Muslims finding ‘Fitna’ unfit for defining their religion
The new firestorm raging over the Dutch documentary, Fitna, which seeks to demonstrate that the Quran advocates violence, must be closely monitored. It has the potential to set off new violence because of the volatility that simply comes with any critical look at Islam or its holy book.
The turmoil brewing from the film raises anew the dogging questions: Why can some issues and faiths be openly discussed in a free society, while a critical examination of others sets off a powder keg and usually loss of life? Are Muslims more thin-skinned, or historically unaccustomed to the exercise of vigorous debate on any issue? What makes religion out of bounds?
Most in the West were miffed by the outage that followed the publishing of images of Muhammad by a Danish cartoonist two years ago. Certainly, it pointed out how unaware we were to what is allowable or verboten in Muslims culture and worldview.
The 17-minute film by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders has been on again and off again on the Internet, and Dutch TV stations have not been willing to take the risks to show it, lest retaliation follows. The Netherlands, probably the worlds most open, multi-cultural society, has accommodated Muslim immigrants, but the Dutch, with their liberal and egalitarian society, are troubled by folkways and practices of Islam that seem out of step with the 21st century, including womens individual freedom and treatment of homosexuals.
Last week United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the film and called it offensively anti-Islamic and said it could incite violence. He further appealed for calm among anyone who may be offended. There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free speech is not at stake here, the U.N. leader said
In Wilders YouTube interviews, he very directly spells out his motivations for making the film. He says his issues are not with Muslims themselves, who are free to believe whatever they wish, but with the theology that, he thinks, is problematic for planetary co-existence.
Do an Internet search of Fitna, and one quickly finds sites are treading lightly through a minefield, seeking to promulgate discussion without sparking outrage. This is taken from one site: Many of our visitors are Muslims, and we were promoting integration, communication and mutual understanding and acceptation (sic) between Muslims and non-Muslims through an online discussion platform
Sharp critics of the film, namely Muslims, are pointing to double standards and hypocrisy. They say that Islam cannot be called the only religion where harsh criticism leads to dangerous reaction. They say critical speech directed to Judaism and Israel are de facto off-base and disallowed that there is an unwritten rule that to criticize them risks being called anti-Semitic and the economic/political ramifications that follow.
In Pakistan, the shout was death to the filmmaker. A Moroccan government leader called Wilder retarded. Relionnewsblog.com reported this from the Dutch Moroccan community leader Mohamed Rabbaes instruction to Muslims in
Holland: We call on them to follow our strategy and not react with attacks on Dutch embassies or tourists. An attack on the Netherlands is an attack on us.
The Vatican this week acknowledged that Muslims in the world have exceeded the number of Roman Catholics, making Islam the largest single faith group, though smaller than Christianity itself, which stands at about 33 percent. A Reuters story said that 19.2 percent of the world is Muslim compared to 17.4 percent Catholic. In raw numbers, they are about 1.13 billion and 1.3 billion respectively.
Unless the forces of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue prevail or there is a successful Islamic project to quell fears about how Islam would change the worlds neighborhood, the distrust will remain. And more films like Fitna will play fits with Muslims feeling they have been unfairly singled out for their beliefs.