In a broadcast by the Dutch Islamic Broadcasting organization (NIO) on March 30th we saw reactions to ‘Fitna' from Egypt, one of them from a preacher. Apart from the usual talk about respect and causing offence he was also outraged about the title of the film. He wondered whether the ‘director' realized what fitna meant.
The words of the director in Dutch newspaper Het Parool clearly showed that Geert Wilders does indeed know. Every Muslim knows the Arabic word fitna, says the leader of the Party fort Freedom (PVV). "It refers to situations in which the faith of the Muslims is put to the test. Everything that tests their faith is fitna: uncovered women, alcohol, non-Muslims, resistance against the authority of Islam. I use the term as a mirror image: to me the pernicious Islam is fitna." Wilders was very pleased with his find "I was set on using a word from the Koran."
The title is well-chosen for more than one reason. Fitna is a fascinating word. On the individual level it means ‘temptation' and ‘testing of the faith'. Remarkably the temptation that emanates from women is also indicated as fitna. In addition the term is associated with unrest, civil war, and chaos. In classical-Islamic history there have been three great fitnas.
Between 656 and 661, following the assassination of the third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan, a power struggle erupted in which Muslims for the first time took up arms against each other. The second fitna occurred between 683 and 685. This time it was also a political battle between the dynasties of the Ummayads and the Abbassids for control of the Islamic empire. The third fitna refers to the battle between army commanders and rulers during the final period of Islamic rule in Cordoba.