The Netherlands is in turmoil: far-right MP Geert Wilders has made a movie about Islam entitled “Forbidden,” which will be aired this week, either on television or on the Internet.
Talk about pre-release publicity: Wilders is promising that the movie will include the Koran being desecrated, possibly burned and torn apart in order to show that Islam is a “source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror[ism].”
He told Fox News that the movie will include “images and parts of real-time movies that really happen in the Netherlands and the U.K. and the Middle East, the intolerance of the Koran that is still alive and vivid today.”
If his point wasn’t strong enough, he added that “I believe our culture is much better than the retarded Islamic cultures” and warned that “The tsunami of Islamicization is coming to Europe.”
The Dutch government, led by Christian Democrats and Laborites, fears massive rioting and other disturbances when the film is made public. Already Muslim fundamentalists have started a campaign to prevent it from being aired. Young members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have spread pamphlets in several major cities in which they demand that people stop ‘insulting‘ Islam.
The Dutch Muslim Council has warned the government: if the movie is broadcasted anywhere, riots are certain. “We fear for the worst,” stated the council. “The youths on the streets will have the last word. We can’t stop them”
The youth organization El Tawheed sent an open letter to the Dutch Parliament asking it to silence Wilder as strongly as possible. This particular organization ironically uses democratic freedom as an argument against the film.
In the letter, the organization contended that it’s better to “censor the movie in a democracy like the Netherlands, where the freedom of religion is a constitutional right” because the only aim of the film is to make Islam and the Koran look as bad as possible.
These individuals and groups, of course, conveniently overlook the fact that freedom of speech is a constitutional right as well – and that the freedom of religion doesn’t mean that someone can’t criticize your faith.
Freedom of religion means that you are free to believe what you want to believe, but the freedom of speech means that someone else is, then, free to criticize your religion.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, no stranger to criticism of Islam herself, argues that Wilders should not air a movie whose sole and exclusive aim is to provoke and to insult – and she is right.
And yet, the response of the government has been troubling. They appear to have made insufficient effort behind the scenes to try to reason with Wilders – without opposing his freedom of speech and his right to say what he feels about Islam.
Unfortunately, however, the Dutch government has chosen to go public. They’re doing everything in their power to publicly prevent Wilders from airing or in other ways sharing his inflammatory opinions regarding Islam.
The Dutch Justice Ministry has already threatened to possibly prosecute Wilders for what he has said about the Koran, Islam and Muslim culture in the past (he compared it to “Mein Kampf” adding that it should be outlawed).
The government has also tried to stop Wilders by warning him. In a private meeting with Wilders Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, the official “made him aware of the risks for himself, his family and friends and for Dutch people in foreign countries.” The Prime Minister himself weighed in by saying that the controversy has already given Dutch Ministers and him “a headache.” “We have seen other crises but this is a substantial one,” PM Jan-Peter Balkenende told Dutch public television.
The situation has become so tense – and Wilders appears to be so determined to broadcast his anti-Islam movie – that the Dutch government has instructed its embassies in Muslim countries to prepare for riots and for quick evacuations of Dutch people living in those countries. Mayors of Dutch cities, meanwhile, have been told that they must prepare for riots and mass demonstrations.
Private companies have joined the cry to stop Wilders as well, fearing that his movie will cost them tremendously.
In short, the Netherlands is now on high alert: getting ready to deal with small scale civil war here and with massive riots in muslim countries.
And so, the clash between values (liberal values on the one hand, Islamic values on the other) continues. We will see what the results of this clash will be. As Westerners we can only hope that the more people ‘insult’ Islam, the more tolerant Muslims will become.
Perhaps Muslims must, quite simply, get used to the idea that people are free to say what they want about religion – including theirs. To accomplish that, however, Western governments must respond calmly and convincingly to cartoons, books and movies that criticize Islam. It means that they should try to make it as clear as possible that they stand by their citizens to express themselves as they see fit and that Muslims can get angry if they so desire, but that this won’t accomplish anything.
The Netherlands, like so many European countries, stands at a crossroads. Do we care more about liberal values or keeping an uncomfortable peace?
Buckle up ladies and gents, the next few weeks promise to be a bumpy ride.