Der Spiegel reports.
It is little more than a makeshift collage, but it contains a horror show of images meant to distort Islam. Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders has launched his long-awaited video screed criticizing the Koran. Criticism is mounting.
And rightly so. The video, a highly offensive sack of bile, opens with a passage from the Quran (the Muslim bible) immediately followed by footage of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America. The exercise in deception and outright anti-Muslim bigotry deteriorates from there.
The film begins with an image that every Muslim in the world and many others are likely to recognize immediately: the controversial caricature of Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban. The publication of this and similar drawings in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 triggered unrest in the Arab world.
The cartoonist who drew the caricature, Kurt Westergaard, himself the target of planned attacks recently, promptly protested against its use in the Wilders video. “The drawing was created in a certain context,” Westergaard said, adding that Wilders could “simply not use it. This is not a question of free speech, but of copyrights.” Westergaard told the paper that he wants the Danish association of journalists to take action against the copyright violation.
Wilders has animated the bomb fuse on Mohammad’s head, allowing it to burn up. Then the image is faded out and followed by a sura from the Koran calling Muslims to fight the infidels. The airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 appear through the lettering, followed by images of people jumping from the burning towers, screaming desperately.
The film continues in this suggestive mode: with images of the Madrid train bombings, of imams calling for global dominance, with a video showing the beheading of a Western hostage and with statistics on the rapidly growing number of Muslims living in the Netherlands.
The anti-Islam video was eventually pulled from LiveLeak.com, after the site was flooded with criticism ranging from mere declarations of offense to what the administrators describe as threats. Given their willingness to post Wilders’ propaganda, their claims of being threatened are debatable.
The level of support gained from right-wing extremists, however, may be more appalling than the propaganda film itself. (One troll posted a link at my own discussion forum, hoping to offend as many viewers as possible before I shut him down.)
Der Spiegel was not kind in its own assessment of the propaganda film:
Fitna seems like an anticlimax. It goes no further than making suggestive comments: the suggestion that the Koran is the source of all the violence in the world; the suggestion that Islam is a threat to everyone’s freedom, like Hitler and Stalin. But in Fitna, the Koran is not destroyed and the bomb in the prophet’s turban, drawn by the Danish cartoonist, doesn’t quite explode.
Has Wilders been successful in giving an example of his political and artistic skills with Fitna? Certainly not when it comes to his artistic capacity. Wilders doesn’t have enough creative talent and is sloppy in his approach.
This might still prove a problem and he will probably have to explain himself before the courts. For example he used material from the Danish cartoonist without asking permission and wrongly said a photograph of a rapper was the murderer of film-maker Theo van Gogh. And he has dragged others along with him – proof of a stunning lack of responsibility. The Dutch public prosecution department is also looking into whether Fitna incites hatred in the legal sense.
According to the review, Wilders’ goal may have had less to do with proving anything than in trying to gain attention by way of censorship — creating a backlash of criticism he hopes to manipulate so as to “prove” a point about the supposed intolerance of his critics.
Both left and right-wing politicians have dismissed the film as old hat. They saw ‘nothing new’ in the footage. But such comments show a misunderstanding of Wilders’ political goal. He doesn’t want to bring new insights or promote dialogue. Fitna is just a weapon in his propaganda war. His politics stand or fall with the concept of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. In this sense Wilders hasn’t done himself or the citizens of the Netherlands a service. And that too must be said in public.
If this vile display of bigotry fails to garner the critical backlash Wilders hopes it will, that is a victory for decent folk everywhere.