WHETHER you regard it as fear-fuelled populist politics or a welcome shift away from political correctness, Member for Dawson George Christensen's divisive commentary about Islam in recent days has created fierce debate in the Mackay community.
Mr Christensen, in defence of celebrity Sonia Kruger's call to ban Muslims immigrating to Australia, suggested "we should severely curtail immigration from countries where radicalism and violent extremism is rife".
"When anyone raises criticisms of Islam these days, the PC (politically correct) brigade try to shut it down with cries of 'racist', 'bigot' and 'Islamophobe'. But it's wearing thin," he said.
In response, Islamic Society of Mackay and Islamic Council of Queensland spokesman Ali Kadri said Mr Christensen's language and continual negativity toward the religion was dangerous.
"Populist politicians are thinking they can become demagogues out of this but what they don't understand is eventually it will harm our own country," he said.
"By taking extreme positions and fanning hatred and fear they are going to fracture the fabric of our country."
Mr Kadri said Mackay's Muslim community was facing abuse on the street and he believed it was spurred in part by Mr Christensen's pointed dialogue around Islam.
Online, these stories were shared thousands of times, attracted hundreds of comments and reached the screens of readers much further afield than Mackay.
The Daily Mercury canvassed public opinion in Mackay yesterday, asking residents their opinion on the debate.
Many backed the larger-than-life politician's outspoken views when it came to radical Islam and the discourse used in the national and regional debate about Islamic immigration and the religion, generally.
Others considered the discussion unnecessary, propagandist or an attempt at playing on public fears following the Nice terrorist attack and other high-profile attacks in recent times.
On the Daily Mercury's website and Facebook page debate also raged.
While many spoke out in defence of the Islamic community in Mackay, others offered much more polarising views than Mr Christensen, filled with unmasked vitriol.
But when it came to community leaders like Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson, State Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert and longstanding Anglicare volunteer John Langford, the discussion was somewhat more straightforward.
"I condemn his hate-filled comments and anti-Islam attitude," Mrs Gilbert said.
Mr Williamson said: "George Christensen has been a very outspoken member since he was elected. That's why people like him. And he's entitled to his views.
"But George has got to remember he represents all of us in the Federal house and whilst there might be a percentage of people who harbour those views of hatred against minority groups, I'm sure that's not the majority of us.
"It upsets me to think that, and to hear that, the result of this information by a small number of people trying to take out their hatred on minority groups has resulted in cars going past the Islamic mosque at Bakers Creek shouting abuse out the window. That's un-Australian and not what we need to see in our community."
The Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton, which covers Mackay, was contacted to weigh-in on the debate, but declined to comment.
Mackay Mayor calls for calm
"I DO not like to see anybody fanning the flames of hatred and using a minority group as a scapegoat".
Speaking in response to recent comments by Member for Dawson George Christensen, Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson made it clear he does not support the conservative politician's views in this case.
"There's no doubt radical Islam and any radical side of a political equation is something we must abhor in society," he said.
"But, you know, fanning the flames of hatred and vilification of a minority group led the world into the Second World War.
"And we now in Australia over the last 50 years have purposely built a multicultural society, which includes most nationalities and most religions and we've got to jealously safeguard that, safeguard the democratic free-natured society we built.
"In our citizenship ceremonies, and I've done three since I've been mayor, there's been 40 nationalities out of the 120-130 people I've had the honour of making Australian citizens none of them, that I've met, want to do anything else but be good Australians."
Mr Williamson said he wanted to see the discussion remain level-headed, productive and cooperative.
'Hateful comments' not welcome in Mackay
"THE reckless and hateful comments made by Mr (George) Christensen have no place in our community", State Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said, condemning comments about Islam made in recent days by the Federal Member for Dawson.
Mrs Gilbert said Mackay has always drawn strength from the cultures and traditions of our multicultural communities.
"Mackay is home to one of the biggest multicultural festivals in the state - Global Grooves Mackay - which will be held in October and I'm sure will again see record numbers of locals sharing in the cultural diversity of our region," she said.
"As the local member, I proudly promote tolerance and respect, unlike Mr Christensen who has no regard for the consequences of his hateful comments...they are not welcome in our community.
When we talk about radicals, it's a minority
ANGLICARE'S John Langford believes Dawson MP George Christensen's intentions are good, despite his methods being questionable.
"I know George is committed and has the courage of his convictions," he said.
In regards to Mr Christensen's comments towards Muslim people, Mr Langford said there needs to be more thought.
"Mr Christensen's comments on the radical Muslims, needs to be sort of tempered," he said.
"By the realisation when we talk about, radicals we are talking about the minority."
Mr Langford said their needs to be balance, when commenting on Muslims in the community.
"We have to balance the situation, with the reality that the majority are not in fact radicalised ," he said.
Comments 'fuel' friction
DIVISIVE statements about terrorism from those in positions of power, such as Dawson MP George Christensen, media personality Sonia Kruger and One Nation's Pauline Hanson, give radical causes greater traction.
That's the opinion of University of Queensland Psychology Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow Alex Haslam, who co-authored the research article Fueling Terror.
"One of the core findings in our recent research is that people are more likely to support a bellicose leader if their group faces competition from another group behaving belligerently," he said.
"Far from weakening the radicals, such statements provide the grit that gives their cause greater traction."
Fueling Terror, published in a Scientific American Mind investigation called The Mind of a Terrorist, states the success of immoderate politicians is directly tied to the success of ISIS, and vice versa.
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