Geert Wilders: much ado about an unscreened movie

Two weeks ago Denmark was in turmoil because Danish newspapers decided to reprint the infamous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad after one of their authors had received death threats. And there is another Islam-related crisis brewing. This time in The Netherlands. I’ll give our readers a brief update on the situation.

Yesterday, Dutch Minister for Developing Cooperation Bert Koenders cancelled a working trip to Somalia because his delegation had received “direct threats”. The reason? Dutch MP Geert Wilders is about to release a fifteen minute self-made movie, called Fitna or ‘tribulation’, in which he will attempt to demonstrate that the Koran is “a terrible and fascist book that inspires people to horrible actions and violence.” The release date should be some time this March.

No-one has seen the movie yet, but Wilders already seems to have collected a few death threats himself and yesterday, in a rather unusual move, the Dutch Cabinet officially distanced itself from the movie and thereby from Wilders’ actions. The official stance is that the movie threatens the security of Dutch citizens and the military abroad. Wilders subsequently accused the Cabinet of capitulating to Islam. Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen and CDA PM Pieter van Geel even called on Wilders not to broadcast his movie because “it could affect security and the Dutch economy”. His alleged response: “They can go and screw themselves.” Employers’ organizations have also called on Wilders not to broadcast Fitna. Wientjes, president of the organization VNO-NCW, apparently stated that the business community benefits from a tolerant climate and that Wilders is not contributing to that. There are stories circulating that Dutch airhostesses are now afraid to fly to certain countries, that the Taliban in Afghanistan have announced to take actions against Dutch people and that a number of international business fairs are refusing Dutch entries.

At the same time several parties and MPs are, albeit cautiously, stressing the importance of freedom of expression. More precisely, Femke Halsema from GroenLinks (Left Greens) and Socialist Party leader Jan Marijnissen. They do point out, however, that Wilders has the moral responsibility to consider if the goal in this case really does justify the means. And both the Justice Minister and the Minister of Domestic Affairs have talked to Wilders warning him about the risks the movie poses to himself and the country.

Personally, I am really getting fed up with people issuing death threats, or worse, just because somebody expressed an opinion they find offensive even when I understand that some people, like Wilders, really seem to be ‘begging for it’. Consciously stirring up resentment under the guise of freedom of expression, by asking to ban the Koran in The Netherlands for example, is idiotic and makes a mockery of that very same freedom. There is a grain of truth in that the Koran is used by some Muslims factions and individuals as an inspiration/excuse for violence, but these problems are extremely complex and are not going to be solved by a simple, cinematographic book burning session. On the contrary. Still, Wilders is no Hitler and as far as I know he has not been inciting violence against Muslims. And, more importantly, the movie has not even been shown yet.

PS: The Dutch phrase “nobody zit echt te wachten op this movie” in this mock trailer means “nobody really cares about this movie”. I also found a fairly recent interview, in two parts, on YouTube in which Wilders talks to FoxNews about his upcoming movie and his views on the Koran and Islam.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Anyway, we’ll see what happens next.

Hopefully, NOT developing…

Update: Last Sunday some eight hundred people took to the streets in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif to protest “the Danish and Dutch insults against Islam”. The demonstrators, mainly students, shouted “death to Denmark” and “death to The Netherlands”, burned flags from both countries and demanded apologies and the punishment (in court) of those who insulted Islam.

There is also a ‘nice’ statement from Iran (for domestic use, though):

“Recently some Dutch and Danish media, influenced by usurping Zionists, have distorted and insulted Islamic sanctities,” said a statement read out in parliament on behalf of lawmakers which was broadcast on state radio.

I suppose “usurping Zionists” is the Iranian version of our “dirty terrorists”? Anyway, for an interesting, and more refreshing, debate among Muslims about this issue and the matter of freedom of speech, you can visit ShiaChat.com. A few quotes:

They are misusing the freedom of expression. They don’t understand the sensitiveness of issues relating to Islam. They have the right to criticise Islam and its Prophet with academic integrity but insulting and caricaturing is utterly disgusting. Danish cartoons and the film by Theo van Gogh was more of an insult than criticism. I don’t know how insulting the new film is but I should also mention one thing – The Muslim reaction on cartoons and film was out of proportion and very childish.

Well, instead of whining, why don’t you make a documentary refuting what was raised on the film – that is the best revenge. Why go about rioting and proving every possible negative stereotype when a educated critique of the film in terms of a point by point refuting of themes in the movie, or a creation of a counter film pointing out inaccuracies.

You will alwyas find these kind of people rioting, burning and creating nuisance and mayhem. It is because they have no way to vent out their accumulated frustrations. I don’t blame them altogether. Those who are above them have the responsibility . They don’t understand that the Frankenstein’s Monster they have created will swallow their own fellow Muslims.

Update 2 (March 5th): Geert Wilders has apparently registered a website for the broadcast of his movie. It – the site but not yet the movie – can be found right here. And we keep on updating. I have removed some text referring to Wilders’ site being hosted in Canada. It turns out the content is officially in the US. And just now I found out that Dutch PM Balkenende, on a visit to Paris today, has asked Sarkozy for support – diplomatic or otherwise – in case all hell breaks loose… just to be on the safe side. The movie’s release appears to be scheduled for March 28th. What is going on here?