Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews has a residual discretion to refuse a visa to anyone, an authority he describes succinctly as follows: “It’s unrelated to religion, it’s related to whether there is a risk to our national security, whether there is a risk to vilification of segments of the Australian community, inciting discord, these are the sorts of criteria which are looked at under these provisions.”

But for the discretion to make any sense, it must be exercised consistently. The Government looks a little stupid banning Wahhabi speaker Bilal Phillips as a security threat whilst allowing in Alex Vella, the head of a violent bikie gang with a criminal record.

And why has Andrews (or his predecessor) not banned speakers who engage in “vilification of a segment of the Australian community”? Or does Andrews think it’s OK for Mark Steyn and Raphael Israeli to generate hatred toward 360,000 Australians of a certain faith? Does Andrews believe that some Australians are more deserving of vilification than others? Is this really unrelated to religion?

I’m no fan of the theology of a fringe Muslim sect founded in the Arabian peninsular by one Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, or of its promoters like Dr Bilal Phillips. Bilal Phillips featured prominently on the UK Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque. He’s visited Australia before on at least one previous occasion. But is he a national security threat?

The Hun got its Muslim sects confused, claiming yesterday that Phillips “holds to a radical form of the religion”, unlike another invited scholar (Sheik Jafar Idris) who “espouses the radical form of Islam known as Wahhabism”. Nonsense. They’re both Wahhabis. The tabloid further claims Phillips promotes certain criminal sanctions on Fridays. But is defending elements of Saudi criminal law the same as calling for its implementation in Australia?

Phillips isn’t the first Wahhabist scholar to be banned. Abdur-Raheem Greene, a UK-born Wahhabist, copped a similar ban in August 2005, despite delivering a number of speeches across the Tasman.

DIAC-heads last year delayed issuing a visa to Malek Triki, Al-Jazeera’s London correspondent, who was keynote speaker at a conference organised by UTS and Macquarie University. On that occasion, it’s believed DIAC-heads thought Triki looked and sounded a little too much like Saddam Hussein’s surname of Tikriti.

Yep, those Muslims certainly are a triki bunch!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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