Okay, I like the Dutch as much as the next person, or actually I like them more than most people I know. I like their language, despite all the “ch” sounds (that is KH, a hard, laryngeal sound not dissimilar to one cleaning one’s throat), I like their country, and I like their penchant for the provocative and the controversial. Recently, I dragged my girlfriend through the streets of Amsterdam during a five hour stop-over in Schipol on my way from Athens to Los Angeles. She hated it, and it was cold, and all the stores were closed (we got there at 9am), but I loved it. I even want to live there, if possible, but apparently I will not be really welcome, looking at the way Mr. Wilders is warning his fellow Netherlanders. Why? I am a “moderate Muslim” and apparently, that is a contradiction, and I might be contributing to the “Islamisation of Europe” by things my mother and father have taught me at home (they did not tell me that gays have the same rights as others. True. The subject did not come up, which might explain the neglect).
Well, I am not really even a Muslim. I grew up in a family who has grown up in a country in which most people identify themselves as members of the Islamic civilization and if you stop 90 per-cent of them, they can barely tell you anything about the Quranic verses beyond the regular prayers and even they are in Arabic which they don’t understand. So, I am the totally secular son of a non-practicing Muslim family from a country which has been mostly Muslim for 1300 years (Iran). That usually makes me think of myself to be as religious as one of my best friends who is a secular son of a non-practicing Christian family of a country which has been mostly Christian for 1500 years (France).
My friend, let’s call him Robert as I have not asked him if he wants to be named, has nothing to explain, but whenever I say I am Iranian, I have to explain that I am not a practicing Muslim, that I too think stoning is evil and should be banned (I am actually against the whole death penalty, which makes me have to argue it with the heirs of the “Christian. Jewish, and humanistic traditions” which Mr. Wilders advocates as owners of rationality which everyone should copy) and that no, in Iran they do not mutilate women and that as far as I know is a local west African custom continued by Muslim as well as non-Muslim population of that region. I actually heard of this first when I came to the US!
As I said, I like the Dutch and their provocative political actions. Don’t think of me as a pervert, but I even liked their attempt at making underage sex legal and putting porn on TV. Disgusting in general, particularly the first one, but coming from a country which still has enough soul left to dare and be controversial, and consequently appreciated. I am very glad that the party that brought that issue up did not win though…
So, I saw the new Fitna movie by Geert Wilders (who is NOT a filmmaker as some have reported, but a politician, and has NOT directed the film, as some others have claimed) with an open mind. Horrible, the atrocities it was showing. I actually did not find the film to be offensive. Provocative, yes. Opportunistic, you better believe it. Inaccurate, of course. Politically motivated, you betcha. Hateful, classically so. But offensive? Not to me. I found it interesting. Fascinating that a few images, verses, lines, and a whole lot of fears have been heaped on top of each other to create a political statement that is more a propaganda than anything that is meant to actually change anything.
Among the things that I am not is a scholar of Islam, so I cannot tell you exactly what in the film is inaccurate. I can see details that are inaccurate and instances where words and concepts are used to relay the wrong message. One is the use of the word “terror” (as in “strike terror in the hearts of your enemies”) where the choice of word is obviously used for its association in the English speaker’s mind with the word “terrorism” and “terrorist” which in recent years has become synonymous with the actions of radical saboteurs who have committed gross crimes such as 9/11 and is now used in the media to basically mean “muslim terrorists” (as if no one used “terrotist” acts before this). I should interject though that I wonder why a Dutch politician of known right-wing and nationalistic tendencies has made a film in English. Isn’t xenophobia meant to be at least an equal opportunity form of bigotry? So, I shall leave the film alone and say a few things about the interview that Mr. Wilders has given, about the comments left at a certain weblog, and about the whole Islam in Europe things in recent years.
In his interview, Mr. Wilders claims that moderate Islam is a contradiction. He goes on to say that those youth gangs in the Netherlands who commit crimes “don't carry the Koran under their arms” but that they have learnt to hate gays from their parents at home. First of all, why is moderate Islam a contradiction? Why can someone not believe that 1- there is only one god (monotheism) 2- that he is the creator of all things 3- that he rules via the division of human actions into good and bad (virtue and sin) and that 4- there is a judgment day? I personally do not believe in any of these, but I know that my mom’s old uncle did.
At the same time, he did not beat any women, he did not mutilate his daughter, he did not beat my mom when she started a relationship with a man before getting married to him, he did not hate gays, he did not hate the West, he did not hate freedom (quite the contrary), he drank alcohol, he kind of considered himself a socialist, he danced, and he loved his family, he also did not teach his son to beat gays or his wife, nor did he tell his daughter to obey her husband. He did say his prayers daily and he did participate in some religious feasts. He was a Muslim, a moderate and even liberal one.
Then, I would like to ask Mr. Wilders on HOW he knows that those young people are told as such by their parents? Has he asked them? Is he claiming that all hate-crimes are religiously motivated? Was Hitler a representation of Christianity? Is he also claiming that Europe, through its Christian, Jewish, and humanistic tradition, has forgotten about hate crimes? What does he have to say about the fact that while the Holocaust and Nazism are publically slammed and hated, the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini and another lady in Italy are battling each other for the safe-keeping of the memory of Fascism and that Ms. Mussolini has claimed “better a fascist than a faggot”?
People constantly opt for freedom of speech when the issue of hateful statements against Islam is brought up. Yes, everyone is free to express their opinion, but everyone else is also free to express their unhappiness about that opinion. So, yes, when people send death-threats to the makers of hate films and hate cartoons, that is uncalled for, but why is it that everyone gets surprised when Muslims get angry about Fitna or the Danish Cartoons? Is it okay to say “This ideology endangers our values. I hate it,” (Geert Wilders) but not okay to say that one hates the film because it spreads racism?
Come on, don’t say it is NOT spreading racism… if I am seen in Europe by a group of racists, they are not going to ask me whether I am a moderate, secular, radical, or atheist, they are just going to see that I am from a Muslim country and they are going to hate me for it. I cannot tell them that I am much less religious than my Greek or American friends, that I have never been to a mosque as opposed to most my friends who attend the Church every Sunday. They are just going to hate me because they are going to see me as part of that rising number of “Muslims” who is increasing in number in Europe and whose rising chart Mr. Wilders has included in his film (btw. how did he make that chart? Did he just include the number of the people who identify themselves as Muslims or did he just take the number of the immigrants from Muslim countries?).
I am also annoyed about the issue of the Danish Cartoons. Everyone is complaining about the “Muslims” finding it offensive. They say that Muslims believe that the prophet should not be depicted and that drawing a picture of Mohammad hurts Muslim sensibilities. That statement might be true in theory, but there are hundreds of years of artists depicting Mohammad and all of his family in paintings. Just go to any average Iranian mosque and you see a bunch of them. I am annoyed since no one sees that the issue is the “comics”.
It is making fun of the leader of a religion and is attaching him to someone who lived 1400 years later and tries to say that what Usama does (by the way, it is Usama and not Osama, never mind the USAma association) is the same as what Mohammad said, all because Usama wears a turban like Mohammad did (or your modern Danish cartoonist thinks he did; historically he almost certainly did not). It is the CONTENT that is offensive, not the DRAWING, get it? Now, in my opinion, the content is just short sighted, stupid, pointless, and not funny, but not offensive. I will find it a bit suspicious that the newspaper that published it, and its editor, are known right-wing, anti-liberal characters and they are even disliked by most of my Danish friends, and as such, I tend to doubt its “liberal”, free-speech supporting claims.
And then, we have the Islamisation of Europe. How much fun. Oriana Fallaci wrote two best sellers about it before she died (what is this with Italian ladies and Fascism?), Victor Davis Hanson warns us against it (although he lives in a farm in Fresno, California and generally seems to dislike whomever is not American), and the average man in Denmark seems to fear it, as you can see here:
“Hej . I am danish .
Mr. Wilders is a hero !!!
Bravo Geert Wilders ! go and get all this muslim pigs .
Its a time to wake up and look around whats happens in the western countrys . I think many of those politiks are sleeping or are afraid of fuckin muslims . Mr . Wilders is a brave man and i wish him all the luck he needs . And now something to you mslims . Go home to your muslim country and stay there forever and kiss your muhammd ass .
Keep the good work mr.Wilders.”
I wonder if you replace all those “muslim(s)” with “jews” will you not find this eerily similar to what was said about them before the WWII? Am I the only one who finds the similarity a bit sickening? I am all the time looking for Holocaust survivors who will see statements such as these and write to newspaper editors and blogs and tell them that they heard similar things from ordinary Germans and Danes and French before the biggest disaster of the twentieth century happened. I hope they are a few, since they might be the only ones who can stop the biggest disaster of the 21st century from happening.
By the way, I also always want to point out the obvious: Mr. Wilders, as many others, picks up on the apparent Muslim anti-semitism by showing pictures of Muslims praising Hitler (although at least one is a picture of a salute that is like the Nazi one in the mind of a European, but not for the people who are giving it. After all, there is nothing inherently wrong about raising your right arm erected half-way up, and Hitler didn’t create the pose). Well, I keep on having to tell people that Holocaust was not undertaken by Muslims or Palestinians or Middle Easterners, rather by Europeans, the same heirs of the Christian, Jewish and humanistic tradition Mr. Wilders invites us to join; and don’t blame it only on the Germans: ordinary Dutch and French, Austrians and the English (even the former king of the latter country) were in it as well, and would you deny that anti-semitism is alive and well in Europe?
Muslim takeover of Europe, to get back to the subject. First of all, I find the idea absurd. Really, why do you think most Muslims immigrate to Europe? To set-up Islamic regimes and establish the same situation they have at home? You must be either naïve or genuinely misguided. They move to Europe because of better economic opportunities and because they do not want to live under the rule of the governments who call themselves Islamic. The media does not tell you, but the most potent movement in the modern Middle East has not been Islam, but communism. Saddam Hossein was not a Muslim radical, but a Ba’athist, member of a political party set-up by a communist Christian Arab and at the beginning mostly popular with non-Muslim groups, including Arab Jews. Arab nationalism of the post WWI era owes more to communism than to Islam, and the militant secularism of Turkish generals has more in common with the Middle Eastern political movements of the last century than does Islam.
Many Muslims who move to Europe are those who originally studied in European and American universities and who pride themselves in being secular, even atheist, and “modern”. Those who move to the US (like me) are constantly shocked by how much more deeply rooted religion is in America, compared with what they grew up with. We read Voltaire, Nietzsche and Popper and dream of secularism, but are often taken aback by how much it has back-tracked in Europe and how people like Mr. Wilders and Mr. Bush are emphasizing the “Christian” and “Jewish” side of their cultures and how people in the West are fascinated with Buddhism and Hinduism and other religions.
So, where do we get with this? Nowhere really, and this was exactly the point of this piece. I am not offering solutions, I am not critiquing anything, and I am not fantasizing that I can right any wrongs. I know that many a times, misunderstanding is beyond that, it is really bias and bigotry guised in the form of “cultural barriers” and incompatibility.
I also know that sadly many of these “misunderstandings” are not going to be condemned or even recognized for their danger until all those “Muslim pigs” are forced out of Europe (or just killed) and that after the upcoming slaughter of Muslims, we will have a long period of remorse when we (or rather you, as I will also be killed along with other “Muslims” despite protesting that I am not one) shall study the causes and roots of the biggest hate-crime of the 21st century at the universities and research institutions. I am just writing these as they come to my mind, leaving it for those future researchers to find and to realize that “freedom of speech” in form of hate-speech was indeed recognized as what it is and that human beings never learn from their past mistakes.