The public face of Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir says “hysteria” has won out after the Sydney Opera House backflipped on plans for a public talk on honour killings.
The Opera House on Tuesday canned a lecture entitled “Honour killings are morally justified”, which was to have been given by writer Uthman Badar, only hours after it was announced.
The talk was planned as part of the annual Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which takes place in August.
Its inclusion in the line-up sparked a barrage of criticism on social media and condemnation from the NSW government, with Minister for Women Pru Goward branding it “abhorrent”.
Late on Tuesday, the Opera House announced on its Facebook page that the lecture would not go ahead.
“The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is intended to be a provocation to thought and discussion, rather than simply a provocation,” the statement said.
“It is always a matter of balance and judgement, and in this case a line has been crossed … 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, (festival organisers) the St James Ethics Centre, nor Sydney Opera House in any way advocates honour killings or condones any form of violence against women.”
Mr Badar took to Twitter to make a statement of his own.
“Hysteria wins out. Opera house cancels my session at #FODI. Welcome to the free world, where freedom of expression is a cherished value,” he wrote.
“Time for name change: Festival of relatively dangerous ideas.”
Mr Badar had indicated he did not intend to defend honour killings.
His tweeted response to one critic who wrote, “Any one who condones or justifies the murder of defenceless women is a gutless creep”, was: “I’m with you on that. Calm down.”
“Overwhelmingly, those who condemn honour killings are based in the liberal democracies of the West,” a blurb for Mr Badar’s event had read.
“The accuser and moral judge is the secular (white) westerner and the accused is the oriental other; the powerful condemn the powerless.”
Shortly before his session was cancelled, Mr Badar blamed anti-Muslim sentiment for fuelling the “hysteria”.
“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,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“What’s interesting is that I’m being attacked left, right and centre without having opened my mouth yet.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir, for which Mr Badar is a spokesman, advocates the establishment of a global caliphate – or Islamic state – including an independent judiciary.
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”.