The Fitna over Fitna
On Thursday, right-wing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders released his controversial anti-Islam short film called Fitna on the video web site LiveLeak. Less than a day later, LiveLeak pulled the video "following threats to our staff of a very serious nature."
It is important to understand the context that led Wilders to make this film. In 2004, a Somali refugee turned Dutch MP named Ayaan Hirsi Ali teamed up with director Theo Van Gogh to make a short film called Submission that stridently criticized the treatment of women in Muslim societies. In November 2004, Van Gogh was murdered in the middle of Amsterdam by a radical Islamist named Mohammed Bouyeri. At his trial, Bouyeri justified his crime by stating that "I was motivated by the law that commands me to cut off the head of anyone who insults Allah and his prophet." Bouyeri pinned a note threatening Hirsi Ali to Van Gogh's body. She remains under threat to this day.
At the time of Van Gogh's murder, Wilders was already strongly critical of the growing number of Muslim immigrants in Dutch society. Authorities placed him under 24 hour security and he has lived that way ever since. Years of living under threat have made Wilders ever more radical in his views. Last year, he even called for Dutch authorities to ban the Koran, a thoroughly ridiculous idea.
Last November, Wilders announced that he would be making Fitna. In response, death threats were made against Wilders and his girlfriend on Islamist web sites.
I had the opportunity to watch Fitna shortly after it was posted. I found it a bit understated compared to the rumors. The film does chillingly illustrate the ideology of hate that motivates radical Islamists. However, the movie's fears over the consequences of Muslim immigration to the Netherlands seem overstated. It is the presence of Islamist ideology, not Muslims as people, that is the danger. Most importantly, by conflating Islamism and Islam, Wilders actually aids the former. As Steve Schippert pointed out, the film could almost serve as an Al Qa'ida propaganda video.
Regardless of the correctness of his views, however, Mr. Wilders has the right to express them without being threatened or murdered. Ironically, the vile threats that forced LiveLeak to pull his film only reinforce his point about the Islamist threat to free expression. Whatever its analytical or artistic flaws, ensuring that Fitna remains available is now an important battle on behalf of intellectual freedom against Islamism's global campaign of censorship.
Fortunately, LiveLeak has bravely stood up for free expression and reposted Fitna today, accompanied by the following statement:
On the 28th of March LiveLeak.com was left with no other choice but to remove the film "fitna" from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don't consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.
Click here to watch Fitna for yourself and come to your own conclusion (warning-some disturbing content).