The Fitna Firestorm
The equation of Islam with violence doesn't come from Dutch politician Geert Wilders; it comes from the words and actions of Muslims he features in his controversial film.
March 31, 2008 - 12:55 am
Fitna in Arabic means discord or upheaval; it is also the name of a new sixteen-minute film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders that appeared last Thursday, and has done nothing since then but … create fitna. The expected riots and violence did not materialize: in Karachi, a quixotic band of just over three dozen jihadists chanted “Death to the filmmaker,” but so far that has been about it on the street level.
Protests have instead been official. Iran and Pakistan lodged formal complaints — Iran with the European Union and Pakistan with the Dutch Ambassador to Islamabad — and as of this writing the anger is only growing. Other Islamic states and organizations also expressed outrage over the film. The multinational Islamic body and largest single voting bloc at the UN, the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, condemned Fitna in “the strongest terms,” claiming that Wilders’s movie was “a deliberate act of discrimination against Muslims” intended only to “provoke unrest and intolerance.”
However, equal and even greater indignation came from non-Muslim leaders, particularly at the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dubbed the film “offensively anti-Islamic” and declared: “There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here.” Or maybe it is: the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urged those angered by the film to work to limit free speech rights. “There is a protective legal framework,” she noted, “and the resolution of the controversy that this film will generate should take place within it.” She said that legislators “should offer strong protective measures to all forms of freedom of expression, while at the same time enacting appropriate restrictions, as necessary, to protect the rights of others.”
With somewhat woolly logic, Jorge Sampaio, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, urged the world not to overemphasize extremism, for to do so would only create extremism: “We should indeed beware of overemphasizing it, because extremism anywhere is extremism everywhere, thanks to new media technologies. Few people think of themselves as extremists, but many can be pushed towards an extreme point of view, almost without noticing it, when they feel that the behavior or language of others is extreme. We therefore deeply regret this offensive film.”
So in other words, don’t point out the evil that the “extremists” are committing, or they’ll just do more of it.
The core objection to the film was that it linked Islam with violence. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende, declared that this was a false linkage: “We reject this interpretation. The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence. In fact, the victims are often also Muslims.”
But is Geert Wilders the one really responsible for the connection of Islam with violence? An answer can be found in the film itself. The main part of it features a series of quotations from the Qur’an, followed by scenes of violent acts committed by Muslims. But the key question is whether or not the violent acts really have anything to do with the Qur’an quotes. Most of Wilders’s detractors would say that they do not, but Wilders has already accounted for this objection in the film itself. For example, the first verse of the Qur’an presented in Fitna is 8:60: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemies…” Wilders follows this with heart-rending scenes from 9/11 and the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings, as we hear two women calling for help on those days. The women are indeed terrified, but what does this have to do with Qur’an 8:60? An Islamic preacher — not Wilders or any other non-Muslim — soon appears to answer this question, stating in terms that clearly recall that verse of the Qur’an: “Annihilate the infidels and the polytheists, your (Allah’s) enemies and the enemies of the religion. Allah, count them and kill them to the last one…”
Fitna then quotes Qur’an 4:56 — “Those who reject our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise” — and follows this with a series of scenes of Muslim preachers calling for the killing of Jews. The first of these even quotes the notorious genocidal hadith in which Muhammad says: “The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.”
But the film makes no mention of the presence of this in authoritative Islamic sources, albeit not in the Qur’an itself. Nor, when it cuts to a three-year-old girl telling a television interviewer that the Jews are “apes and pigs” because Allah said so in the Qur’an, it doesn’t provide the references (2:62-65; 5:59-60: 7:166). And while the Qur’an is full of fiercely antisemitic passages (2:89; 3:112; 9:30; and many more), 4:56 is not one of them, but is merely a general warning of the hellfire that awaits those who reject Islam.
However, what Wilders may have had in mind comes clear from depictions of two Muslim protestors, one holding a sign saying, “Be prepared for the real Holocaust,” and another carrying one reading, “God Bless Hitler.” Maybe the reference in Qur’an 4:56 to the roasting of skins led Wilders to connect this verse to this thirst for a new Holocaust — and here again, while Islamic leaders don’t invoke 4:56 to justify this bloodlust, they do quote other Islamic texts that most Muslims consider authoritative. And so here again, the equation of Islam with violence doesn’t come from Wilders himself, but from the Muslims he features in the film.
After this comes Qur’an 47:4: “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them).” Wilders follows this with images of two unbelievers whose necks were struck by the warriors of jihad: Theo van Gogh and Nick Berg. The statements of the perpetrators make it clear that they believed themselves to be acting in accord with Islamic imperatives. Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of van Gogh, clutched a Qur’an as he told a Dutch court in 2005: “What moved me to do what I did was purely my faith. I was motivated by the law that commands me to cut off the head of anyone who insults Allah and his prophet.” And the late jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi invoked Muhammad’s example to justify the beheading of Berg: “Is it not time for you [Muslims] to take the path of jihad and carry the sword of the Prophet of prophets?…The Prophet, the most merciful, ordered [his army] to strike the necks of some prisoners in [the battle of] Badr and to kill them. … And he set a good example for us.”
Here again, the Islamic justification for these acts of barbarism comes not from Wilders, but from Muslims.
Next comes Qur’an 4:89: “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.” Wilders again illustrates this with Muslims calling for the deaths of those who leave Islam. One would think also that the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Muslim who was put on trial for his life in 2006 for converting to Christianity before being spirited away to safety in Italy, would be enough to demonstrate that many Muslims take the traditional Islamic death penalty for apostasy seriously — and that it was not invented by Geert Wilders.
Finally, there is Qur’an 8:39: “And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere…” — and a series of Islamic preachers and other Muslims (including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) asserting that Islam will soon conquer the West and rule the entire world. No non-Muslims are shown saying this.
And that points up the odd myopia of virtually all of the objections to Fitna. It was not Geert Wilders, but the many Muslims he shows in his film, who link Islam with violence. And that link has already been made innumerable times around the world — by Islamic jihad warriors, not by non-Muslim “Islamophobes.” Omar Bakri, once the leading jihadist in Britain but now in exile from the Sceptered Isle, even went so far as to say that with a few small edits, Fitna “could be a film by the Mujahideen.” And that’s precisely the problem: while a growing chorus of Muslim and non-Muslim voices denounces Fitna, what are they doing to limit the activities of the jihadists the film portrays?
The film first appeared at LiveLeak.com on Thursday; however, the next day LiveLeak pulled it, replacing it with an announcement:
Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers.
This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one.
Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one anothers culture.
We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high.
“In the end the price was too high” could be the epitaph of the Free West — particularly given the fact that Wilders in the film is merely reporting on how jihadist commit and justify acts of violence and supremacism.
LiveLeak’s concern for its employees is legitimate. The employees didn’t sign up for this. But beyond LiveLeak, if Americans and Westerners and all people who are threatened by the global jihad and Islamic supremacism aren’t willing to give their lives for this cause, then all is lost. Because the jihadists certainly are willing to give their lives for their cause. For them, no price is too high. And if any price is too high for us, then ultimately all we will have to pay is jizya — the tax specified by Qur’an 9:29 for certain non-Muslims (particularly Jews and Christians) subjugated as inferiors under the rule of Islamic Sharia law.
What ever happened to “Give me liberty, or give me death?”
Or “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”?
LiveLeak may have caved, but many others didn’t. Fitna is now all over the Internet. You can still watch it at, among many other places, my website Jihad Watch. Freedom and truth may be tottering, but they have not fallen, and the battle over Fitna may well wake up many more to fight in their defense.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.