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Geert Wilders' Fitna: What Do You Think About It?

I posted my thoughts on this short film below, but what are yours? Please leave your comments here, once you've watched the movie. And please focus primarily on the movie itself, or the reaction to it, rather than on the broader debates about Islam (though when you're commenting about the movie, you may of course refer to the relevant parts of the broader debates).

Smokey:
Islam delenda est!! [Good movie, BTW].
3.27.2008 8:59pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Eh. He's not a professional film-maker, but that still seemed pretty amateurish and had very little original material. I also think a lot of the quotes from the Quran could plausibly be different in context (the orders to kill people could have been specific directives from Muhammad against a specific group of people he was at war with). I've only read a small portion of the Koran (yeah I use an inconsistent spelling, whatever) so I don't know. Some of the scare-headlines weren't scary either. Burqa ban fails? Shouldn't advocates of freedom rejoice?
3.27.2008 9:19pm
TomB (mail):
Any holy book can be cherry-picked for some unusual statements. Any typical religion can be cherry-picked for beliefs or actions that others will dislike or that will be against the social norms of other people.

But. I say again, BUT!

BUT when certain followers of the religion act in the consistently despicable way we have seen from radical Islamists, that is the heart of the problem. And that is the heart that must be plucked from the chest of a society that loves its children and wants to leave them a better world.

This films shows the despicable actions of radical Islamists. And shows the insidious indoctrination of hate that will perpetuate these actions. In that it is very successful.

We should and must condemn these people. I think this is what Geert Wilders is doing. They will probably be proud of what they've done and laugh at our condemnation, but they're free to do so. We don't kill them for disagreeing with us.

But I think the film is unduly provocative by blaming all these actions on the Koran. The filmmaker's technique of solemnly showing the verses, with ponderous music, then showing the "result" of those verses -- that's overly dramatic and actually takes away from the message.

The film would have been just as effective (actually more, in my opinion) without insinuating that the Koran is the root cause. A billion Muslims who believe the Koran but do not kill innocent people prove that the Koran is not the cause. We don't need a film that condemns the Koran.

So just explicate the actions and show the radicals who are creating these actions in the name of Islam -- in the perversion of Islam. Show the people and blame this on them, not the holy book.
3.27.2008 9:43pm
Nathan_M (mail):
I couldn't bear to watch the whole thing. I started skipping ahead after the bar saying there were 54 million Muslims in Europe.

Whatever one thinks of its politics, it's an aesthetic disaster. Wilders is obviously trying to stir up strong emotions, but he's sabotaged by the slow pacing, the music, and the visual effects he's using.

I'd never seen the beheading scene before, but by then I was so annoyed with the film it had little impact. A well done documentary can powerfully manipulate ones' emotions, but this was just so heavy-handed. There's no finesse to running split screen footage of the Koran and 9/11 backed by ponderous music. It felt like he was shouting "Muslims are evil; be scared of teh terrorists!!!!" at me, so I wasn't going to be just to spite him.

If I ran a TV station I wouldn't show this either, I'd be worried people who change channels.
3.27.2008 10:00pm
EH (mail):
The whole point of a religious text is to be applicable to every situation an adherent may encounter so that the religion continues to be the answer to their problems and the reason for their success. All of them can be interpreted to say anything because that's the role they play in perpetuating the faith.
3.27.2008 10:00pm
LM (mail):
It's not exactly balanced. Obviously there's a cohort of militant Islam that's accurately represented, but even if it were some absurdly high percentage, let's say 75%, the film would still smear hundreds of millions of innocent Muslims. On the other hand, even a tiny violent percentage of a billion and a half people is enough to pose a real danger anywhere, maybe everywhere. And that danger isn't exactly ameliorated by all the Europeans who apparently think the idea of an Islamic threat is mostly neocon-Jewish-American-Israeli fabrication.

So the question is, "What value does this film have?" I think it has very little. I assume it will confirm all the conspiracy theories of the denialists, and all the stereotypes of anti-Islamic absolutists. What the people on both those extremes need is to confront their own determinism, and propaganda pieces like this don't perform that job very well. Films like this don't tend to open minds. They just harden convictions.

But I liked the sound track.
3.27.2008 10:08pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Cherry-picked Quranic quotes with no context. Violent video of extremists and their behavior. We get Wilder's point, right between the eyes.

No where does the film suggest that the vast majority of Muslims reject the extremists, even if they do feel threatened by the West.

For polemic, an A. For deftness in conveying his message, D-. For anything approaching the reality of Muslims across the world, F. For an attempt at even approaching objectivity, F.

It was inevitable, there there be a film-maker who could make Michael Moore look professional. Geert Wilders is the one.
3.27.2008 10:14pm
bikeguy (mail):
Wilders is about as subtle as the subjects of his film.
And that's the point.
3.27.2008 10:32pm
Oligonicella:
"No where does the film suggest that the vast majority of Muslims reject the extremists, even if they do feel threatened by the West."

It doesn't because their voices are remarkably quiet.

Find the rejections. Bring them here and post them. We'll wait.
3.27.2008 10:42pm
The Unbeliever (mail):
Well, it's straight propaganda. With all the material shown out of context like that, I don't think it will convert any thinking people to the creator's point of view.

OTOH, if you're one of the people who knows the proper context--like many of the posters and commenters on this site--it serves as a chilling reminder of some things we try not to think about every day.
3.27.2008 10:58pm
taney71:
He's getting sued. Wilder used the wrong photo in his video. He showed the photo of some Dutch/Moroccan rapper Salah Edin instead of the murderer of van Gogh, Mohammed Bouyeri.

Big Opps!
3.27.2008 11:04pm
cure (mail) (www):
It's not at all good, I'm afraid.

There are two broad points:
1) Islam itself is a dangerous ideology.
2) The quick rise in the number of Muslims in Europe is worrying. Let's treat them in turn.

As to 1), this claim simply isn't true. Are there a lot of Muslim extremists? Sure. But there are over a billion Muslims. Muslims I know here in the US, or that I've met while traveling, have been no different from the majority of people worldwide in the importance they place on their family, or a better future, or prosperity, etc. For much of the last 1400 years, majority-Islamic countries had better relations with non-Muslims than majority-Christian countries had with their religious minorities. As someone who does find certain strains of Wahhabism worrying, I find claims like "Islam on the whole is backward and dangerous" to be completely counterproductive.

As for the second point, I'm much more in agreement with Wilders. National culture is important, and the Dutch (being a Democracy) should rightly be worried if a very large group of immigrants with wholly different ideas about liberality move to their country, ideology intact.
3.27.2008 11:08pm
OrinKerr:
I enjoy all of Gene Wilder's work. Young Frankenstein is a particular favorite.
3.27.2008 11:42pm
mmuniak (mail):
I have yet to watch the film, and may never do so. I'm no film critic, and the description should suffice. What I find most telling is the panicked reaction of those in power: "The country's cabinet went into a crisis meeting...." (As reported in the article linked on Drudge.) How sad.
3.27.2008 11:49pm
Paul Milligan (mail) (www):
The issue isn't even the movie itself. The issue is the right for it to be made, and distributed, and watched. It's no different than the cartoons showing Mohamed with a bomb hat.

There is a faction of Islamists, a very large one, that thinks their religion should be forced on the world, and that extends to denying the rest of the world freedom, free speech, etc.

The movie itself could be the best ever made, or the worst - that is not the issue. The issue is the film makers right to make it, and viewers right to watcht it if they choose ( or not watch it if they choose not to ).
3.27.2008 11:51pm
Gilbert (mail):
I was personally disheartened to see your call for others to 'take it seriously' and you suggestion that it was somehow a constructive contribution to a legitimate debate. I held your opinions in higher regard than to expect that reaction.

It's pure inflammatory dribble, appealing to the worst of our inclinations to lump together groups of people we don't understand.
3.27.2008 11:52pm
The Undercurrent (mail) (www):
This isn't enough. It doesn't explain why, explicitly and exactly, Islam is bad, and it doesn't offer a rational alternative. Islam: What the West Needs to Know, is by far the best documentary on Islam that all Westerners should see, not Obsession or Fitna, unfortunately.

I also don't like how the movie shows the Muslim population in Europe. That isn't an essential. It seems like it would lead to advocating immigration restrictions in general or specifically on Muslims, but that wouldn't solve anything. That doesn't remove the threat.

Europeans first need to define the positive: what the West is, and why it is good and worth fighting for. On the Europeans' washed-out-socialists mentality, they don't have the will to live. This is how one should defend the West.
3.28.2008 12:12am
The Unbeliever (mail):
It's pure inflammatory dribble, appealing to the worst of our inclinations to lump together groups of people we don't understand.

What happens once we do understand them? Are we free to make generalizations then?
3.28.2008 12:13am
ForestGirl (mail):
I thought the strength of the film was that it combined passages from the Koran with actual footage of religious figures preaching the same message in front of audiences of thousands (3:30) and footage of people carrying out those passages. It (should have) protected Wildert from charges of cherry-picking the text and from critics citing comparable cherry-picked bits of the Bible (as they would not be able to come up with equivalent video footage).

The production itself was amateurish and youtubeish and distracting.

But none of this actually matters because the moral of the story isn't the end of the video but what happens after. And we pretty much already know. Many Westerners will denounce the video for its "message of hate," others will claim that Christianity and the West are no better, many will suggest that the portrayal of Muslims in the video represents only the fringe element and the vast majority are good people who for whatever reason do not speak up loudly to fight against those who have hijacked their religion. And there will be riots in the Muslim world and likely throughout Europe, death threats will be made, Wildert will be forced further into hiding with Hirsi Ali and others, moderate Muslims (and others) will argue that freedom of speech should be limited to that which doesn't offend and in the end, probably a lot of people will die.

And that will be the moral of the story. One man makes an amateur movie about how barbaric and violent and unfit for Western civilization Muslims are and many Muslims the world over will behave barbarically and violently and very, very many others (Muslims and nonMuslims alike) will respond not by criticizing their brutal brethren but criticizing and seeking to limit the greatest values of Western civilization. Wildert's point will have been made (just as van Gogh's and the cartoonists' were) but very few people will have noticed. And he might pay for it with his life.
3.28.2008 12:45am
Brian K (mail):
What happens once we do understand them? Are we free to make generalizations then?

you wouldn't need to.
3.28.2008 1:10am
RWL:
Many argue that the movie is bad by suggesting that Wilders wants us to make broad generalizations about Islam based on the views of a radical minority of believers. I think his goal is the opposite. He wants the West not to be lulled into complacency by the peaceful majority in Islam. The movie urges us not to make generalizations; instead, it urges a hard look at the particulars that are often ignored or explained away. Islam's radical minority is a minority. But it is most definitely real and very dangerous.

Another important point is that the majority of Muslims never denounce the radicals. If the movie's message distorts Islam, if the infamous cartoon defames Islam, then so does every one of Bin Laden's messages. Where are the protestors? Where is the outrage? In Hamlet, Shakespeare cautioned us about a lady the protests too much. In Fitna, Wilders is cautioning us about a religion that doesn't protest enough (at least, concerning its own extremists).
3.28.2008 1:16am
LM (mail):
Paul Milligan,

The issue isn't even the movie itself. The issue is the right for it to be made, and distributed, and watched.

I agree, but the speech that needs defending and the person who delivers it can't be ignored. The demands for censorship and the accompanying threats and violent demonstrations are intolerable, but the items they complain of often happen to be offensive. And no, I'm not suggesting any kind of moral equivalence. But we do find ourselves having to defend, as we should, the rights of flawed actors behaving badly. For those of us who don't want our support of the speech rights to imply support of the messenger or his message, that point has to be made too.
3.28.2008 1:38am
K Parker (mail):
Oligonicella:

Well, there's always Ali Eteraz—here, for example, opposing the idea of Sharia family courts in England, and here dissing the Canadian Muslim group that filed the complaint against Mark Steyn—but of course he's not an influential person or anything as far as I can tell, outside the blogosphere. Still, he does meet your criteria, doesn't he?
3.28.2008 2:34am
Lucklucky (mail):
Magdi Allam, Italian recent muslim convert to Christianity...
3.28.2008 5:09am
pmorem (mail):
There are alternate voices.

Anbar Awakening doesn't use strong or fiery speeches. Its words are hard to hear. If you're willing to listen, though, its actions speak volumes.
3.28.2008 6:16am
Daryl Herbert (www):
It's a good movie, it's completely solid, and if anything it understates the case against radical Islam. It was very tame and polite.

Wilders could have been much more sensational, for instance reminding his audience of the case of Ilan Halimi, who was tortured for a month in France. The Arab animals who lived in the neighborhood where he was being held did not go to the police. Instead, they dropped in to help torture him.

He could have quoted Mullah Krekar as saying that Muslims were growing like "mosquitoes." He could have pointed out the disparate birthrates between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Fitna should have been an hour long, and it should have addressed what Europeans could do about the problem.
3.28.2008 7:11am
Joe Bingham (mail):
It's pure inflammatory dribble

You mean inflammable dribble? Like a slow dribble of gasoline?
3.28.2008 9:45am
Jeff Rowes (mail):
Just because the majority of Muslims are not extremists doesn't mean that it's unfair or wrong to point out that the violent minority is dangerous.

The worst governments are the work of fanatical revolutionaries and "peaceful" majorities often find themselves under the thumb of a violent minority. The history of the 20th century is a history of the awful things that fanatical revolutionaries do.

And while I understand the concern many Muslims have about being unfairly lumped in, it would be nice once in a while to see genuine outrage and protests directed at the violent minority, not film-makers and cartoonists.
3.28.2008 10:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The majority of Muslims are not a threat.
So?
I mean that. So?
See the polls in England, or Canada, or Europe about sharia or violent attacks like the subway bombing. Or honor killing. A third in favor isn't, strictly speaking, a majority. So?
When der Tag comes, the Muslims who approved and helped won't be distinguishable from those who approved but didn't help from those who disapproved but didn't call the cops when they knew something from those who knew nothing at all.
3.28.2008 10:35am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Oligonicella:

I suppose it depends on who and what you consider significant voices raised against Islamic extremism. Particularly if you're looking for English-language material, you're not going to see most of it. If you restrict your reading to the likes of 'Front Page', you're not going to find it at all.

Here's Asharq Alawsat, the largest-circulating Arabic-language newspaper (in English translation):

Saudi Arabia: Facing up to Terrorism

Here's MEMRI citing Saudi media on Islamic extremism:

MEMRI on Saudi Commentary on Saudi Jihadists

Here's Arab News (largest-circulating English-language paper in Saudi Arabia):

Arab News on 'Religious' Extremism

Arab News on getting extremist teachers out of Saudi schools:

Getting Away from Extremism

Arab News on the program to retrain 40,000 Saudi imams to teach them about tolerance:

Saudis Detail Plans to Retrain Imams

These examples are all Saudi-centric, as I blog about Saudi Arabia at Crossroads Arabia. You can, if you want to make the effort, find similar things from across the Islamic world. It helps, of course, if you can read other languages, but the links above are all to English translations or original materials.

Perhaps you're not finding 'voices' because you're listening to the wrong people?
3.28.2008 11:05am
autolykos:

Perhaps you're not finding 'voices' because you're listening to the wrong people?


John, you're attacking a strawman. The claim is not that nobody on the muslim street is criticizing islamofascists, it's that not enough people are doing it. I'm sure you can find brave voices in the wilderness willing to stand up (but that's true of just about every viewpoint).

Likewise, the claim that a majority of muslims don't hold these beliefs suffers from the same malady. The fact that it's not a majority doesn't mean it's not a problem.
3.28.2008 11:22am
TomB (mail):
My take, part 2:

This film is not that great, but it should not be supressed. Freedom of speech applies to this film. It demeans the religion of Islam but that's OK for a free country.
3.28.2008 12:42pm
Voluntarist (mail):
I watched the film this morning via LiveLeak.

Overall, thought it was well within the limits of acceptable film; should not be banned, censored, etc. Having said that, it is clear the film has a point of view and intends to stir up emotion. In this sense, it is obviously a bit one-sided since, for example, it lists only five or so Quranic verses and those verses are all one-sided and presented with no context. Ancient societies (as today?) seemed always to be warring with one another so I would not think the five verses from an ancient text, without any context or potentially counter verses, does much to prove the case. The more damning evidence presented are the tape segments of "modern" Muslims calling for the implementation of this killing and warring against those who don't believe in, or choose to follow, Allah. The Torah has its share of war-like verses that instruct carnage on neighboring tribes; but modern Jewish groups and Christian groups don't contend this applies to today, and generally quickly cleanse themselves of extremists who try to espouse corercive conversion and violence.

Overall, interested people should view this short film and make their own assessment.
3.28.2008 12:48pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

The prominent Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has an english-language website devoted to all things Fitna related.
3.28.2008 12:55pm
Rascalfair (mail):
It fails to discriminate between Islam and Islamists. True enough. Is there actually a difference? Do you really know? It's intuitively true that most people cannot do what the Islamists do, but can you know that they do not support the butchers? They Look Peaceful. Is that really enough "proof?"
3.28.2008 1:57pm
Gary McGath (www):
In its stated purpose, to comment on the Quran, it's unsuccessful. It quotes just a few verses and doesn't discuss them. You can't learn much of anything about the Quran from this film. As a presentation on the outrages committed and threatened by a significant Islamic faction, it's much more successful.

In the second half, it turns to xenophobia by presenting demographic statistics and implying that all Muslims are like the ones presented in the clips of terrorist activity. I wasn't happy with that.
3.28.2008 2:03pm
Moronanon:
The suggestion that Muslims should "tear pages" pages out of their holy text seems unreasonable. How about re-interpret or discount or reject. Taking them out alll toogether is not going to happen.
3.28.2008 2:14pm
LM (mail):

Is that really enough "proof?"

Enough for what?
3.28.2008 3:58pm
Oligonicella:
Why is it incumbent upon the recipient of a violent message from a small percentage of a religion to have to sift the statements of the majority of that religion actively seeking refutation?

Why instead is not the message of refutation a like percentage louder and stronger than the small percentage's message?
3.28.2008 4:06pm
LM (mail):

Why instead is not the message of refutation a like percentage louder and stronger than the small percentage's message?

Voices of moderation are never as obvious or as loud as those of extremism.
3.28.2008 5:47pm
Blue (mail):
LiveLeak pulled the feed due to threats of violence.

The fascists win again.
3.28.2008 6:16pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

See Liveleak, who released the following statement:

"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers.
This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one.
Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one anothers culture.
We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high."
3.28.2008 6:30pm
Oligonicella:
"Voices of moderation are never as obvious or as loud as those of extremism."

You purposely miss my point. The 'voices of moderation' outnumber those for violence by 9 to 1, supposedly. Nine calm voices are still louder than one shrill voice.

I only hear perhaps one calm voice for each ten shrill ones. Why? The one of ten has no problem finding a way to communicate their hate. Let the nine of ten learn by their example and become the predominant message. It is incumbent upon them to denounce their own evil people, just as it is incumbent upon us to denounce ours.
3.28.2008 8:18pm
LM (mail):
Oligonicella,

Moderates often stay out of public debate entirely, lacking the motivation to vilify which animates so much extremist activity. Also, it wouldn't surprise me if they grow weary of people gratuitously impugning their motives for simply answering a question, never having claimed to dispose of the whole controversy.
3.29.2008 1:45am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Moderates often stay out of public debate entirely, lacking the motivation to vilify which animates so much extremist activity.

Why do you think that a "motivation to vilify" is needed when one is dealing with actual villains?
3.29.2008 4:16am
LM (mail):
Not necessary but helpful. Don't you think that of everyone who reads these blogs, those of us who choose to comment are probably on average more argumentative than the rest? I'm only saying there are elements of human disposition at play into self-selecting groups other than just right and wrong.
3.29.2008 3:01pm
LM (mail):
into
3.29.2008 3:02pm
bobby b (mail):
I expected something more, something deeper, something with more meaning and more information and more story-telling and more persuasiveness.

I'm generally in his same camp - meaning, while I differentiate in my mind between Islam and Islamicism, one being the general mass religion and the other the much smaller, fanatical, evil growing-scourge-of-the-world cult, I don't see many muslims standing in the Islamicists' way - but frankly, I've seen pretty much all of this short film four hundred times on many fellow-traveler blog. It was the same images and the same sound bites and the same texts and Koran quotes and . . . .

When I was finished watching it, I thought, did I get the wrong site? Did I just watch someone's homemade patched-together "Tribute To Fitna"?

Maybe the noteworthiness just stems from those same images and themes making it out onto media that will be seen by more than those who already believe as he believes. Dunno. I do know that it can't stem from the novel approach, or the new points of proof, or the more persuasive composition.

It was like a re-run of the past three years of blogging.
3.30.2008 3:04am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
bobby b.

You are probably right for a good many bloggers and blog consumers.

There is, it sometimes seems surprising to think, a larger world which will see the movie.

Propaganda, even the mildest sort, is effective by repetition. While there's nothing new in Fitna, it does come as an ice-water enema to those who've been lulled by the cumulative effect of the cumulative effect of the mush in the MSM and from many politicians.
3.30.2008 11:12am
H. Tuttle:
The film did the job. Those who think that violence in Islam will go away merely by poo-pooing and offering fatuous "most Muslims aren't death-wish fanatics" attempting thereby to discount the threat and danger inherent in powerful swaths of Islamist theology do so at their own ultimate peril. When churches, temples and freedom of worship are allowed in Saudi Arabia let me know.
3.31.2008 2:41pm