Geert Wilders’ recent tour of Australia has sparked uproar amongst the Islamic community of Australia, with many outraged protesters speaking out against the Dutch MP who they believe to be an advocate for Islamophobia.
Wilders presented at a conference in Melbourne’s north last week, warning us of the threat that Islam brings to our Western culture. “[Islam] is not a religion; it’s a dangerous and totalitarian ideology,” Wilders told the masses that attended his conference early last week.
He went on to express his opinion that Islam is not, and never will be, compatible with Western culture, and that we must limit the amount of Muslims allowed into our country.
Wilders’ basis for these claims? He believes Islam is a violent religion that promotes polygamy, female genital mutilation, physical abuse of women, discrimination and above all, violence towards those who go against Islam.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Why would we want to live in a society with dangerous, violent Muslims around us that are threatening our freedom?
While there is no doubt there are Muslim extremists around – there are extremists associated with most religions. One could argue that Wilders himself is an extremist, promoting his narrow-minded, bigoted views of Islam.
I’m all for freedom of speech – it’s one of the things that make our nation so great. But freedom of speech is best when people share opinions that are actually substantiated.
Wilders claims to have studied Islam at an academic level, and to have read the Qur’an (the Holy book for Muslims), but his perception of Islam couldn’t be any more wrong.
I caught up with Tulin Cayvarli, an Australian born Muslim living in Melbourne’s north. While Carvarli is no controversial European MP, she is a practising Muslim that has successfully balanced her Islamic faith with living a normal life as an Australian. Cayvarli shed some light on the religion that is so often labelled as violent and misogynistic.
“It’s frustrating to hear and read what people like Geert Wilders say about Islam,” Cayvarli tells me. “It isn’t a violent religion at all. Yes there are some that commit acts of violence and claim that they are doing it in the name of Allah, but they are not a true reflection of Islam in the slightest.”
The passion in her voice is inspiring as she continues.
“Wilders has openly called us dangerous and totalitarian. But basing these claims on extremist terrorists is just ignorant. There are terrorists amongst all religions, but that does not mean that we must condemn the entire religion. In no way, shape or form does our religion condone the murder of another innocent human being. Islam is ultimately a religion of peace and purity. That is a fact for the whole world to know.”
Cayvarli tells me of her experiences as a female in Islam. We’ve all heard stories of women being treated as second-class citizens in this religion, but she is quick to dismiss these claims.
“I am a Muslim and I’ve never felt as though men are superior to me. As a woman we still have rights. We are still respected. We are able to live our own lives, work our own jobs and be our own person. There is nothing in the Qur’an that states we are less of a person just because we are female. It’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.”
“I live quite comfortably in Australia, respecting the laws and maintaining Australian values while practising my religion. Yes, I pray five times a day. Yes, I attend the mosque. Yes, I fast during Ramadan. No, I don’t drink alcohol. How am I threatening Australia’s freedom in doing so? How is anybody?”
So is Islam really a threat to Australian culture? It is ultimately a religion of peace and purity – not a totalitarian ideology promoting violence. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the diversity of Australia. It is what makes our nation so great.