Two of the films nominated for best picture in the coming Academy Awards, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, contain warnings, with plenty of creative licence but also plenty of historical accuracy, about the challenge to democracy posed by a resurgent strain of uncompromising Islam.
The threat has been deemed real enough in the Netherlands, which now has more than a million Muslims in a nation of 16.7 million people, for a million Dutch voters – one in seven – to vote for the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, who will be making a lecture tour in Australia later this month.
Four years ago, in an interview with ABC Radio, Wilders was asked why he wanted to curb Muslim immigration to the Netherlands. He said the integration of Muslims was failing:
“If you look at all the statistics, you see that non-Western people, often from . . . Morocco and Turkey . . . are over-represented many, many times when it comes to crime, when it comes to prison population, when it comes to illiteracy, when it comes to dependency on social benefits.
“We see also in the second-biggest city of the Netherlands, Rotterdam, that in three years’ time the majority will be from non-Western backgrounds. You see in the same city, and most of the south . . . 55 per cent of the Moroccan youth under the age of 24 have been in contact with the police. You see that there are more mosques being built than churches. You see that once again the Dutch people are tolerant . . . but they fear for the identity of their own country.”
All of this is contested territory. Muslims protest about being lumped in with the fundamentalist fringe. They protest, too, that traditional problems associated with immigration are conflated with Muslims.
What is not contested is that a dangerous Islamic fringe is active in numerous countries. Wilders will be accompanied to Australia by five Dutch police officers. He lives under permanent 24-hour security.
Fear has arrived here before him. On Wednesday, the organiser of the tour, Debbie Robinson, told me yet another venue had cancelled and there had been another act of corporate suppression directed at the tour.
“This morning the venue in Sydney cancelled. There was a meltdown. The events manager at the venue was screaming. Right now we have no Sydney venue.”
It was not her only setback. “Yesterday PayPal froze the funds in the account that is processing ticket sales. They will not tell me why. All staff keep saying is the account is under review. It’s been like an Orwellian nightmare.”
This follows a refusal by Westpac to allow her to set up a payment system and refusal by more than a dozen venues to host a Wilders event, citing security concerns.
The first attempt at a lecture tour last year was cancelled due to visa problems. The then minister for immigration Chris Bowen delayed granting a visa until after the cancellation.
This was just the start. On January 21, the president of the Q Society, Geoff Dickson, sent an invitation to 830 state and federal politicians in all parliaments: “On behalf of Q Society of Australia I would like to issue you a warm invitation to attend one of the speaking engagements we are offering to listen to the Honourable Geert Wilders.”
The invitation said Wilders would be speaking in Melbourne on February 19, Perth on February 20 and Sydney on February 22.
“Mr Wilders is a Dutch politician who heads the Party for Freedom, which won 10.1 per cent of votes in the Dutch House of Representatives at the September 2012 elections. Mr Wilders will be here to share his experiences on how Islam is changing the Netherlands in particular and Europe more generally.
“Q Society is a volunteer, Australia-wide organisation whose charter is to educate Australians as to how Islam may change this country . . . We believe Islam is different from other religions and poorly understood . . .
“If, in 20 years, some Australian politicians are living under armed guard because of comments they have made about Islam, we believe we would have failed as individuals, and collectively as a society, to protect our democracy and our freedom.”
Of the 830 invitations sent out, only four were accepted. The other 99.5 per cent of politicians declined or did not respond.
Robinson is disheartened by all the fearfulness. “The Sydney event may have to be cancelled if I can’t even get a venue. I’ll have to refund everyone. This is supposed to be a democracy but something Orwellian is going on.”