Bowen's tricky decision on Dutch MP visit

CHRIS Bowen found himself in a particularly difficult position in considering whether to allow Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders into the country.

Given the recent rioting, the Wilders visit - now postponed until early next year - obviously has the potential to spark violence.

Wilders' extreme views must raise fears about what could happen. For example, he has declared that ''I don't hate Muslims. I hate Islam'', described the Koran as a ''fascist book'', and said that Muhammad would ''these days be hunted down as a terrorist''.

The presumption when a high-profile figure wants to visit should be on the side of free speech, whatever their views. But security must also be weighed.

If the visit sparks serious trouble, Bowen will be criticised for a misjudgment. But on the principle of the issue, he has taken the right course.

Bowen argues that he doesn't want to make Wilders a ''cause celebre''. ''Probably what he would like me to do is refuse his visa so he can make a hero of himself and get his cause more attention.''

The better course was to defeat Wilders ''with the force of our ideas and the force of our lived experience of multiculturalism''.

Critics have attacked the ''gall'' that led to the decision being delayed so long that Wilders decided to reschedule.

Bowen's office says it makes no apologies for proper process.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide