Where the far-right talks the talk of imposing values – Wilders condition' of considering Muslims as equal citizens is that, "…they adhere to our laws, to our constitution, to our values," – the mainstream has long been busy walking the walk.
We now have citizenship oaths that require people to "share" (adopt) western values, politicians regularly lecturing Muslims about these values, and millions being spent by the state in pushing a state-sanctioned version of Islam ('moderate Islam') under the guise of 'counter-radicalisation' and 'counter violent-extremism' programs. Countering 'radical' and 'extreme' ideas (those not in line with liberal ideals) is now part and parcel of western state interaction with Muslims.
As for actively encouraging violence, there has been no greater violence in our time than that perpetrated by western states on weaker nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, with hundreds of military bases of western states littered across Asia, Africa and the Middle East (the US alone has over 1000 military bases abroad), it is astounding that the charge of using violence can be thrown at Islam with a straight face. Is it Muslim soldiers who stand in occupation of western capitals or the other way around?
In this context, Wilders' claim that western politicians are afraid to deal with the 'problem' of Islam (the 'Eastern question' all over again) due to political correctness is dumbfounding. He must either live under a rock or be blind to western foreign policy with respect to Muslim nations.
As for causing problems in terms of social cohesion and harmony, this has little to do with Islam. Liberalism has simply failed to address the issue of 'minorities' in any satisfactory way. The decades-old and still persisting issues with blacks in Britain, African-Americans and Hispanics in the US, and Aborigines is Australia, to pick but a few random examples, is testament to this failure.
As for discriminatory treatment of the Other, we need not look beyond the draconian Anti-Terror laws now operative in all major western states which, de facto if not de jure, represent a different set of laws for Muslims. They may be couched in neutral terms but everyone knows they target Muslims specifically.
Thus, if Wilders and co. are genuine about these concerns they have their work cut out in their own backward. Perhaps Mr Wilders can change the theme of future tours to 'Freedom and the West'.
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