UPDATE: On request, a shorter version in Dutch is also available now. Read it HERE.
Several Dutch and international blogs celebrate the release of Fitna as being an example of freedom of expression, or exposing the ‘truth’ of islam, exposing the horrors committed by Muslims, or just waiting for riots, or thinking it is actually accurate . We should however view Fitna for what it is, not a documentary revealing the truth about Islam, nor a film showing the view of Dutch people concerning Islam but an act of political propaganda made by a Dutch political leader trying to reduce the multidimensionality of the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims by using an adversarial ritual. It is a ritual that depict war against one another and people who have to face and overcome challenges.
There are some clear examples of this and I have made a selection of those. In Dutch you can see some at Verbal Jam about the Quran verses. I have included them as well but I will also go into the matter of the newspaper headlines Wilders use.Look for example at the next screenshot:
Wilders refers to surah 8:60 and uses the phrase ‘strike terror’ (in Dutch ‘terroriseren’) where it should be ‘terrify’ or ‘frighten’ (angst, beangstigen). Given the context (a video that displays terrorism) this is not a minor mistake, but a deliberate attempt to falsify and create the idea that the Quran calls for terrorism. (the next verse reads: And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.) A term like terrify or frighten is also more closer to the explanation of the verse that says the Muslims should be build up a strong army to deter the enemy.
In the next screenshot something is deliberately left out
The first sentence should read ‘So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle]’. Therefore not in general but only when in battle. In particular because the verse ends with: “until the war lays down its burden” (also not shown).
Also the next one,
Some translations (most of the ones I know) do not use the word dissension but persecution (ahum, funny, one translation also uses the word Fitna -translated to disbelief but also chaos – instead…) and the verse ends with a call to leave it to Allah when the enemy ceases the persecution (or in some cases disbelief).
The next screenshot displays a graphic that ‘shows’ that there are 944.000 Muslims in the Netherlands. The latest research however shows that there are 850.000 but does not mention anything about their beliefs and the way they practice Islam. The figures that are given about Europe are even more vague. These (just as the number 944.000) are based upon estimations depending on the number migrants from Muslim lands. When for example it is estimated that there are 80% Muslims in Turkey, the number of Muslim migrants among the Turkish is also 80% but forgotten is then the relatively large amount of Christian migrants among the Turks and secular Muslims.
Wilders is therefore not only aiming at so called radical Muslims, but all Muslims without any distinction. Also the next screenshot shows this (in the context of a very gloomy Dutch future):
The child has been the subject of a Shia ritual but no mention of that is made (most Muslims in the Netherlands are Sunni).
Islamists seek take-over is the headline of an opinion article in which the writers refute an interview with Philip Jenkins who stated that Islam is not on the rise but Europe is. The writers base themselves on the demographic takeover (comparable to what Wilders is suggesting), referring to the Christian Democrats who want to involve politically engaged Muslims (and thereby threatening the Christian identity of this party) and they point to the Muslim Brotherhood without giving any proof and only stated they cooperated with the nazis.
The increase in honor killings is based upon a comparison of the numbers in 2006 (10) and the first half year of 2007 (12). This is no research, this is just guessing but very handy for Wilders.
This refers to a research of the General Intelligence and Security Service into rumours about pupils who appeared to be subjected to ‘anti-western’ material, outside normal hours and the regular curriculum. In the whole article only the headline refers to jihad, in the article itself no mention is made of it.
Refers to three people who were arrested because it could not be ruled out that they were planning an attack. They are released (temporarily) because there was not sufficient evidence to hold them any longer.
Refers to comments made on the website of Hizb ut Tahrir when they launched a petition against Wilders. Hizb ut Tahrir is a radical organisation, with only a few members and it is comments are not official statement by HUT. The interesting thing is that these comments are countered on some of the islam websites by using statements from the Quran…
A personal statement that was leaked to the press, by only one Muslim politician.
This one is clear if they had translated the subtext as well: the minister had launched an official complaint at the public prosecutors and later fired all of the members of the board (an unusual measure).
Does not only refer to foreign imams but also to foreign priests. There is a lack of priests and imams.
No proof whatsoever that there has been a fatwa (and therefore condoned by a religious leader).
This headline is from an article about research on radicalization. The headline is wrong however. The research does not draw that conclusion, but it does refer to another research and then it is clear what is meant: 40% of the Moroccan-Dutch youth find it difficult to reconcile ‘European’ and ‘Islamic’ ways of life. A conclusion the can only come up with if they have tried it. This is really something different then being anti-western.
Refers to two mosques who alledgedly have connections (but that is all they prove) to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Based upon an article after the theo van gogh murder, talking about suicide terrorists and trainingscamps in the Netherlands. Again..no proof whatsoever and never heard about it again.
Refers to a meeting of Palestine activists who at that time invited prime minister Haniyeh of the Palestinian Authority, then after they won the democratic elections run by Hamas. Guess what? He did not come, his visa was refused.
Article about four ‘imams’ expressing their negative ideas about homosexuality. One of them appeared not be an imam at all and was fired at the islamic organization where he worked.
Refers to an incident in which an imam on TV stated that homosexuality was against Islam and that was a disease (comparable to the catholic stance on this). The program was about violence against gay people by Moroccan-Dutch people. The imam rejected and condemned the use of violence, but that part was left out in the program. The imam was later acquitted.
Based upon the discovery of books in several mosques.
The salafist Tawheed mosque inspired to make the Netherlands an ‘islamic society’. Whatever that may mean because the article does not show anything more then that.
Displaying girls circumcision an Islamic phenomenon, which it is not (it is mainly regional, although there is some discussion among Islamic scholars about it). Talks about 50 girls.
Refers to people who do not want a male doctor. It is not clear in how many cases this is happening. There was some discussion about it because it interferes with the rights of patient to determine of they want a male or female doctor in some cases (for example there are also native Dutch women who refuse male midwives..). Most Muslims I know however reject this in general and actually find it ridiculous in cases of emergency.
Al Qaeda did not issue anything at that time and the article talks about a fatwa, which it isn’t and even then, a fatwa is not a death sentence. See more on this HERE.
Refers to Wilders plans with the movie and some Arabist calling it a license to kill. What they both do is trying to showe how certain discourses (laid down in the Quran, hadiths, fatwas and son) are sustained and how they influence people’s behaviour. In their analysis they seem to rely on the assumption that discursive formations have their own logic and agency. This results in the conclusion that people are continually produced and reproduced by discourses that form an essential characteristic of ‘their’ group.
Two important questions to be asked. First of all, if discursive formations lead to a violence or anti-women prone disposition, how can the varieties in violence, conflict and anti-women practices be explained? If, for example, Islam is indeed inherently violent why did the Danish cartoons lead to public uproar in Syria and Lebanon but not in Belgium or France? The second question is what kind of mechanisms of the rich and complicated discursive formations such as Islam bring about action? Political ideologies and religions are highly complicated, rich and multifaceted discursive formations. If for example Islam or national identity can be used to justify (violent) action but can also be used to promote democratic citizenship and peaceful participation in society, then how can it determine the relationship between groups and within groups in one particular way?
Political and religious elites and entrepreneurs such as Wilders play an important role here. A discourse can be invoked as a resource by the elites to justify courses of action in a way plausible to their followers and is a resource for long term dispositions (while violent conflict is usually short term) such as resentment, arrogance, suspicion and intolerance with regard to outsiders. This does not only concern outsiders. The position of migrant women in the Netherlands (among them many muslim women) is influenced in a negative way because of their dependency from their husbands residence permit. For example a woman from Morocco who marries a man from the Netherlands is for her legal status dependent from that man (same goes for men from Morocco who marry a woman from the Netherlands).
This means that people are indeed influenced by discursive formations and for example the position of women can be legitimized by invoking Quranic verses (but also the Dutch law…). Many people are influenced by it from their early years on. But this also means that these discourses have no power of their own but that they are always mediated by parents, peers, political and religious elites and so on. In this proces of mediation discourses are always produced, reproduced. They also will be automatically transformed in that process because those discourse will have to be made meaningful in different places and in different times.
And one way of mediating these discourses are adversarial rituals. Wilders Fitna is an outrageous series of lies, distortions, rumours and false informations binding anger and accusation, defamation and humiliation, subjugation and victory. Like adversarial rituals it produces and re-produces hostility in a standardized, codified (and therefore predictable) manner for example by representing stereotypes, false accusations, distortions, clichés and so on. Fitna is a part of the ritual of deprecation with regard to Islam and Muslims by presenting images of superiority and inferiority to others and part of a ritual of undermining by using standardized ways ways of insulting, frightening and provoking unnerving others. Moreover also the ritual of denial plays a role here: mistrusting, blaming, and displacing the other as at fault and identifying the self as innocent and fair in behavior. This complex of rituals is sustained through through the habituated and patterned reactions to the fight underway which can be clearly seen by the panicking reactions beforehand and the tendency of some mediasites in the Netherlands to frantically look for uproar among Muslims and if it is found displaying it on their website (and at the same time leave out all other peaceful initiatives). (I refer you to this website on which most of this short exposé about ritual is based).
Astonishing therefore that people are really seeing this film as soft. Are we used already to all the violence that is depicted, don’t we think that using lies, distortions and so on is a problem? It is an irresponsible form of abusing the freedom of speech, not only towards Muslims but also with regard to the people who voted for Wilders. I have spoken to some of them in the past and they have put their faith in him as the one who perhaps could solve the problems they experience. What Wilders has done know is behaving like a charlatan who sells rubbish, nonsense and a pack of lies and something that probably will not solve any problem.