Sydney (AFP) – A planned talk on whether honour killings can be morally justified as part of Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas has been cancelled following public outrage, officials said.
Uthman Badar, spokesman for the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, had been set to speak on the topic “Honour Killings Are Morally Justified” at the Sydney Opera House in August, but the festival said late Tuesday it would not go ahead.
“The justification for removing it was simply the level of public outrage,” festival co-curator Simon Longstaff said.
“We took the view that it was so strong and overwhelming that the ability of the speaker to even open up the question for some discussion and reflection would be impossible.”
The Sydney Opera House said the Festival of Dangerous Ideas was intended to be thought-provoking “rather than simply a provocation”.
“It is always a matter of balance and judgement, and in this case a line has been crossed,” it said in a statement.
“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.”
Badar also defended himself on social media, saying he had expected “secular liberal Islamophobes” would come at him, but the idea that he would advocate for honour killings was ludicrous.
In a Facebook post, Badar said all topics at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas were confronting and provocative.
“Last year one of the presentations was entitled, ‘A killer can be good’. In this respect, my presentation is no different,” he said.
“What is different is that I’m Muslim — one willing to intellectually challenge secular liberal ideology and mainstream values — and that says a lot about the true extent of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ in modern western liberal democracies such as Australia.”
After organisers cancelled the event, he tweeted: “Hysteria wins out.”
“Welcome to the free world, where freedom of expression is a cherished value.”
Earlier this week, Opera Australia ended the contract of leading soprano Tamar Iveri after “unconscionable” anti-gay comments on her Facebook page sparked a storm of protest.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]