TONY Abbott’s official frontbench understudy has reignited immigration tensions by denouncing Islam as a “totalitarian, political and religious ideology”.
Liberal parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi revealed last night he had received death threats after making the comments.
While the immigration debate usually differentiates between the religion of Islam and extreme fundamentalist interpretations, Senator Bernardi confronted the issue head-on yesterday.
“Islam itself is the problem – it’s not Muslims,” he told radio station MTR.
“Muslims are individuals that practise their faith in their own way, but Islam is a totalitarian, political and religious ideology.
“It tells people everything about how they need to conduct themselves, who they’re allowed to marry and how they’re allowed to treat other people.”
Senator Bernardi said Islam had “not moved on” since it was founded and that extremists wanted fundamentalist Islamic rule implemented in Australia.
The senator also inflamed the row over funeral expenses for asylum-seekers by declaring that it was “wrong” for taxpayers to foot the bill.
The remarks provoked a strong reaction from Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, who said Senator Bernardi had “crossed the line” with his attack on Islam.
“These comments are more than offensive; they are bigoted,” Mr Patel said.
“Cory Bernardi needs to have a good read of the Bible if he is a practising Christian.
“This is hardly the language of a religious person.”
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen also slammed the senator’s remarks.
“The Liberal Party professes to have said this week it would not make political points out of race and religion, but here we have Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary launching an attack on a religion,” Mr Bowen said.