After months of hype and hang-wringing, Fitna, a controversial short film by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, was finally made public on March 27. The movie, whose title translates as "strife" or "upheaval," aims to demonstrate that Islamic terrorists act in harmony with Koranic injunctions.
To this end, Fitna presents verses from the Koran, followed by footage of the hate-filled sermons and violent attacks they have inspired. After warning of Islamism on European soil, it closes by urging Muslims to "tear out" hostile passages from their scripture.
Just as Fitna offers few surprises, the condemnations emanating from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations, and Western governments have been equally predictable. Even Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has criticized his Dutch colleague for depicting Islam as inherently bellicose: "We reject this interpretation. The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence."
More noteworthy reflections come from human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In addition to hammering Balkendende's government for its failure to defend free speech, she argues that the cabinet does not truly respect "the vast majority of Muslims":
It considers Muslims as half-savage beasts … who will jump over the fence of reason at the slightest provocation and who in a collective frenzy disrupt the public peace.
They can only be kept in check by not engaging them as mature reasonable adults, by not contradicting them, not presenting them with difficult questions about their religion … all the while creating myriad emergency response plans through full crisis scenarios. … This attitude is called "respect" towards Muslims. I wonder what Muslims think of being regarded in this way.
Who actually insults Muslims here? The democratically elected MP who engages them by presenting them with painful, but highly relevant questions about their religion, or the Dutch cabinet that is suspicious of them while confessing to being respectful of their religion?
Indeed, the lengths to which some Westerners go to avoid offending Muslims border on comedy. When a British school preemptively renamed The Three Little Pigs last year, one Islamic leader echoed her concerns: "Every time we get these stories, Muslims are seen more and more as misfits."
Hirsi Ali contends that self-censorship is counterproductive. By treating all Muslims as monsters, we make it more — not less — likely they will act as such.