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Fitna Is an Embarrassment for the Dutch Cabinet By: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
AEI.org | Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The central thesis of Fitna is: the Koran commands Muslims to spread their faith throughout the entire world, by means of jihad and indoctrination. To show that some Muslims take these edicts literally, viewers are shown images of terror attacks in New York and Madrid. In the movie, you hear excerpts of sermons filled with hatred and Muslim crowds that cheer on the preachers.

In one scene, a girl of three is taught by rote that the Koran reveals that Jews are pigs and monkeys. At the end of the movie, suddenly one hears the sound of a page being ripped from a book followed by a message that this is a page from a telephone book, not the Qur'an, and that it is up to Muslims to deal with the intolerance in their Holy Book.

Fitna is polite, but Fitna is a severe embarrassment for the Dutch cabinet. First, because almost all of the publicity for the movie originated from the cabinet. If, last year, the prime minister had given a reaction along the lines of: "we cannot respond to a movie that has not yet been shown and until such a time a cabinet position will not be provided," there would have been no worldwide, festering controversy.


A second reason for which the cabinet is suffering a severe loss of face is that it has shown that freedom of speech is not safe in its hands. By acting as if it was a worthwhile endeavor to investigate whether the movie should be banned (either before or after its release), the cabinet improperly reversed its constitutional position with regard to the Second Chamber of Parliament.

In the Netherlands, the cabinet governs, and Parliament controls the cabinet. In relation to MP Wilders, however, the cabinet has improperly set itself up as the controller. The Dutch cabinet has actively sought to silence an elected member of parliament. That the parliamentary opposition did not intervene against this appalling attempt at censorship, is more distressing than any possible movie about Islam could be. Fitna laid bare just what a distrustful image this Social-Christian cabinet has of Muslims. It considers Muslims as half-savage beasts, [a bit like Bokito, Holland's most famous gorilla] 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, by talking positively about it; all the while creating myriad emergency response plans through full crisis scenarios, because a film happens to be made about their holy book. It is just as in the case of Bokito the gorilla, who was put behind high bars in a zoo but was feverishly petted. This attitude is called "respect", towards Muslims. I wonder what Muslims think of being regarded in this way?

Hypocritical Respect

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?

Mr. Wilders promised to start a nationwide campaign of debate with Muslims after launching his film. That is more respectful towards Muslims than all the predictions of catastrophe over their heads. Of the Dutch Muslim it can be assumed that he is reasonable. He lives in a free country, where he can choose whether or not to read, listen or view texts, sounds and images that are displeasing or distressing to him.

The fact that there are individuals in the Netherlands such as Mohammed Bouyeri who reach for the dagger, does not mean that all Muslims in the Netherlands do this as a matter of course. The cabinet may not prematurely confuse the 6 percent of Muslims, who are characterized as dangerous, with the other 94 percent.

Rather, the cabinet should put to Muslims the words that deputy minister Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Muslim, enunciated clearly in the television program Pauw & Witteman: "Muslims must think about the fear generated by their religion. The majority [of Muslims] remains silent and that is not good. We have chosen for the Netherlands, precisely because of the freedom here. This has to be said. I miss the [Muslim] voice that distances itself from extremism." This is the fitting reaction to the core question of Fitna.


The official declaration of the cabinet, that the movie Fitna makes no contribution whatsoever to the social debate, is therefore factually inaccurate. Fitna has already proven its value. And the value goes beyond the wise words of Aboutaleb; other Islamic groups in the Netherlands are already busy with the creation of a counter-movie. A counter-movie, not blood baths! Words versus words, images versus images. Provocation, therefore, works to initiate a real dialogue.

Six years ago Aboutaleb found that asking critical questions about Islam was tantamount to "pissing in one's own nest." And now he is the only in this cabinet who responded sensibly. Without asking provocative questions, we would never have reached this point.

The official reaction of the Dutch cabinet to Fitna is a confession of weakness. It is bizarre that the prime minister says "just wait, very bad things will happen." It almost seems as if he hopes this will happen, in order for him to save face. It is just as bizarre as people who now say that they are disappointed. To them the question: what were they actually hoping for?

Let us hope, in any case, that the entire cabinet will put itself behind the elegant point of view of deputy minister Ahmed Aboutaleb.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a research fellow at the Washington think tank American Enterprise Institute.

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