Being open to controversy and to changing your mind…

‘Fitna’ is a 2008 short film exploring the idea of the Islamification of the world, Europe and specifically The Netherlands. The film contends that The Koran incites Muslims to hate and kill unbelievers, that global dominance and control is the ultimate goal of the Muslim community. It also considers that Islamic extremism is a misnomer in that Islam itself is an extreme religion. It juxtaposes selected excerpts from suras (chapters) of The Koran with images and footage of Islamic terror from around the globe. The film has been highly controversial and has sparked outrage and protest in the Muslim community. Al-Qaeda called for the death of its writer, Geert Wilders – a Dutch parliamentarian and founder and leader of The Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid), the fourth largest political party in The Netherlands.
I think this is an important film because it is controversial. It has inspired me to think more deeply about my prejudices and my ignorance and the wider realities affecting people who move in very different circles to me. Islam has become an increasingly controversial religion in recent years and this film links with Tabish Khair’s novel ‘How to Fight Islamist Terror From the Missionary Position’. Khair’s characters live in a web of suspicion and pre-emptive judgement and, as one critic pointed out, the book reads you in uncovering this shared tendency. To a certain extent this film read me back to myself the more I considered it. I was actually very convinced by the arguments in ‘Fitna’ for some time, but with closer critical and conversational analysis I unveiled my own ignorance of The Koran and Islam itself. The combination of ignorance and arrogance is a dangerous one but the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh in The Netherlands must be considered when trying to understand the motivations of Wilders.
What this film doesn’t address is the hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world who live peaceful lives. It assumes that some fanatical elements equals many and doesn’t consider interpretative readings of The Koran. The Koran was written in the 7th century when war was being waged and so the incitations to violence against the infidels should perhaps be read in light of this. Whether or not the assertions of Wilder are true, that Islam is essentially a murderous ideology, the persecution of a people is an absurd response, and persecution seems to be what Wilders is calling for. He has said that he doesn’t hate Muslims, he hates Islam. Perhaps in his mind Islam is an unfortunate aspect of being a Muslim, but how he differentiates the two is not addressed.
The films relates to this module because it explores ideas of injustice, specifically female genital mutilation, the denunciation of liberalism and democracy, the subjugation of women, the execution of homosexuals, honour killings and anti-semitism. These issues came up in some of the books we read and our thinking about the idea of justice and how we are to tackle such issues from a theoretical perspective? Yet we condemning these issues should not mean condemning all muslims or Islam.
Questions of planetary co-existence, social justice and harmony are at the forefront of my mind as I write this blog entry. Answers are much slower to come.

Shane Sexton

Watch ‘Fitna’ here:

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