Not the bash it could have been

The nature of the anti-Muslim documentary 'Fitna' makes it an easy target for appeasers and deniers.

Fitna 2 224.88 (photo credit: LiveLeak)
Fitna 2 224.88
(photo credit: LiveLeak)
Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the Fitna (strife) documentary was posted on the Internet, one third of the Dutch population had seen it. Millions abroad saw it as well. The film, made by Geert Wilders, leader of the conservative Freedom party, addresses extreme violence, incitement and hatred emanating from the Muslim world. From an Israeli perspective, the movie is interesting in that public diplomacy (hasbara) in the Netherlands can now open by saying: "The mindset of the majority of the Palestinians is much closer to what is shown in the first half of Fitna- which focuses on global crimes - than to what Dutch media have communicated over the past decade" - even though the 16-minute movie hardly deals with Palestinians. The film shows mainly selected pictures of crimes of extreme Islamists, including the major terrorist attacks in the Western world: September 11, the bombings in Madrid and those in London. Other pictures show the stoning of a woman and children with blood on their faces. Furthermore, a very limited assortment of Islamist hate speech is shown. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the world's leading promoter of a new genocide of Jews, is seen speaking about Islamic conquest of the world. In a Saudi television interview, a three-and-a-half year-old girl says that the Quran teaches Jews are pigs and apes. Muslim hate demonstrations show people marching in Western cities calling for a new Holocaust; there's even a placard saying "God bless Hitler." One should remember that globally many Muslims are supportive of these acts. The movie's strength is the cumulative effect of mass murders, incitement and hatred all shown within a few minutes and all resulting from the same worldview. Where it goes radically wrong is by suggesting that the Quran must necessarily lead to these crimes, that all Islam is violent and that this is true for Dutch Muslims as well. Its reprehensible exaggeration makes Wilders and the movie an easy target for wide criticism, creating a heyday for appeasers and deniers. He has squandered part of his unique opportunity to expose the Muslim violence issue effectively and concisely worldwide. To strengthen his message rather than weaken it, Wilders should have left out all distorting elements. Then he could have understated his case by saying that totalitarian Islam worldwide has at least as many supporters and sympathizers as Hitler and Germany had when World War II broke out. THE MAIN contributor to the tremendous attention the movie has received internationally is Dutch Prime Minister Hans Peter Balkenende. Wilders has remained largely silent since he announced its preparation last November. Balkenende, however, went on record saying that due to the (not yet existing) movie, the Netherlands was in major crisis. The government informed municipalities on how to prepare for possible riots which might erupt and which could last several days. Dutch embassies were given emergency instructions. Trade unions asked the government to protect Dutch employees in Arab countries, including KLM Airlines flight personnel. Concerns were also expressed regarding possible increased attacks on the Dutch NATO forces in Afghanistan. All this and much more was made public and led to an enormous media hype, turning Wilders into the best-known Dutch politician worldwide. It also led to demonstrations in some Muslim countries even before the movie was shown. In Afghanistan, tens of thousands shouted "Death to the Netherlands and Denmark." Burning the flags of the two countries has become a ritual. After the movie was shown, Balkenende went on record as saying that Wilders had made the film solely out of negative considerations and that it expresses the false contention that all Islam is violent. The Netherlands has mobilized support for this position from the European Union and senior European politicians. Balkenende's message was as distorted as Wilders' movie. He remained silent about the fact that Jihadi Islam is by far the greatest threat to humanity at large. The worst Dutch response came from the PKN, the large umbrella organization of Protestants. A delegation that included its president and Dutch Muslim leaders visited Cairo to dissociate themselves from Wilders. They also called on Sayyed Tantawi, sheikh of the Al Azhar University, whom they presented as a moderate to the Dutch media. However, Joost de Haas, the expert on Islam of the largest Dutch daily, The Telegraaf, pointed out in his paper that Tantawi had supported Palestinian suicide murderers, called for a Jihad against Western troops in Iraq and issued a fatwa ordering 80 lashes for those who slandered. That places Tantawi far higher on the extremist scale than Wilders, who has never called for violence. THAT ONLY a small number of violent totalitarians suffice to subvert democracy was proven once again when the Liveleak Website, where the movie was originally shown, removed it following threats against staff of the site. It's been many years now that Wilders can travel only under heavy guard, while Muslim hate preachers in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe are in no need of any protection whatsoever. The number of incidents following the broadcast of the movie in the Netherlands was minor. Thirty papers, radio stations and Web sites in Jordan started a campaign to boycott Dutch goods. The government of Afghanistan called for a worldwide prohibition of Fitna. Mahathir Mohammed, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, appealed to the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world to boycott Dutch products. Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said that Western countries should forbid such insulting movies by law - even though the Egyptian media regularly broadcasts far worse anti-Semitic material. These reactions from the Muslim world reveal once again that the dangers facing Western society there emanate from sources beyond terrorists and adherents of radical Islam. Jews were drawn into the debate in many ways. In various Arab attacks Wilders was called a Zionist. The government-inspired attempts at appeasement and social peace put the Dutch Jewish community in a difficult position. It came out with a statement condemning Wilders but remained silent about the trouble caused to the Jews by some Dutch Muslims. In recent years about 40 percent of anti-Jewish violence in The Netherlands has been by Moroccan Muslims, who represent two percent of the Dutch population. This was not the time to call for a long-needed study on anti-Semitism among Muslims in the Netherlands. The probable findings of such an investigation would be most unwelcome in the societal climate the Dutch government is trying to create. A poll found that only 25 percent of the Dutch population thought the Wilders movie should not have been shown, while 20 percent was in favor and most of the remained neutral. In any case, the violent segments of Islam will see to it that that issue remains on the Dutch agenda. The writer is the author of 12 books, including several which deal with European-Israeli relations.