Monday, March 31, 2008

Fitna Requires Clarification, Response

How does Geert Wilders propose we'll "stop the Islam from penetrating"?

The rioting that ensued after the 2006 publication of infamous Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad has long been a central point in the debate over whether or not Islam is inherently violent.

A recent film by Geert Wilder, a Dutch Member of Parliament, has managed to provoke similar responses, although Muslims have not yet taken to rioting in the streets.

The film has already drawn its share of supporters and detractors.

"there is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence," announced UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon. "The right of free expression is not at stake here. ...I acknowledge the efforts of the Dutch Government to stop the broadcast of this film and appeal for calm to those understandably offended by it. Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility."

Conversely, Islamophobia profiteer Robert Spencer is quite enthused.

The film itself walks a fine line between being, as Spencer himself admits, "insightful and inciteful."

The film contrasts various quotes from the Koran that clearly encourage violence against some of the horrific acts perpetrated by those allegedly acting in the name of Islam.

As the film concludes, an image of the infamous Muhammad cartoon (pictured here) appears with the fuse burning, as a timer started at the beginning of the film counts down.

"The sound you heard was a book," the film insists, referring clearly to the many Islamic militants quoted in the course of the film. "It's up to the Muslims to cut the hate sowing parts out of the Koran. Stop the Islam from penetrating. Defend our freedom."

To this regard, Wilders is right. It is up to Muslims to deal with the passages of the Koran cited by those who use Islam to spread hatred and incite violence.

Wilders has the right to make this statement in any free society. However, Ban-Ki Moon is right when he notes that freedoms are accompanied by responsibilities. While censoring Fitna would actually do more harm than good -- Muslims do need to answer the criticisms raised in the film -- Wilders also has to take responsibility for his comments.

Part of that is to clarify precisely how he thinks westerners should "stop the Islam from penetrating" and "defend our freedom." It does sound an awful lot like a call to resistance against what he seems to be deeming as an invader.

If Islam must be responsible for those who interpret the Koran as a call to violence against non-believers, then Wilders must realize that he, too, will be responsible for those who treat his work as a call to violence.

But to silence Wilders will accomplish nothing the moderate Muslim community needs to respond thoughtfully to Fitna and, most importantly, without violence or further demands for censorship.

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