Wilders Film ‘Fitna’ Incites Muslims
Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders has debuted a new film that compares Islam to fascism. No rioting has yet ensued.
Iran and Indonesia on Friday condemned a film by a Dutch lawmaker that accuses the Koran of inciting violence, while Dutch Muslim leaders urged restraint.
Islam critic Geert Wilders launched his movie on Thursday evening. Titled “Fitna”, an Arabic term sometimes translated as “strife”, it intersperses images of the September 11, 2001 attacks and other Islamist bombings with quotations from the Koran. The film urges Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” verses from the Koran and starts and finishes with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban, originally published in Danish newspapers, accompanied by the sound of ticking. The image ignited violent protests around the world and a boycott of Danish products in 2006. Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.
Iran called the film heinous, blasphemous and anti-Islamic and called on European governments to block any further showing. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and a former Dutch colony, also condemned the film. “We are of the view that the film has a racist flavor and is an insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression,” a foreign ministry spokesman said. “We call on Indonesian people not to be incited.”
The Dutch Islamic Federation went to court on Friday to try to stop Wilders from comparing Islam to fascism, saying he incited hatred of Muslims. “A substantial number of people will associate Islam only with violence,” lawyer Ejder Kose said.
One wonders where they’re get such an impression? Perhaps this explains it:
Dutch authorities reported a calm night in contrast to the unrest that swept the country after the murder by a militant Islamist in 2004 of Dutch director Theo van Gogh, who made a film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.
Dutch security officials raised the national risk level to “substantial” this month because of the Wilders film and perceptions of an increased al Qaeda threat. Wilders has been under heavy guard because of Islamist death threats since the murder of director van Gogh. Support for his anti-immigration Freedom Party rose in anticipation of the film to about 10 percent of the vote.
To be sure, there’s a childishness to Wilders’ antics, which are clearly designed to poke a stick at Muslim sensibilities. But the constant rioting and resort to violence at these provocations rather bolster his case.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a televised speech on Thursday he rejected Wilders’ views and was pleased by the initial restrained reactions of Dutch Muslim organizations.
The European Union supports the Dutch government’s approach and believes the film serves no purpose other than “inflaming hatred”, the Slovenian EU presidency said in a statement: “The European Union and its member states apply the principle of the freedom of speech which is part of our values and traditions. However, it should be exercised in a spirit of respect for religious and other beliefs and convictions.”
That’s fine so far as it goes. On the other hand, not resorting to criminal violence when films and cartoons irritate you is a minimum requirement of citizenship in a free society, not something which ought bring praise from the prime minister.
And the idea that the EU “supports” freedom of speech by saying that it shouldn’t be exercised in a controversial way makes one wonder if they understand the concept at all. I agree that lumping all Muslims in with the extremists is bad manners, to say nothing of being incorrect. But that’s my view as an individual. It’s problematic when governments and quasi-governmental bodies make these sort of declarations, as it suggests a chilling effect.