Thursday, 21 February 2013

There are more letters

in this morning's paper from "Baby Boomers" who are, I think rightly, annoyed with the Minister for Ageing Mark Butler. His comments about the need for the post WWII generation to continue working while young people cannot get jobs were - if nothing else - insensitive.
The issue has been so hotly debated that another issue has not yet made it to the letters page of our state newspaper. It is an issue that did get some attention this morning from the columnist Andrew Bolt. I imagine that there might be some letters complaining about Mr Bolt tomorrow. There usually are. He is a controversial figure. He rubs many people up the wrong way. I doubt it would matter what he said they would find some way of disagreeing with him. They will disagree this time.
Mr Bolt is talking about the Dutch MP Geert Wilders. Mr Bolt met Mr Wilders in the course of journalistic duty.  They had lunch together. They were surrounded by the Dutch police who are constantly on duty to protect Mr Wilders.
Mr Wilders nearly did not come to Australia at all. Last year there were doubts that he would even get a visa. It was certainly delayed to a point where his visit had to be put off to this year. His staff and security personnel were given visas within three days. He was not. I understand he had similar difficulties in getting entry to England.
At the same time the Australian government provided an entry visa to a radical Islamic cleric who openly demands violence against non Muslims and has some equally controversial things to say.  Minister Chris Bowen did eventually allow Mr Wilders a visa.
Mr Wilders has had to cancel at least one public meeting here - in Western Australia. He was told he would not be welcome in as many as twenty different venues. 
I would not bother to go and hear Mr Wilders myself. I find his views offensive and divisive. I find the views of the Islamic cleric offensive and divisive too. That said I believe, if we also give space to a radical Islamic cleric, then we should give space to Mr Wilders. They both have the right to be heard. 
I put this to someone else yesterday when he asked what I thought. He did not agree. He felt that the Islamic cleric had every right to expect to come, that we should not interfere with people's religious beliefs and that our "multi-culturalism" is strong enough to withstand any "threat" from Islamic extremists. On the other hand he felt that Mr Wilders was a "divisive political figure who puts our multi-cultural society at risk". 
I could not agree with him. It is when these things do not get discussed and when we try to stifle one side of a debate that we put ourselves at risk. 
The media has a lot to answer for here. I asked the person I was talking with what he really thought of Hilary Mantel's piece about Royal Women - he had already made a remark about it. He said, "It serves those Royal Parasites right." 
He was, of course, relying on local media reports about it. The irony of the article was completely lost on him. He had not even read it.
I suggested he read it carefully but he told me he did not need to do that because he already knew what it was all about. 
He doesn't know of course - any more than Mr Wilders knows or the cleric knows or I know all about anything.  There is a right to hear what others have to say - and a responsibility to listen carefully, not just to hear what we want to hear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anyone who disagrees with this should ask themselves why is Mugabe in the process of banning radios in Zimbabwe and do they agree with that? If they do agree then they can agree that banning Wilders is fine. If they do not agree with banning radios in Zimbabwe then they also have to agree that Wilders has as much right to speak as anyone else. It is the protest movement which stirs up trouble. I doubt they have actually listened to what Mr Wilders has to say. It may be offensive but it is not nearly as radical or dangerous as the extreme views of some (but by no means all) Muslims.
Bob C-S