Geert Wilders Dutch MP has released his 15 minute film Fitna (“strife”) over the internet today. It is a controversial film, incendiary in nature (whatever one’s opinion of the view expressed therein). It contains graphic graphic imagery–including footage of severed heads and executions.
I had to think long and hard about whether to link to it or not and if so how. On the one hand I support free speech, and believe people should make up their own minds. On the other, I found it to be like a number of other films in this new genre, highly suspect methodologically–before even the question about politics.
My decision is to link to this BBC Article which gives some background and explains how to view the movie (i.e. where to find it on the web). Again warning: it is extremely graphic in nature.
There is a lot that could be said about the film. I’ll just focus on a few themes.
The movie uses Qu’ranic citations interspliced with scenes from al-Qaeda attacks (Twin Towers, Madrid Bombings), Arab Satellite imams preaching vile hatred of infidels, shots of children being indoctrinated into an ideology. Plus the requisite Islam is the new fascism meme. Then statistics about how many Muslims are in Europe and how they are growing at a fast rate.
The clear message of course is which all European Muslims are suspect, are part of this trend, and what to install Sharia which I find patently disgusting. No images or the voices of Muslims who respect rule of law and free society in Europe. If there is violence as a response, it is not to blamed on Wilders–no one has a right to respond in violence. Still I have to question the decision to make and produce. As St. Paul said what is valid or able to be done is not necessarily what should be done–not everything allowed builds up.
I find it interesting (though not that surprising) that Wilders’ exegesis of the Quran is exactly that of al-Qaeda. That is citations from the Quran free float; there is no background to the text, nor to any of the specific chapters mentioned. Just like the Wahabis, the Quran then exists as this timeless command for all places and beings rather than a specific set of pronouncements for a certain time, a certain place, and a certain community.
It is a completely modernist form of reading the scriptures. Fundamentalism (like Wahabism/Salafist Islam) is a completely modern phenomenon. It is the attempt to turn stories, ways of life, into a set of eternal precepts and propositions that are either believed (Wahabis) or not (Wilders)–but either way neither is traditional and both assume the same ground.
Everything Wilders shows that is evil is Islamist: persecution of religious minorities & gays, subjugation of women, glorification of violence and militarism, and so on and so forth. And even within Islamism, the large majority seek to enact their version of sharia through democratic, representative forms.
It is the pathological form of patriarchy that served humanity in certain respects as a move upwards 1400 years ago, but is now regressive and destructive as compared to modern free liberal societies.
I point that out because at the end of the film there are a series of lines that to the effect of Islam wants to dominate you….Islam will not let you be free.
When what he really is describing is Islamism. To be fair, even the term Islamism is a poor one because for many Muslims (not without reason) Islamism simply means rule by the principles of their faith.
But in the sense in which it has come to be used in both scholarly and popular circles, i.e. the imposition of a rigid tyrannical form of law based on an understanding (a misunderstanding in my book) of the scripture and tradition, that is enforced on all regardless of their belief in said system or not.
That ideology particularly in the West which has a tradition of toleration, separation of religion and state, secularism, and free thought, must be fought. But it must be done so in a way that invites Muslims to enter society on their terms as both a Muslim and a free citizen.
Too many right-wing Americans (and some right-wing Europeans) lament the secular state of European affairs, the exclusion of religious discourse from the public square. vs.. the US where religious faith can be discussed so long as the government does not endorse any view and the individual is willing to have his or her faith questioned or possibly critiqued in public.
When it comes to Islam however these same right-wingers often to my mind want to reinforce secularism. So at the nub, it looks like the talk of wanting to bring religion back into consciousness and the public square really means Christianity (and perhaps Judaism). They will make some general point about moderate Islam. Moderate Islam is not what is needed and when it appears (if it ever does) these same individuals are not usually supportive of it. An Islam that is both rooted in the tradition and open to pluralistic society is what is required.