The “Fitna” Controversy

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islam1.jpgFitna is an Arabic word used to ‘describe all things that can test the faith and is sometimes synonymous to evil’. By the same name, there is a film by Dutch politician (considered to be a right wing politician) Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) of the Dutch parliament.

Most of us have not watched the movie, but it has been reported that the movie contains content that can lead to some serious trouble in the coming days. Fitna is basically a short movie of seventeen minutes. The first ten minutes of the movie compiles video fragments of terror strikes in US, Madrid and London. This is interspersed with translations of verses from the Quran and recordings of Islamic leaders calling for violence against non-believers.

The final segment of the film, according to The Hindustan Times (dated 30/03/08) report, deals with ‘Netherlands under the spell of Islam’ showing the rise in the numbers of Muslims in the country in recent years and brutal visuals of beheadings and executions in the Middle East region. Towards the end, the Quran fills the screen and a hand tries to rip off a page. Then following text rolls on the screen: “The sound you heard was a page being removed from the phone book. For it is not up to me, but to Muslims themselves to tear out the hateful verses from the Quran.”“Muslims want you to make way for Islam, but Islam does not make way for you… Islam wants to rule seek, submit and destroy Western civilisation….” Wilders, in an interview, told reporters that he made the film because “Islam and the Quran are dangers to the preservation of freedom in the Netherlands.” He argues in the film that Islam’s objective is to rule the world and impose an Islamic order without Western freedoms, where gays would be persecuted and women discriminated against.Though the umbrella group for Dutch Muslims said that the film does not insult their religion, there is growing controversy in the rest of the world. Wilders and some of Western media say that the world should tolerate the freedom of expression and that there are other ways to register protests instead of becoming violent. It is important to emphasise that even in the Netherlands, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute. Its boundaries are set by a ban on discriminating against others on the basis of race or faith and on incitement of violence. But, it is up to the courts, and not to the government, to determine whether a film breaks the law. Hopefully, rational sense will prevail and the court will take appropriate action. Meanwhile, the screening of film has been banned and is not available on the Internet.This recent controversy has just divided the world regarding Islam. If you are avid blogger, you will find that most of the blogs support the movie and believe that what ever is been shown is based on truth. On the other hand, the people who don’t agree with the movie say that it is just the Western propaganda against Islam. There are also reports that Netherlands is on alert following the growing controversy. One thing is for sure that if the issue is politicised and both the sides do not exercise restraint, we may see a backlash.I always believe that religion is a very touchy issue and arouses feeling very easily. Whenever, there has been a movie depicting religious sentiments, it has become controversial. You can consider Sins, Da Vinci Code and now Fitna. We had similar opposition to ‘Parzania’, ‘Chaand Bujh Gaya’, etc. Religion is a very personal issue and religious statements should not be expressed in public in the name of ‘freedom of expression’.The Muslims across the world are more vulnerable after the rise of terrorism, but we just cannot generalise the terrorism to Islam. There are some clear biases in the West against Islam and this is not abating the tension between them. The top Muslim scholars all around the world should work to change the outlook of people from different communities towards Islam. They have power to touch the million of hearts and thus should de-legitimise terrorism. I also expect that the common Muslim community would distance itself from extremism because the statement made by the movie is totally political. The world needs to understand that problems are not solved through violence. We all need to join hands and reduce the tension and clear some misunderstandings. A dialogue is the best way. I totally support the attitude of Dutch Muslims and the words of organisation’s chairman Mohammad Rabbae: “When the film is released, we should conduct ourselves with dignity. If we get angry or even turn to violence, we will be doing exactly what Wilders wants us to do.”

Rishabh Srivastava

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