Former prime minister Tony Abbott has joked he would be “happy to meet” 72 virgins in a bizarre moment after giving a speech on Brexit in the UK.
The remark came when he was questioned about a novel current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in 2004 titled Seventy Two Virgins.
Mr Abbott was speaking at the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange to a room made up of mainly Conservatives and pro-Brexit figures and urged the British government to deliver Brexit.
As he took questions from the floor, one man asked him if he was aware of Mr Johnson’s first novel.
“I too am a keen student of Mr Johnson, I’m not sure if you’ve read Seventy Two Virgins as well as his book on Churchill?” the man asked.
“No, but I’d be happy to meet them though,” Mr Abbott replied laughing.
“If you knew where you do meet 72 virgins, I don’t think you’d be so keen on that,” the questioner responded.
“You obviously have more intelligence over these things than I do,” Mr Abbott then said.
Mr Johnson’s novel is about an MP’s bid to halt a suicide bomber trying to assassinate the US president in London.
Its title is reference to the highly-contentious idea that Muslim suicide bombers believe they will receive 72 virgins if they sacrifice their own lives as martyrs for their faith.
Boris Johnson the right man for Brexit, according to Mr Abbott
There was also references from the Bible delivered by Mr Abbott when he suggested Remainers would fail in a bid to sabotage Brexit led by Mr Johnson, who he dubbed the “people’s champion”.
“As the scripture says: ‘He who puts his hand to the plough and then turns back is not worthy of the Kingdom’,” he said about those challenging Brexit.
He said they “will fail though, because in the end there won't be enough of them to usurp a democratic vote, to sacrifice their country for short-term political gain and to put Europe before Britain”.
He also tied in Hong Kong’s current unrest with China, suggesting the special administrative region’s fondness still for its former rulers, encapsulated in the Union Jack’s presence during protests, should be a source of pride for the UK.
“If they thought that Britain would be lost in Europe, as they fear being lost in China, they’d hardly be carrying your flag,” he said.
“For them, it’s a symbol of freedom; and for you, surely, a source of pride in all you have done and all you yet can do.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.