For four days in early March, anti-Muslims activists from across the globe will gather in Melbourne, Australia for “The 1st International Symposium on Liberty and Islam.” The event is being co-organized by the Stop Islamization of Nations (SION) coalition, which is predominantly led by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer; and the Q Society of Australia, which is perhaps best known for organizing a speaking tour through Australia for the vehemently anti-Muslim Dutch Politician Geert Wilders early last year. Geller and Spencer headline the list of symposium speakers. Others include Stop Islamization of Europe’s Anders Gravers and the so-called “mosque busting” UK lawyer Gavin Boby. “This is going to be amazing,” Geller wrote in a blog post last week announcing the event.
Unlike efforts of the International Civil Liberties Alliance to influence policy guidelines at last year’s meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the March SION event looks to merely be a platform for participants to express their bigoted opinions and paranoid fears. The event will only be open to select media outlets and will have very high security.
The Q Society/SION event will be held behind closed doors where participants will not have to face their detractors and those who disagree with their insistence that Muslim communities are determined to conquer the societies they live in. As the website announcing the event reads:
“From China to Iceland and from New York to Sydney, Islam is spreading. Since the 7th century this unique theocratic ideology, veiled in religious veneer, has conquered people and nations. No other ideology spawns discrimination, division and violence on a global scale. “People are looking for information, perspectives and better policies. This symposium offers insights and answers.”
Whether anything – like new working relationships between participants, for example – will come of this event remains to be seen. However, more of the same from those in organized Islamophobia is the most likely outcome. Participants may hail the event as an unprecedented success and a watershed moment for their movement, but it will likely be little more than another opportunity for anti-Muslim activists to inflate their already-bloated egos and sense of credibility. Similar to exclusive nativist events like The Social Contract Press’ annual Writer’s Workshop in the US, this event serves little purpose other than to strategize messaging and reaffirm the bigotries of its participants.
In other press material, The Q Society has claimed “A tolerant society must not become a suicidal society.” The upcoming Q/SION event is predicated on this premise that tolerating and understanding Muslim communities will lead to societal collapse. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, that still needs reiterating. Easing tensions between communities should be the goal of such events – not fanning proverbial flames with virulent rhetoric and policies of division.