Wednesday, 19 September 2012 01:55
CONTROVERSIAL British Muslim leader Taji Mustafa says federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s suggestion he is a “preacher of hate” will add to tension between people of different beliefs.
Mr Mustafa has been in Australia to address the annual conference of Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Following Saturday’s violent protests in Sydney against an anti-Islam film Mr Abbott said, “I don’t think we need the preachers of hate in this country”.
Mr Mustafa returned fire on Monday night on ABC television, labelling the Liberal leader an “opportunistic politician”.
“That’s a slur on my personality,” he said of Mr Abbott’s comment, which was repeated by his deputy, Julie Bishop, on Monday.
“It’s these kind of irresponsible statements that actually stoke up mistrust between communities.”
The opposition says the government should have denied Mr Mustafa a visa on character grounds.
But the Hizb ut-Tahrir leader says Mr Abbott “hasn’t seen any of my material” and if the opposition wants to revoke his visa on that basis “they should come and have a cup of coffee or maybe a barbie with me”.
Mr Mustafa said he found Saturday’s protest in Sydney “concerning”.
“We would like to promote peaceful, political protest,” he said.
“The original intention is not for any of these protests anywhere in the world to turn violent.”
He said the demonstration wasn’t solely about the low-budget movie Innocence of Muslims, which portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.
Rather, Mr Mustafa said, the film triggered existing deep-seated feelings about the actions of western governments in the Muslim world.
“People see it as the latest in a series of attacks.”
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says there was no reason to refuse Mr Mustafa a visa because Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a banned group in Australia, the United States or the United Kingdom.
But Mr Bowen is prepared to take action against anyone arrested over the violence in Sydney who turns out to be non-Australian.