'Fitna': Dutch leader's anti-Islam film brings strife
Far-right politician Geert Wilders's latest attempt to air the controversial video has been delayed by US-based website host Network Solutions.
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"He doesn't care [about negative consequences]; I think he loves this," says a Hague-based journalist who covers Wilders's party.Skip to next paragraph
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Much publicity – for him and Muslims
Dutch security alerts have gone from "limited" to "substantial" this month. In the Netherlands, the unseen video brings daily press coverage, as well as seminars, TV debates, lectures by the mayor of Amsterdam, and a recent decrying of it as an "unnecessary provocation" by the eminent philosopher Jürgen Habermas, in what he calls the modern condition of a "post-secular Europe."
Last week Harry de Winter, a prominent Dutch citizen who is Jewish, took out a large ad in the daily de Volkskrant arguing that if Wilders were to say about Jews what he is saying about Muslims – in other words, if he advocated that temples be closed and rabbis deported – the entire country would rise in retaliation over such an anti-Semitic act.
The Islamic community announced in February it would open its doors to the public after the video airs, to show "we have nothing to hide." A joint ecumenical statement by Protestant and Muslim groups said last week that they "forcefully reject [Fitna] if the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed are treated with contempt."
Heleen Terwijn, who runs weekend schools in inner-city Amsterdam, says, "The good side of this whole thing is that many Muslims who were unknown will become known as normal people with a normal point of view. Too many Dutch see Muslims as scary relatives of Osama bin Laden."
Still, some of the Dutch worry that the popular fears that Wilders represents are growing faster than Holland's ability to integrate its rising minorities. Mainstream talk about crime and indifference to Dutch traditions and decorum by Muslims is increasing.
"The Dutch see kids of color tearing up public trash cans or dumpsters, and they want them thrown in jail," says a researcher at an "Islam in Europe" program at Amsterdam University who was not authorized to speak on the record. "That moves quickly – way too quickly – to a hatred of all of Islam."
While some Dutch writers like the assassinated politician Pim Fortuyn started attacking Islam as a backward idea in the 1990s, Wilders has conflated the message further and has focused on Muslims as people, experts say.
"Fortyn was simply going after Islamic theology, but Wilders is going further," says Gerard van der Ree, a Dutch political scientist in Leiden. "He's equating Islam and Muslims together and causing people to fear and hate them, on the grounds that they are fascist. It's an eliminationist model, ironically."
In recent months, Wilders has shifted his rhetoric to focus more on Islam than its adherents.
In an interview with the New York Times, one of few Wilders has given, he said, "I believe the Islamic theology is a retarded, dangerous one, but I make a distinction," Wilders said. "I don't hate people. I don't hate Muslims…. I am not saying all Muslims are wrong or are terrorists or criminals. You will never hear me say that."