‘Fitna’ in the West

By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

Fitna meaning mischief in Arabic is the name of Dutch right-wing MP Geert Wilders’ 15-minute film on the Qur’an which is already inducing paroxysms of rage before actually it is screened. It was first announced as coming by the end of February, but did not appear. Right minded people both politicians, social activists and even UNO officials have warned him not to widen the gap between the West and the Islamic world but Geert Wilders is still insisting to air his "Fitna" before the end of March, in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. He is in preparation for its showing in all other European countries.

The movie depicts the glorious Qur’an as source and inspiration for terrorism, and blames Prophet Muhammad (saws) for preaching evil. As reported by Arab media a poll conducted by the TNS firm and NABO for RTL shows that 54 per cent of the Dutch believe that the film should be aired, to demonstrate the ‘western freedom of expression’ despite the fact that 76 per cent expect that it would increase tension between Muslims and non-Muslims and 74 per cent fear that it would harm Europe’s relation with Arab and Muslim states.

Reportedly most Dutch public and commercial television channels, so far, have declined to show the film in question. The producer Wilders asserted that in the event of continued refusal of television channels to air, he will present it through a special press conference to be held at the International Press Centre News Port, in Hague. Wilders also wished to launch the film on the Internet via Youtube and through a particular web site already created under an URL on the film’s title. If you go to the web site now, all you will see a dark background, a picture of the Qur’an and the words “Geert Wilders Presents: FITNA — Coming soon.” Expectedly, the language of the film will be both English and Dutch.

According to another report in Al Arab Online, in a dangerous escalation, right-wing parties in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, France, Belgium, have called the Muslims who reject the dictation of their ‘freedom of expression’ to leave Europe immediately, and called on governments to cancel the granting of citizenship to all those disobey their style of freedom. These parties represented in the European parliament announced their rejection of what they called the settling of Islam in the West, and the expulsion of Muslims who refuse to integrate ‘entirely’ into western life style.

Like the abusive Danish cartoons, depicting the Prophet of Islam, and the film The Da Vinci Code, portraying Jesus Christ in a bad colour, ‘Fitna The Movie’ will no doubt once more plunge the entire world into another heated debate over the so-called free speech.

People especially those living in 57 Muslims countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, are eager to know what their fellow humans in the West precisely mean when they talk about freedom of expression? Are those who claim to be fighting for freedom of speech – whenever something or other anti-Muslim is involved, be eager to defend the publication or broadcasting of something radical and anti-biblical like, say, a sexually explicit comic strip involving the Virgin Mary or showing for example, Jesus Christ (PBUH) having a sexually explicit gay liaison with one of his apostles in any country in the world?

The world has seen and should remember both political and public reactions of the West when Iranian president Mamood Ahmadi Najad let his freedom of speech strike others and described the Holocaust as "a myth" in December 2005. And very recently, February 2008, all hell broke loose on Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury when he merely positively described the phrase "Shariah" during a speech in London. His only argument was that, ‘subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic Shariah and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce issues of their respective followers’. From politicians across Europe to senior church figures and the stalwart activists of freedom of speech in the West, all were hell bent asking for the leader of the world’s second largest Christian denomination to issue a retraction or even to resign as archbishop of Canterbury for his use of term ‘Shariah’ and not Orthodox Jewish!

It is messy, what kind of freedom or for that matter what kind of religious tolerance some in the West are trying to teach to those in the East. Speech can never be free and unchecked. Abuse is also a speech but will one fake a smile if other unfairly abuses him to let him enjoy his ‘freedom’. Your freedom must not harm my freedom and this is the only simple cure to end an endless debate about limits of freedom of expressions.

-M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is editor of Eastern Crescent, a Deoband alumnus and director of Mumbai based Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. He can be contacted at manager@markazulmaarif.org)

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