Friday, March 28, 2008

Fitna: online 16-minute short about the Koran and radical Islam creates controversy

This morning (March 28, 2008) there is a lot of controversy over the Dutch short film “Fitna,” directed by Scarlet Pimpernel and written by her and Geert Wilders (former Dutch legislator). The film runs for about 16:40 minutes. It appears to be self-distributed and the IMDB entry shows no corporate information. The word “Fitna” apparently refers to “strife” (in effect, Islamic civil war).

The film enumerates a number of verses from the Koran, and shows clips (which appear to be real footage; a few may be recreated) of 9/11 (with voices of people inside the World Trade Center), of the London subway event in 2005, of various insurgencies in Iraq and attacks in Israel. Some of the footage is quite graphic. There are also clips of extremists from radical Islam giving “sermons” calling for the overthrow of western society, particularly in Europe. The film mentions the demographic population problem and assimilation problem in Europe, and suggests the danger to women and gays. The film presents the extreme positions of radical Islam on “morality” as being driven by religious doctrine alone, with no attempt at secular rationalization. Wilders maintains that this is a film about the inciteful tone of some specific verses on the Koran, not about Islam itself. Theo Van Gogh's short film "Submission" (and the tragedy that follows) is mentioned. The film plays background music from the Tchaikovsky Nutcracker and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite (the piece “Aase’s Death”). The filmmaker would have needed to purchase licenses from the orchestras that perform the music to use it in a public showing. There could be legal questions about showing specific individual victims (concerns from the families of the individual victims) if permission were not obtained first.

Wikipedia (besides giving a verse-by-verse detailed analysis of the film here) gives a link to an “official website” for Fitna, which the host Network Solutions has suspended for alleged violations of its Acceptable Use Policy. Obviously, someone “complained” about the unfavorable portrayal of radical Islam, but it is not apparent what the objective violation is. Controversy alone would not violate an AUP (otherwise most of my own sites would). Perhaps there is a problem with the use of music. Network Solutions AUP says that it is an AUP violation to intentionally link to another site which would violate the AUP. (Note: Wikipedia does note that this site is currently suspended.) Brian Krebs, in his “Security Fix” blog on The Washington Post, has an entry on Network Solutions ‘s decision, here. The blog entry suggests Network Solutions was concerned about the possible “unrest” the film could create and so "pre-censored" it when it learned about the intended content, but is that it’s call?

In any case, the video is available on Out of “prudence,” I won’t give the active hyperlink, but it is very easy to find (at least now) and watch. I had no problem getting in and no problem with slow response. The link there gives subordinate links to other videos that offer constructive comments about the film.

The Washington Post has a story this morning “Online: A Violent View of Islam: Anti-Immigration Dutch Lawmaker Characterizes His Film as ‘Tough Reality,’” by Molly Moore, p A08, link here. Toby Sterling has an AP article in the Washington Post (I couldn’t find it at AP) “Dutch Lawmaker Release Anti-Quran Film” here.
The AP reports protests in Pakistan over the film, in another story by Toby Sterling, “Protest in Pakistan over Anti-Quran Film,” link here.
Reuters has many stories on this matter (go to and search for “Fitna”) including Network Solutions ‘s action. There are stories about protests in Iran and Indonesia, but the most important story may be by Niclas Mika, “Dutch Koran Film Angers Iran and Indonesia”, link here. The Reuters search brings up a headline “Dutch relief at Muslim relief over Koran film,” but the hyperlink there brings up the same Iran and Indonesia story.

All of this is particularly sensitive in the Netherlands, Britain, France, and much of Europe, where there is a serious assimilation problem, as Bruce Bawer described in his book "While Europe Slept."

As with the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, we are still left wondering about the "sticks and stones" v. "words" problem. Some people, brought up to depend on religious belief and social hierarchy in which the invest a lot of emotion, find that "words" (and images) do hurt them, it seems.

On March 29, The Washington Times ran the "Foreign news" story "Dutch Muslims show tolerance to Islam film" by Leander Schaerlaeckens, link here, however the WT removed its video "Fitna premiere fails to shock". You can search the WT for "Fitna" and find some pre-release stories.

Update: March 30, 2008

Under "pressure," Livelink has removed the film. Going to the link, the visitor will find a statement for Livelink within the video link. It says "this is a sad day for free speech."

There is a more recent AP story dated March 30. There is a brief AP story on p A18, The Washington Post, "Anti-Koran Film Sparks Arab Call for New Laws," where Islamic leaders "called for international laws to prevent insults to religion."

In 2006, there was a controversial film at Landmark Theaters "Islam: What the West Needs to Know," review here. This did not stir up anything like the same level of unrest. What is it, then? Maybe it is the use of specific verses of the Koran the way the Fitna film presents them. After all, the Koran is a scripture. But, as I recall, so did the 2006 "West" film.

Update 2: March 30:

I understand that the video is now available on blogger, here.

Update: February 10, 2009

Geert Wilders may face conviction and sentencing in a Dutch court for "insulting Islam" with this film! I have a more recent blog posting on this situation on my International issues blog here.

1 comment:

Bill Boushka said...

Someone in government who would prefer anonymity but who is very credible says this (to me in an email) about the film:

"I agree that the situation with "Fitna" is appalling. The unholy alliance between liberal political correctness and Islamic fundamentalism is perhaps the biggest threat to freedom today.

"Having said that, I must also say that I am not impressed by the film "Fitna." It repeatedly takes Koranic passages out of context, mangles some verses, or mistranslates them. For example, the reference to "terroriz[ing] the enemy" refers to the use of military forces and cavalry ("warhorses" in some translations) in traditional warfare against other military forces -- it is not a call to slaughter civilians, and in fact the Koran has more explicit rules for the protection of civilians than the Bible (which frequently has God's Chosen People slaughtering entire populations). Contemporary militant Islamists have a terrorism problem, but terrorism is not inherently connected with historical Islam and the Koran."