MUSLIM activist Uthman Badar says he was set up by organisers of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and that he never sought to justify “honour” killings, despite a program headline to which he agreed.
The headline for the western Sydney resident’s talk, “Honour killings are morally justified”, was chosen by the organisers, he said.
“It was not of my choosing, though I consented to it,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“I anticipated that secular liberal Islamophobes would come out of every dark corner, foaming at the mouth, furious at why a Muslim ‘extremist’, from Hizb ut-Tahrir no less, was being allowed a platform at the Sydney Opera House to speak, but that it would only take a few hours after the advertising was released for mass hysteria to ensue is quite a feat.”
Event organisers cancelled the planned talk hours after the program was released, by issuing a statement.
“The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is intended to be a provocation to thought and discussion, rather than simply a provocation,” it said.
“It is always a matter of balance and judgment, and in this case a line has been crossed. Accordingly, we have decided not to proceed with the scheduled session with Uthman Badar. It is clear from the public reaction that the title has given the wrong impression of what Mr Badar intended to discuss. Neither Mr Badar, the St James Ethics Centre, nor Sydney Opera House in any way advocates honour killings or condones any form of violence against women.”
The Australian has approached festival co-curator Ann Mossop and St James Ethics Centre executive director Simon Longstaff for comment.
Via Twitter, Dr Longstaff appeared to back Mr Badar by claiming the gig was cancelled because the speaker was Muslim.
“Have not the ‘Islamophobes’ already won the day when a person dare not speak on controversial matters because he is Muslim,” he wrote to one user.
“ … the session title was a mistake as it does not do justice to the nuanced argument we would have heard … alas, people read the session title — and no further. Just too dangerous.”
Minister for Women Pru Goward, admitting she had not read the speech and based her opinions on the title alone, said the topic was a deep insult to women.
“In this current period where there is so much concern about homegrown jihadist, the last thing we need is a debate like this,’’ Ms Goward told ABC Radio.
“It is a truly dangerous idea — we have millions and millions of women in the world who fear honour killings.
“It is a regular occurrence in many countries — it has been known to happen in NSW.’’
Mr Badar, who will be speaking at a press conference this afternoon, said he had angered everyone across the political spectrum.
“What’s interesting is that I’m being attacked left, right and centre without having opened my mouth yet. I guess that’s how Islamophobia works,” he wrote.
“I seem to have roused the ire of a nation without doing anything except accept an invite to speak. Quite an achievement, don’t you think?
“It’s also instructive to see liberals and advocates of free speech go crazy and call for boycotts at what is nothing more than the expression of ideas. Muslims are regularly lectured by this same lot about how we must respect free speech and accept any and all criticism, but they themselves are not prepared to live up to the same standard.”
Radio broadcaster Alan Jones also weighed in on the debate, saying Australians needed to know what “these people are on about”.
“May I express the perverse view that I’m rather glad that this bloke was invited to speak because now Australia might wake up and start talking about the risk that this kind of thinking is to Australia,” he told his Macquarie Radio listeners today. “This is the kind of culture they talk about — honour killings, OK, to murder women who are deemed to have shamed their families. “To that extent I’m rather glad that we now know what these people are on about.
“This is the culture that is infecting our society.”
Mr Badar is the spokesman for the radical Hizb ut-Tharir group which Tony Abbott said, in opposition, he would list as a banned organisation, as it is in parts of Europe.
The group garnered headlines last year when it criticised the federal government for forcing Islamic schools in Australia to commemorate Anzac Day, prompting Prime Minister Tony Abbott to declare the group had “some pretty dodgy views, to say the least”.
Additional reporting: AAP