01 April 2008


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.


M said...

Hi Rob,

good review of the current situation. i didn't know before it would be like this. the first time i watched, i think it's just another fitna...haha. i mean, it's fairly common stupidity.
i can live with that.

i was more interested in the 'Satanic Verses' on stage in Berlin. and they successfully had it without any violence.

Satanic verses, the Danish cartoon or Fitnaa break my heart. But i refuse to fight back with another stupidity.

M said...

actually i am wishing..there will be a legal action against Wilders.

a smart legal act. not closing down access to youtube, thousands of people's demos or another person get killed. such things break my heart too. i hope people can be smarter than that.

Rob Baiton said...

Hey M...

I guess matters of faith do not always lend themselves to rational and reasoned debate...

treespotter said...

i haven't seen the full film - watching stream version is choppy and i don't really like it. my impression is it's crap - as in not even a good quality documentary. i think the reaction is more because it's a dutch parliamentarian producing, rather than the actual content.

the racist comment is probably because it clearly portray middle easterners in unfavorable light.

as for the free speech part, i consider myself an utmost liberal and consider this to be the highest principle of freedom.

that being said, all jurisdictions - even the Human Rights declarations make exceptions for those that would incite violence.

this is the basis for several such cases world wide Natural Born Killers by Oliver Stone was banned from English cinema a while ago, and there are numerous hate speech cases in the US against KKK. The Dutch has one of the most liberal law in the world, but to my knowledge, they actually have this provisions in their laws. of course, the fact that it doesn't technically incite violence WITHIN the jurisdiction of the law (the moslem majority being outside of Holland), so it'll be tricky to make a case for it over there, and thus the reluctance over there to make a case.

the way i see it, the movie is clearly provocative and bears no illusion of decency (no way to claim that it's art/documentary since it was very hastily produced and edited) and people have a reason to be offended with it.

The resulting violence isn't even worth protecting it. I admit banning YouTube would be silly, but this is mere empty threat as there's no way the gov't could actually do it at the moment, so it's only a gesture to appease the public.

If you asked me, i'd no problems with the movie being banned as there's really no point in trying to fight for it, since you can't really argue for any benefits against the potential harm to the public.

i was thinking about doing a piece on this, and as always, you get there quicker than i have, but maybe we should start a threat on the subject? will appreciate your thoughts. will publish mine later.

Rob Baiton said...


A thread? I think IM already has one going :)

The freedom of speech thing for me is that in most cases people should be allowed to make up their own minds and respond to any perceived insult or offense.

If there is a legal remedy available because it breaches some law then that should be the avenue taken. If it offends but does not breach any law then I am against people taking the law into their own hands.

Wilders is obviously an objectionable man but you cannot forget that he must have a constituency somewhere because they voted him into parliament. This means that there must be a few others that share his right wing anti-immigration, anti-Islam views.

Even if Fitna is crap and not worth the film that it is on, then people should vote through their ability to refuse to watch it and to refuse to comment on it and refuse to make Wilders into some kind of right wing hero or martyr.

By talking about the film and the perspectives that it promotes provides Wilders with the public relations win that he is looking for. The fact that people do not see that the protests calling for his murder reinforce the idea that Islam is intolerant and murderous in the sense that Wilders was making it in his film.

My original point really was why not fight this fight on an intellectual level and highlight the selective nature of the Suras chosen and the context. The graphic images, as I understand them at least, are real recorded events and as such are hard to argue against in terms of them not being real.

The reality and the representation are two different things. These images might be of real events but are they representative of Islam as a whole? This is the question that Islam should be looking to answer if it so chooses to respond.

Yet, as I also said protests that promote violence feed into the stereotype that Wilders relies on! I also said that violence begets more violence and there is nothing good in increasing violence, death, adn despair...

Once again..."an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind!"

We do not want to blind people, but rather we want to make them see, see the good around them, see the good in the world, see the tolerance and love, and see the hope!

An eternal optimist, abso-bloody-lutely! And proud to be so :)