The Canadian journalist Harry Antonides has written the following story on Geert Wilders.
Geert Wilders: Provocateur or Truth Teller
By Harry Antonides
…free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. (Peter Hoekstra, WSJ, March 26, 2008)
Geert Wilders has become famous, or infamous depending on your perspective, for using blunt language in warning that radical Islamists are bent on re-making Holland into a sharia-friendly country. In late March this issue came to a head when this Dutch parliamentarian decided to broadcast a 15-minite film, Fitna, in which he warns against the threat of a jihadist invasion of the free West.
Why is this stubborn Dutchman refusing to buckle under to the prevailing opinions among his peers? He certainly has not chosen the easy way. In fact, he has been subjected to an outbreak of threats and character assassination that has caused himself and his family a great deal of grief and hardship.
Most disturbingly, he has received many death threats, and for more than three years has lived under 24-hours a day police protection. He has been greatly constrained in his freedom of movement. And that in the freedom-loving and ultra liberal Holland! What’s wrong with this picture?
Appeasement or Confrontation?
Wilders has long been a thorn in the side of those peace-loving and laid-back elite in Holland who believe that they are able handle the problem of Muslim integration with dialogue and tolerance. They believe that appeasement is good, confrontation is bad. Hence they reject the advice of those who, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, argue that the radicals who preach hatred and world domination in the name of Allah should be taken at their word – and confronted to their faces.
The appeasers are turning things around and accuse the likes of Wilders of needlessly provoking the rightful anger of Muslims. So we now have the topsy turvy world in which those who warn against capitulating to threats of violence are accused of being the cause of violence. It is an ironic confirmation of their warnings against radical Islam that Wilders now must live in fear of his life.
Things have gone so far that like the Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams in Great Britain, the former Dutch minister of justice, Piet Hein Donner, said in 2006 that in future Holland may well have to accept sharia, that is, Islamic law. Wilders will have none of such surrenderist talk.
He has pointed out that he has no problem with Muslims who respect Dutch law and language and are willing to live in peace with their neighbours. But his criticism is aimed at those who on the basis of warlike passages of the Koran use violence and the threat of violence to bring about a radical change in Holland and other western countries.
In a hard-hitting speech in the Dutch Parliament on March 20 Wilders castigated his colleagues for ignoring the presence of Muslims in Holland who promote an extremist version of Islam. He cited a number of verses from the Koran, which refer to Jews as pigs and monkeys and to non-Muslims as enemies that are bound for hell and must be subjugated or destroyed.
He pointed out that such verses violate Dutch law and should therefore be declared illegal. He said that Islam is not only a religion but also a political ideology that seeks to replace political pluralism with a one-party state. Wilders said: “ Islam is an ideology without any respect for others; not for Christians, not for Jews, not for non-believers and not for apostates. Islam aims to dominate, subject, kill and wage war.”
He concluded his speech with an appeal to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to reverse the influx of radical Muslims into the country, by among other things, closing their schools, stop the building of new mosques, ban burkas and the Koran and expel all criminal Muslims from the country. He told the Prime Minister: “Accept your responsibility! Stop Islamification!”
What really antagonized his detractors was his announced plan to issue a film showing the killings and destruction inflicted by Islamic terrorists. His colleagues, including members of the Dutch cabinet, warned that such a film would antagonize Muslims all over the world and might endanger Dutch society and its relations to the Muslim world, with potential damage to Holland’s international trade.
The Dutch cabinet looked for ways to stop Wilders in his tracks, but could not find a legal way to do so. The Prime Minister pleaded with Wilders to cancel his film warning that Wilders would be responsible for any violence after the film’s release. He said: “We believe it serves no purpose other than to offend.” Dutch government officials even took up contact with some Muslim countries to do preemptive damage control by disavowing Wilders.
The leading Egyptian Sunni cleric Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi (who has sanctioned jihad against American forces in Iraq and suicide bombings against Israeli citizen) has demanded that the Dutch government take action against Wilders and that protecting Wilders “will negatively affect Egyptian-Dutch relations.”
The Grand Mufti of Syria has warned the European Parliament that the film may result in “violence and bloodshed” for which “Wilders will be responsible.” The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has condemned the film, calling it “offensively anti-Islamic.”
In Afghanistan, the very country where Dutch soldiers are risking their lives to liberate it from tyranny, Muslims have been burning Dutch flags and threatened to eject the Dutch. The Iranian head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission has promised widespread protest, and warned: “If Holland will allow the broadcast of this movie, the Iranian Parliament will request to reconsider our relationship with it.” (Think oil supplies from the Middles East on which Holland and all Europe is dependent.)
It wasn’t enough that many Western leaders ganged up with Muslim opponents of free speech to stop Wilders from airing his film. The prominent Dutch journalists Henk Hofland joined in condemning Wilders, but he also advised the Dutch government to withdraw state protection from Wilders, thus throwing him to the wolves. Hofland wrote: “Let him feel what it is like for those whose lives he endangers.” Echoing the Prime Minister, he said that any murders committed in protest against Wilders’film would be the latter’s responsibility.
Words fail to adequately describe the depth of cowardice and treachery implied in such craven advice. But it does indicate that the rot has gone deep in Dutch culture. This is not about whether Wilders is right about every point he makes. In fact, he is totally un-nuanced and sometimes over the top in his analysis and recommendations. For one thing, he does not appear to allow for the reality that there are many Muslims who are peace loving and civilized - though too few of them speak publicly.
It is safe to assume that no film has ever aroused the outpouring of so much vitriol and dire warnings of violence even before it was shown. The showing itself had a rocky start. Wilders had difficulty finding Web servers willing to take it on. Liveleak, a British Website, first began to post the film on March 27, then withdrew it the following day stating that its staff and their families had received threats of a very serious nature.
That, however, did not stop the film from becoming available. Others, including Google Video and YouTube, began posting it. And on March 30 Liveleak re-posted the film. They explained that first they had no choice in canceling because of death threats against their staff, but since security had been improved they now felt free to post the controversial film again. By now, millions have had a chance to see it.
It is indeed a disturbing film in that it provides graphic pictures of horrific mass murders, such as occurred on 9/11 which includes a clip of a telephone exchange with a doomed woman hopelessly trapped in the inferno of the collapsing buildings. Her agonizing pleas for help are unforgettable. There are similarly disturbing pictures of the attacks on Madrid and London, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, and the sound of a dying man whose throat is cut.
Other pictures show a burka-clad woman being shot in the head, the hanging of homosexuals, a three-year old girl who is taught that Jews are pigs and monkeys, and crowds shouting their agreement with various ranting imams pouring out their hatred against the wicked infidels and the coming destruction of Israel and America. Demonstrators (in England) are holding signs that say: “God bless Hitler,” “Freedom go to Hell,” and “Islam will dominate the world.”
There is nothing in this film that does not reflect reality. Many, if not all the pictures, have been available on the Internet, some have appeared on the Al Jezeera channel. But perhaps most offensive to Islamic fanatics is the way violent Koranic verses are juxtaposed with horrific scenes of death and destruction while celebrating crowds scream their praises of Allah.
If this film shows reality, what is the problem? We know why the fanatics object and try to change the subject by demonizing Wilders and declaring a fatwa against him. But why would so many leaders in the West side with his detractors? Even Dutch churches have joined the chorus of condemnation.
A coalition of Protestant churches, the Council of Churches, and two Muslim contact organizations (the CMO and CGI) in the Netherlands, even before the film had been posted, expressed their “great concern” about it. They wrote that it has “aroused unnecessary conflict for which there is no reasonable occasion whatever. Expressions that incite fear for Islam and Muslims work destructively.”
In their view it is “reprehensible if the sacred (elements) in our religions are ridiculed and our faith offended. We therefore forcefully reject it if the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed are treated with contempt and slandered.”
A Country in Trouble
The mind boggles. What Wilders has done is to tell the truth about the hatred and suffering spread by the jihadists who are convinced that it is their religious duty to spread Islam by force and indoctrination. Do these Christians not know that many thousands, perhaps million of fellow Christians living in Muslim countries, are persecuted, forbidden to practice their faith, imprisoned, and killed in the name of Allah? Do they not realize that it is Muslims who ridicule and offend their Christian faith?
How heartbreaking it must be for such persecuted Christians to hear that Christian leaders in the free West side with their oppressors. At least one Dutch academic, the Arabist Hans Jansen, has registered his objection. He found the behaviour of the churches as well as the Christian Democratic party (CDA) ”incomprehensibly indulgent and naïve.” He asked: “Don’t they even have an intern in the party who could look up what happened with the church under Islam?”
What hope is there for a country where its spiritual leaders betray their own flock by their refusal to face the ugly truth and then compound their betrayal by vilifying the one person who has the courage of his conviction to tell the truth - and to do so at great cost to his own peace of mind, even at the risk of his life?
The bitter controversy swirling around this film goes to the heart of what it means to be human and to live peaceably with one another. It is not really about the person of Geert Wilders. You may like him or not. He may be arrogant or humble, right or wrong about many things.
But he is right about the core message of this film: those who love death rather than life in the cause of Allah need to be exposed for the deadly menace they are. And when a member of the government is treated as a pariah and forced to lead the life of a fugitive in his own country for simply speaking the truth, such a country is in very serious trouble.
This story is filled with numerous sad ironies and missed opportunities. Here is one more: When non-Muslims lose their critical faculties and their courage, they also make life more difficult for those Muslims who reject the jihadists and want to reform Islam from within. One such person is a Muslim member of the Dutch cabinet, Ahmed Aboutaleb, who in a recent television interview advised his fellow Muslims:
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.
Let’s hope that the good sense of this Muslim will still win the day over the cowardice of the political and spiritual leadership of this troubled country.