The blogosphere and just about everywhere else it seems is running stories or making comments about Geert Wilders' film "Fitna". The man has to be loving it because my guess if nothing else he is a little narcissistic and enjoying the attention.
Probably more import for the man is that it gets people talking about his message. The message might be from the far right and anti-immigration in nature but it plays to peoples general feelings of mistrust of those things that are different and that they do not understand. The intolerance of people is a rich vein that is often mined by politicians. For many Australians this is the same vein of fear that Pauline Hanson played to in her, at the time, "surprise" election to the Australian parliament.
I must admit that I have not watched Fitna and can only comment on what is filtering through what I read. If I want to watch it I will have to be fast if I want to watch it on youtube as Indonesia has informed youtube that it will be shutting down access to it if it does not remove Wilders film. The two terms I have most heard used to describe the film is that it is racist and misleading.
The misleading part I understand. Film making is a little bit like statistics in that you can put things together in a certain way to paint any picture you want. Now, my understanding is that Fitna cuts and pastes actual footage of previous terrorist acts and inserts a few selected Suras from the Al-Qu'ran and points to his view that Islam is bad and so are Muslims and presumably this is reason enough to be concerned about a Muslim's motivations of wanting to come to Holland. The film must be put into the context of Wilders own personal existence; that is he has been elected to the Dutch parliament on an anti-immigration platform and this film is his characterization as to why Muslims should not be allowed to immigrate.
The racist angle I have a little more trouble with in terms of the film, particularly if it is targeting Muslims in a general sense. Islam is not in the sense of the UN definition of the term
"racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
Perhaps the apt term here is not racist, Wilders' himself may be a racist (but this is an argument and post for a different time), but the question that needs to be asked of this film is whether or not it vilifies a particular religion. If the answer is yes then the next logical question is how should this be dealt with.
Fitna would seem to be a film with an agenda and if it is as some have suggested a compilation of events that have occurred combined with a selective number of Suras from the Al-Qu’ran then I would imagine that Muslim scholars could conceivably respond in a manner that points out the problems or where the film misleads without having to resort to violence.
The idea of free speech is not one where there are no boundaries and to suggest that free speech is simply a matter of anything goes is a misrepresentation in itself. Whether Fitna falls into a protected category of free speech is a legal debate. Yet, just because the material offends does not mean that it is speech that must be censored or banned. If it is speech that vilifies a particular individual or group then there are likely to be restrictions on the speech, and rightly so.
It is unfortunate that rational debate is likely to be overshadowed by the emotional one because a rational debate might just lead us down a path that will take us to a place where there is a greater appreciation and understanding of the differences that separate us. Finding this tolerance is the key to making the world in which we live a much happier one.
Violence only begets more violence. As Gandhi once said “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind!”
I have said this many times but it is worth repeating and that is this...we cannot afford to bury our collective heads in the sand and pretend that these issues are not here and confronting us now. Blokes like Wilders need to be met head on and engaged in constructive debate because to just marginalize him and push him to the side is not addressing the fundamental message of hate that he promotes. Simply, ignoring something does not mean it has ceased to exist!
Ridicule if you want, but it is our communal hopes and dreams for a better future that will drive us to a more tolerant and peaceful future.