I just watched Geert Wilder’s 15-minute film, Fitna. I don’t even know where to begin.
If Wilder’s aim was to present Islam as an intolerant and authoritarian religion practised by brutal, intolerant anti-Semites, he succeeded with flying colors. He also succeeded in offending millions of people—Muslim and non-Muslim—with his bigoted, xenophobic, Islamophobic propaganda film. Because that’s exactly what Fitna is; a fear-mongering propaganda film.
Fitna opens with a quote from Sura 8, Verse 60 of the Q’uran:
And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.” [Note: I saw at least three translations of this passage but I copied the one used in the film]
The next scene shows footage of the airplanes flying into the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Another scene consists of footage from the Madrid train bombing. The pattern is repeated throughout the film, with quotes from the Q’uran followed by scenes of radical Muslims denouncing the West, Democracy, and ranting against Jews and other non-Muslims, and committing horrendous acts of violence. In one scene, a hijab-clad woman is shot in the head. In another, a man dressed in an orange jumpsuit—like the ones worn by prisoners in American jails—is beheaded by a group of armed and masked men. At the end of the scene, one of the murderers holds the severed head up to the camera. Footage of Muslim clerics and militants spouting anti-Western, anti-Jewish, and other violent and intolerant language is played and replayed throughout the film. The film is also peppered with images of newspaper headlines announcing everything from fatwas—religiously sanctioned hits—to the murder of Dutch filmmaker (and compatriot of Geert Wilder) Theo Van Gogh. And so on and so forth.
In the final part of the film, Wilder shifts his focus from the global Islamic menace to the local Dutch and European context. Bar graphs show the exponential growth of Holland’s and Europe’s Muslim populations. These figures are then contextualized by more footage of Muslim clerics announcing their plan for Islamizing Holland. Fitna ends with an exhortation to Muslims to “tear out the hateful verses from the Quran.”
There’s a lot wrong with this film but I’m going to focus only on the deliberate—it can’t be anything else—conflation of Islam with violent militancy. A good chunk of the footage shows Muslim radicals from Hezbollah (easily recognizable ) to other, less well-known groups. Some of the stock footage used in the film bears captions identifying the militants as Al Qaeda. In other footage, judging by the way the men are dressed, they could be Afghani or Pakistani. Elsewhere, the film shows soldiers of a formal national army, dressed in combat fatigues and marching in formation. But all in all, it’s hard to tell who’s who and where they live and/or fight. And I think that’s the point. Wilder’s aim is to identify, using extremely broad brush strokes, a Muslim menace that is universal, not linked to a particular nation, region, or state. What’s important is that they’re all Muslim. In one scene that’s meant to highlight Islam’s ambition of global domination, the footage shifts from Muslim clerics delivering sermons on how Islam ruled the world before and will do so again, to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad espousing the universality of the Islamic Revolution.
At the end of the day, Fitna accomplishes nothing more than the deliberate conflation of Islam with violence. More seriously, by presenting only the most insanely brutal, intolerant, and authoritarian Muslims, Wilder seems to be insinuating that all Muslims are murderous haters of Jews, women, children, the West, Christians . . . basically all things good and decent. At no point does he even hint at the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the Muslims shown in his movie are not representative of Islam or the billion or so people around the world who call themselves Muslims. It’s truly sad how quickly Europeans have forgotten that the very same type of propaganda was used to dehumanize Europe’s Jews in the lead-up to the Holocaust.
But Fitna’s success as both a film and a piece of propaganda will be measured by it’s ability to turn people who don’t already fear Muslims into Islamaphobes after they see the film. I doubt whether Fitna will sway any tolerant person but for those who already suspect, fear, or hate the practitioners of Islam, this film will be fuel for their antipathy.