MEDIA personality Sonia Kruger has responded to an avalanche of criticism after her call to ban Muslim migrants from Australia by saying she should be free to speak her mind without being labelled “a racist”.
Kruger released a statement through Twitter on Monday afternoon defending her comments on the Today Show.
“Following the atrocities of last week in Nice where 10 children lost their lives, as a mother, I believe it’s vital in a democratic society to be able to discuss these issues without being labelled racist,” she said.
She made the controversial call when the Today showpanel was addressing a recent article by News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, which attributed terror attacks in France to the country’s intake of Muslim migrants.
Ms Kruger, who hosts Today’s sister show Today Extra, said she had a lot of “peace-loving, beautiful Muslim friends”, but admitted she agreed with the controversial opinion piece.
“Personally, I would like to see it (Muslim migration) stop now for Australia,” she said.
She referred to Japan, a racially homogeneous country with a low proportion of Muslim migrants, and pointed out that they don’t experience terror attacks by Islamic extremists.
“I want to feel safe, as all of our citizens do when they go out to celebrate Australia Day, and I’d like to see freedom of speech.”
— Sonia Kruger (@SoniaKruger) July 18, 2016
At this point, host David Campbell chimed in exclaiming: “I’d like to see freedom of religion as well, as well as freedom of speech! They both go hand in hand.”
Referring to the Bolt column, he said: “This breeds hate. This sort of article breeds hate.”
Ms Kruger responded: “I would venture that if you spoke to the parents of those children killed in Nice, they would be of the same opinion.”
When asked by Lisa Wilkinson to clarify whether she was saying she would like Australian borders closed to Muslims at this point, Ms Kruger outright said: “Yes I would. For the safety of our citizens here, I think it’s important.”
This isn’t the first time Ms Kruger has made headlines for her comments on air. In 2008, am embarrassed Seven Network apologised unreservedly for her distasteful comments to musical director Chong Lim on the television show Dancing With The Stars.
The network received numerous complaints after Kruger made the derogatory comments about a “sweatshop of illegal immigrants’’ slaving away on her wardrobe for the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“Let’s just say there’s a sweatshop full of illegal immigrants working on them right now,’’ Kruger said before referring to Lim, the show’s Malaysian-born musical director.
“How’s the family, Chong? All right?’’
The network insisted the presenter’s remarks were not intended to be racist, especially as the pair enjoyed a long-standing friendship.
Ms Kruger’s words have produced a mixed reaction on social media. Some users have expressed support for her opinion, while others deemed her ‘racist’ and accused her of ‘spreading division’.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation Commission, an Australian Jewish civil rights organisation, has spoken out denouncing Ms Kruger’s words.
ADC Chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich said: “I am dismayed and concerned by this misguided and outrageous statement.
Sonia Kruger’s call to ban Muslim immigration to Australia is deeply offensive, irrational and unacceptable.
“Banning anyone from entry to our country on the basis of their religion goes against long-standing Australian values of respect, inclusivity and religious freedom.
“Such singling out and demonising of Muslims is counterproductive and will only serve to foment fear and hatred. As we face the threat of radical islamist terror, we must avoid falling into the trap of blaming individuals and communities.
“Our nation is strengthened by diversity, and it is crucial that all leaders stand united in combatting any manifestations of bigotry and prejudice.”
In Bolt’s column, which was published this morning, he said there was a clear link between immigration and terrorism.
“Why have jihadist terrorists made France Europe’s bloodiest battlefield?” he writes. “Simple answer: Because France let in the most Muslims.
“This link between immigration policies and terrorism largely explains why the French are the greatest victims of Europe’s jihadists.
“It also explains why we are fools not to change our own immigration policies to protect ourselves.”
He went on to compare Australia to Japan, pointing out that the latter has a population of 127 million and only 100,000 Muslims.
‘Contrast that with Australia, which has a population of just 24 million, but 500,000 Muslims. How we’ve paid for leaving our door open.”