March 28, 2008: After months of nearly daily reports
in Dutch newspapers on its "progress", Dutch right-wing
politician Geert Wilders' anti-Islam film "Fitna" (which
translates roughly as "ordeal") was released yesterday for
online viewing. Wilders made his 17 minute movie available on
Thursday afternoon European time, and in the first 24 hours
"Fitna" was viewed over four million times.
According to Wilders, the film exposes the Koran as a
"faschist book." Viewers see quotes from the Koran exhorting
believers to kill infidels, followed by video clips of the 9-11
attacks in the United States and the murder of Dutch movie
producer Theo van Gogh in November 2004. Among the film's
offerings are speeches by radical Islamic preachers, including
one who draws a sword in dramatic fashion. A woman's execution
is shown, along with the bloodied faces of children.
"The future of the Netherlands?" is flashed on the screen.
At the end of the film a piece of paper is torn up. Subtitles
proclaim that the page is from a telephone book, not from the
Koran itself. "It's not my job to tear those pages inciting
hate out of the Koran – Muslims should do it," viewers
are told. The film begins and ends with one of the
controversial Danish Mohammed caricatures.
With 800,000 Muslims living in the Netherlands, the Dutch
government was quick to reject Wilders' film. "The movie
equates Islam with violence. We reject that notion. We regret
that Mr. Wilders has released this movie. We believe that it
serves no other purpose than to insult," was Dutch prime
minister Jan Peter Balkenende's assessment.
The reaction of the Dutch Islamic community was markedly
reserved. A Muslim spokesman said that Wilders was testing the
limits of tolerance without exceeding them. For Islamic expert
Maurits Bergers from the University of Leiden the film wasn't
as bad as expected, since it only shows images "that we are all
familiar with anyway." According to Bergers, the movie says
more about Wilders than about Muslims, which Wilders himself
would not dispute. The prime minister had called on him
repeatedly not only to defend his right to freedom of
expression, but also to be mindful of his social
responsibility. Wilders said Balkenende was just cowardly and
was taking sides with the Taliban.
Elsewhere in Europe, EU officials criticized the film but
defended Wilders' right to express his opinion. That takes
courage on more than just Wilders' part, though. After about 36
hours online, the internet provider hosting the Wilders website
pulled the film, citing unspecified threats against its