Tuesday, April 1

Before Another Cycle of Anger

An Anti-Islam Movie: How to Respond?

By Dalia Yusuf


WE have lessons to learn from the crisis of the cartoons ridiculing Prophet Muhammad

Another tough choice is about to be experienced by Muslims worldwide — a choice between overreaction and sound reaction. Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, is going to produce a movie that accuses Islam of being a violent religion. The movie will be presented in the Netherlands at the end of January 2008.
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One can imagine the extent to which this movie can raise anger in the Muslim World when one knows more about Wilders. In addition to his intolerant stance against immigration and multiculturalism, his verbal assaults against Islam cross the ethical lines.

Unlike most of the critics of Islam and Muslims who tackle the practices and the interpretations, Wilders considers the Muslims' holy book, the Qur'an, a problem in itself. Without any kind of profound reading or proper exposure, Wilders had radically asked to tear out parts of the Qur'an, and then he found it better to ban it completely.

Hatred and ignorance of Islam and endeavor to attract media attention may be some of the reasons behind Wilders' stance. But three main points have to be discussed in-depth in light of this offensive attitude.

Investing Crises

Kindly send us any idea or suggestion that can help in building a solid considerable stance ahead Wilders's movie

First, Wilders' political interests seem to be growing only during crises. Although one should avoid any general judgment, tracing Wilders' political history proves his manipulation of the crises of misunderstanding between Muslims and the West.

In polls released following the assassination of Theo van Gogh, it was estimated that Wilders' party could win as many as 29 out of 150 seats in Tweede Kamer (the Dutch parliament). With the uproar over the killing of Van Gogh subsiding, this number declined to a low of one in October 2005. In February 2006, after the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy , it rose again to three seats.

For Wilders, making a movie introducing his extreme views against Islam and Muslims appears as a good tool to win more votes of the right wing. But many other voices within the Dutch society refuse Wilders's social and political views.

Dutch opinion leaders published a page-size advertisement in the daily Trouw on January 2, 2008, calling for tolerance and a softer tone in the debate about migration and Islam. In their statement, the 717 signatories, including prominent politicians, artists, authors, religious leaders, and academics, called on the Dutch to "break the downward cycle of intolerance and indifference" in the Netherlands.

The signatories of this advertisement announced that they are against the "Wilderization" of their society.

Fueling Tensions

Second, after 9/11 the escalating security regulations and laws created an atmosphere of tension in the US and Europe. Although these security measures have largely targeted the Muslim minorities and immigrants, many voices within the Western societies call for a balance between security measures and civil rights.

On the other hand, some politicians like Wilders are working hard to increase the tension, even in relatively relaxed societies. In an interview with Wilders on Radio Netherlands Worldwide, he said,

Even after the 9/11 attacks and the bombings in Madrid and London, there is no sense of urgency here in the Netherlands. We don't like conflict or confrontations. This is a country of consensus; we sweep problems under the carpet.

Third, most probably, Wilders is making use of the problematic state and the underachievement of Dutch Muslims in managing his extremist projects. Dutch Muslims, like many European Muslim minorities, are suffering from socioeconomic and cultural challenges. But moreover, the Dutch Muslims may hurt themselves by deepening their ethnic and sectarian divisions.

Learning by Experience

Apparently, European Muslims and Muslims worldwide need to reflect upon the question of how they should react toward Wilders's movie. They need to build upon previous experiences. For example, they have lessons to learn from the crisis of the cartoons ridiculing Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten.

These cartoons caused different reactions and raised many questions. The reactions of Muslims worldwide ranged between peaceful demonstrations, calls for an official apology, calls for boycotting the Danish products, and violent protests.

In fact, the dialogue forums between Muslims and the West should review their roles to overcome the problem of ineffectiveness. From a theoretical viewpoint, it is very important to tackle core concepts, such as freedom of expression. This latter concept was a main argument used by many in discussing the cartoons issue.

For example, Wilders has been accusing the Qur'an of promoting violence and restraining freedom, saying, "the Qur'an prescribes the death penalty for people who want to leave Islam — the so-called apostates." Although such an allegation can be considered a repeated misconception, a profound conceptual discussion of these controversies is highly needed.

Just as the cartoons controversy was an opportunity to reintroduce Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to the West, Wilders's movie may create a need to reintroduce the Qur'an.

The Qur'an is not just a holy book for Muslims. It contains revelations that inspire millions around the world and provide them with a social code and a way of life. The way the script of the Qur'an is beautifully illustrated and recited provides other aspects of introducing the Qur'an. A multilateral reintroduction of the Qur'an can be one of the responses to Wilders' challenge.

What else can be done? How can Muslims coordinate their different reactions and initiatives? Is it better to ignore the movie and stop any Muslim media attention? Or should Muslims produce a movie of their own that utilizes the most advanced techniques to reintroduce the Qur'an to the world?


Charif, Chaalan and Nicolien den Boer. "Cultural Relativism Makes Me Sick." Radio

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