Geert Wilders' 'Fitna': Insightful and Inciteful

Geert Wilders’ much-anticipated film on the Qur’an, Fitna, was released on on Thursday, pulled by LiveLeak on Friday after death threats, and by Saturday couldn’t be stopped: it had gone viral, having been posted in innumerable places all over the Internet. (You can watch it at my website Jihad Watch.)

But many, many people are still trying to make sure you don’t see it. Iran urged European leaders to block the film, and summoned the Slovenia representative in Tehran (Slovenia currently holds the EU presidency) to lodge an official protest, as Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini called it a “provocative and anti-Islamic movie,” revealing “continued enmity and deep hostility of such western nationals against Islam and Muslims.” The Pakistani government summoned the Dutch Ambassador in Islamabad to lodge a formal protest also. Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called on Muslims to boycott Dutch products in retaliation for the movie.

The 57-nation strong Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned the film in “the strongest terms,” saying that it was “a deliberate act of discrimination against Muslims” designed to “provoke unrest and intolerance.” An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “We are of the view that the film has a racist flavour and is an insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression.” Arsalan Iftikhar, who has served as national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asserted that Fitna was “a direct attempt to incite violence from Muslims and help fan the flames of Islamophobia. Any reasonable person can see this is meant to spit in the face of Muslims and insult our religion.”

Nor was the film condemned only by Muslims. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the film was “offensively anti-Islamic,” observed that Muslims were “understandably offended by it,” and declared: “There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here.” Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende took issue with the film’s linking Islam with violence: “We reject this interpretation. The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence. In fact, the victims are often also Muslims.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith agreed, saying that the film’s connection of Islam with acts of terror and violence and was “highly offensive,” and was an “obvious attempt to generate discord between faith communities.” Smith stated: “Like leaders in the Muslim world and in Europe, I strongly reject the ideas contained in the film and deplore its release. In Australia we believe in the right to freedom of expression but we don’t believe in abusing that right to incite racial hatred.” Slovenia, in its capacity as EU president, also took a dim view of the film: “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….We believe that acts, such as the above-mentioned film, serve no other purpose than inflaming hatred.”

And most ominously of all, an Al-Qaeda linked website wished a stroke on Wilders: “Dear brothers, remember what happened to Ariel Sharon. Now let’s hope that he (Wilders) ends up the same way.” In Karachi, a small group of jihadists rallied against the film, chanting “Death to the filmmaker.”

What did the film contain that was so hateful and intolerant, and so threatening to Muslim states that they were doing all they could to make sure it would not be seen? It consists largely of a series of Qur’an quotes, followed by acts of violence committed by Muslims that are manifestly consonant with those quotes. This is buttressed by statements of Islamic preachers, justifying acts of violence against unbelievers in the name of Islam. The most harrowingly effective of these sequences in the film is the first, which begins with Qur’an 8:60, chanted in Arabic and presented visually in both Arabic and English: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, of Allah and your enemies…” Then follow scenes of horror from September 11, 2001, as we hear a frantic woman calling 911 and saying she was going to die — clearly, terror had been struck into her heart, as it had into the heart of a woman in Spain we hear next as the scenes shifts to Madrid on March 11, 2004, as she calls someone to say a bomb has just gone off on the train.

But the connection of the images and sounds to Qur’an 8:60 is not left to the viewer to make. Presently a Muslim imam appears, declaring, with a clear dependence on that Qur’an verse: “Annihilate the infidels and the polytheists, your (Allah’s) enemies and the enemies of the religion. Allah, count them and kill them to the last one…”

And there’s the rub. For all the indignation that Fitna has caused around the world, and for all the angry claims that it “equates Islam with violence,” that equation has already been made, many, many times, by Islamic jihadists around the world. It was not Geert Wilders, but Osama bin Laden and innumerable others who share his theological perspective, who have linked Islam with violence by committing acts of violence and justifying those acts with reference to the Qur’an — often the same verses Wilders dramatizes in Fitna. Omar Bakri, the jihadist leader who was formerly based in Britain, acknowledged this himself, saying that with a few modifications “it could be a film by the [Islamist] Mujahideen.”

This is a recurring phenomenon: when non-Muslims point out that Islamic jihadists commit acts of violence and justify them by reference to the Qur’an, many non-Muslim and Muslim apologists for jihad, include many who are widely known as "moderates" respond by claiming that the one who is pointing out all this is committing an act of “hatred,” “bigotry,” “Islamophobia,” and the like. They don’t have a word to say about the actual acts of violence, hatred and supremacism committed by the jihadists — no, the real villain is the one who reports on these actions.

Geert Wilders and his Fitna are only the latest to find themselves on the receiving end of this strange form of cognitive dissonance — and as in all other cases, if he is silenced and Fitna disappears, nothing, nothing at all, will have been done to stop those Islamic jihadists from continuing to use the Qur’an to portray themselves as acting as authentic Muslims. The only losers will be those who are trying to call attention to this usage, so as to formulate realistic ways to deal with it and more effectively defend the West.