Can a film save a country? Geert Wilders is betting that it can.
The courageous politician, a member of the Dutch Freedom Party, is currently locked in a battle against the jihadists who would overwhelm and Islamize his homeland. But as he stands in combat against the enemies of Holland's liberal, democratic society, a fifteen-minute film that no one has yet seen is one of his few weapons.
Scheduled for release before the end of March, the film is still a mystery. But one thing is certain: it will be explosive. Of the film, titled Fitna'(Chaos), Wilders has said that it would portray “the intolerant and fascistic character of the Koran.” In an article in a Dutch newspaper, he explained that the fifteen-minute-long production would have a split screen that would show such things as a decapitation and a stoning on one side, while verses and sura from the Koran are read on the other. Wilders also wants the Koran banned, like Hitler's Mein Kampf, from his country. It is, he believes, a book of violence.
Not unexpectedly, Wilders's film has Europe's timid governments, especially that of the Netherlands, wringing their hands with worry and veering toward outright panic. NATO is concerned about attacks against its troops in Afghanistan, especially against Dutch troops serving there, and the Netherlands itself fears a terrorist attack at home or against its interests and nationals overseas. Home to some one million Muslims, the Netheerlands has been put on its second-highest security alert level in anticipation of the film.
Even prior to its release, Wilders's film has proved poignant. The biggest effect Wilders' film project has had so far is that it has shown how deeply the Netherlands, and the rest of Europe, has already sunk into cowardice. For instance, the Dutch government, afraid of a violent Muslim backlash rivaling or surpassing what Denmark experienced after the Mohammed cartoons were published in 2006, has twice asked Wilders not to show the film. To be sure, their fears are not unfounded: Some Muslim countries have threatened an economic boycott should Wilders‘s film be released.
Dutch politicians also fear a repeat of the civil violence that took place in Holland itself after film director Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim fanatic in 2004 for his short film showing the oppression of women in Islam. Van Gogh's gruesome death, some believe, was tantamount to a declaration of jihad against Dutch, and European, society. In the hopes of placating Islamic wrath, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has chosen capitulation. According to a story in the German publication Der Spiegel, he has met with Iran's foreign minister, who advised him to use an article from the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights to prevent the film's showing.
As the story correctly pointed out, Balkenende saw nothing base about accepting human- rights advice from a country where women are stoned and homosexuals are hanged. For Holland's political leader, respect for human rights appears to end at the Dutch borders.
Even worse, Balkenende saw nothing wrong with allowing a foreign country to interfere in the Netherlands's internal affairs. Balkenende's foreign minister has also met with 35 representatives from Muslim countries, including ambassadors, about the film.
Another major Middle Eastern human rights abuser, Syria, also got into the act when its Grand Mufti appeared before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, saying Wilders would be responsible if there were any "disturbances, spilling of blood and acts of violence" after the film's debut. Incredibly, no delegate of this legislative body that is supposed to represent enlightened, human rights-oriented Europe stood up and forcefully contradicted him.
Besides showing what a craven wreck the European political class has become, Wilders is attempting to stand up to the Mufti and the Islamist movement slowly sweeping Europe. While Muslim radicals have been using the West's tolerance to promote their intolerance, the Dutch stalwart has adopted the strategy of using the same rights and freedoms the West offers to show how great this Muslim intolerance really is and what a severe danger it poses to Western civilization's existence.
Most important, Wilders also intends to reveal though his film the most disturbing, and perhaps dangerous, part of this intolerance -- namely, the high capacity for violence present in the Muslim world, which is now being transplanted within the West's own borders. In turn, this belated revelation would hopefully cause European countries to rethink further, large-scale immigration from a part of the world that is so inimical to its values and crack down on the existing danger within.
Some in Europe have accused the Dutch politician of being a provocateur, of deliberately provoking the Muslim umma to violence. But this characterization distorts what is in fact a serious purpose. What Wilders wants to reveal, above all, is that the violence is already an innate part of the umma. Besides Muslim intolerance, the Dutchman is also standing up to the moral feebleness of some of his own countrymen, whom he has called "cowards." Every television network in Holland has refused to run his film, leaving only the Internet, where Fitna will probably be posted on YouTube.
Moreover, in response to Prime Minister Balkenende's fainthearted warning that, in case of a terrorist attack, he would be held partially responsible, Wilders defiantly replied: "The Cabinet may go down on its knees before Islam and capitulate, but I will never do that. The film will be released." The Freedom party leader has also called Balkenende "a timid man who has chosen the side of the Taliban."
In an unprecedented speech to the Dutch parliament this month, Wilders again pointed to the danger a creeping Islamification poses to Holland and Europe, warning it was "a few minutes to midnight." He also chided the ruling party for betraying the Dutch culture and people, calling one minister "stark raving mad" in the speech for having said that sharia law could be introduced into Holland.
Wilders has paid a heavy price for his position. He has had his own freedom restricted. Death threats from Muslim extremists have caused him to be put under 24-hour police protection for the past two years. Wilders thus joins the growing list of people in Europe requiring protection from Islamic radicals. At one time, it was only Salman Rushdie who was forced to live in hiding; now, as one observer pointed out, such people are so numerous they nearly constitute a new, social class.
Most citizens of the Netherlands have forgotten, but the Dutch were once made of sterner stuff. In 1816, Europe was not yet afraid to show enemies her pride and strength. Under British Admiral Edward Pellew and Dutch Admiral Theodorus van Capellen, a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet had arrived at the main base of the Barbary Coast pirates in North Africa at the behest of Europe to put an end to three centuries of brutal, Muslim slave raiding against its shores and shipping. Over that time, an estimated million Europeans, and some Americans, had become the desolate and dishonored victims of Islamic slavery.
After an hours-long battle before Algiers, van Capellen's squadron helped defeat the Muslim defenses and rescue three thousand Christian slaves. Two thousand of the defenders' bodies were counted strewn across the harbor along with the wreckage of their pirate ships. Dutch losses totaled thirteen dead and the English about one hundred.
Europe is now light years away from such a resolute response to the threat of radical Islam. And that makes Wilders’ film -- a lone note of dissent in a continent resigned to cultural submission -- all the more important.