Geert Wilders is the Dutch MP who is producing a film on the Qur’an that has the Islamic world in a frenzy even before anyone has actually seen it. This New Duranty Times profile is, well, not as bad as it could have been, but contains several sly digs at Wilders, whom it treats with condescension throughout, and contains almost nothing about the fantastic disproportion of the Muslim reaction to his film, and the necessity of preserving free speech even when some may find it offensive.
“A Dutch Antagonist of Islam Waits for His Premiere,” by Gregory Crouch for the New York Times (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist):
[…] Days away from releasing a much-anticipated film critical of the Koran, Mr. Wilders recalled in an interview the advice he received years ago from political leaders about how to get ahead.
“First, you have to moderate your voice about Islam,” he remembered their telling him. “Second, change your stupid hair.”
He has refused to do either.
“If people push me, I do exactly the opposite,” he said.
There are two noteworthy aspects of this. One is that political leaders, presumably Dutch ones, try to mute or silence Islamocritical or Islamorealistic voices in the public sphere. The other is that that the Times is suggesting that Wilders’s Qur’an film simply arises from his being a contrarian and an exhibitionist: look! He dyes his hair platinum blonde! And if that isn’t enough to get attention, he criticizes the Qur’an! And it’s all just because he’s an immature fellow who won’t do what sensible people tell him to do!
Mr. Wilders, 44, is in the news here these days for a 10-to-15-minute film he says he has made depicting the Koran as the inspiration for terrorist attacks and other violence. Having failed to persuade a single Dutch television network to broadcast the film in its entirety, he said he planned to release it on the Internet by the end of this month.
He routinely equates the Koran with Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” saying it should be banned in the Netherlands, and he declared in an interview that the Prophet Muhammad could be compared to the German dictator.
“In his Medina time, if he would be alive today, Muhammad would be treated as a war criminal, being sent out of the country, being sent to jail,” he said.
Moderate Dutch Muslim leaders like Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the Dutch Moroccan Council, are exasperated by Mr. Wilders”s standpoint on Islam and its prophet.
“Wilders is a little bit crazy, if I may say it in this way, because he is fighting against somebody who has been living in the sixth century, not in our time,” Mr. Rabbae said.
A highly disingenuous comment from Rabbae. I expect that he knows full well that the Qur’an and Islamic tradition are clear that Muhammad is the supreme example of behavior for Muslims to follow, not just in the seventh century (he died in 632) but for all time. He is “an excellent model of conduct” (Qur’an 33:21). He demonstrates “an exalted standard of character” (68:4), and indeed, “he who obeys the Messenger [Muhammad], obeys Allah” (4:80). The Qur’an frequently tells Muslims to obey Allah and Muhammad: while the Muslim holy book takes for granted that Muhammad is fallible (cf. 48:2; 80:1-12), it also instructs Muslims repeatedly to obey Muhammad (3:32; 3:132; 4:13; 4:59; 4:69; 5:92; 8:1; 8:20; 8:46; 9:71; 24:47; 24:51; 24:52; 24:54; 24:56; 33:33; 47:33; 49:14; 58:13; 64:12).
Any devout Muslim will take this seriously. Muqtedar Khan of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy explains: “No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad (Peace be upon him) the last Prophet of Islam”¦.And Muhammad as the final messenger of God enjoys preeminence when it comes to revelation — the Qur’an — and traditions. So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw and did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law. Muslims, as a part of religious observance, not only obey, but also seek to emulate and imitate their Prophet in every aspect of life. Thus Muhammad is the medium as well as a source of the divine law.”
But Rabbae, instead of explaining all this, implies that Muhammad is merely a historical figure, and that Wilders is indulging in anachronism.
Virtually no one knows exactly what is in Mr. Wilders”s film; even the Netherlands” worried prime minister has not been granted a screening. But the simple fact that Mr. Wilders is its muse makes people here and in parts of the Islamic world nervous.
Mr. Wilders said he made the film to show that “Islam and the Koran are part of a fascist ideology that wants to kill everything we stand for in a modern Western democracy.”
Instead of explaining that, or allowing Wilders to do so, perhaps by pointing out how jihad terrorists repeatedly invoke the Qur’an to justify jihad violence and Islamic supremacism, the article follows that up by starting to talk about “hate crimes”:
SOME here see Mr. Wilders”s film “” titled “Fitna,” Arabic for civil strife “” as a potential hate crime and have already filed police complaints in various Dutch cities, concerned that his past statements and the film will polarize religious groups and foster discrimination.
His supporters say he protects traditional Dutch values. His critics, and there are many, say he is an out-of-control, right-wing extremist risking his country”s good name for his own political gain. Others are even harsher; one former trade union leader called Mr. Wilders “evil.”
“His critics, and there are many, say he is an out-of-control, right-wing extremist risking his country”s good name for his own political gain.” There you have it, Times readers. No need to take this guy seriously. Call someone “right-wing” in the Times, and faithful Times readers, like Pavlov’s dogs, know exactly how to react.
And then the Times, whether out of some residual sense of decency or purely by accident, illustrates who the out-of-control, evil extremists really are by touching on the threats under which Wilders lives:
“Of course I am not evil,” Mr. Wilders responded, looking a little annoyed. “Do I look evil to you? Maybe I do, but I”m not.”
Mr. Wilders, who lives under constant police protection in an undisclosed location, is undeterred by threats from the Taliban to escalate attacks against Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan if the film is released.
But it’s all because he is unrelenting and unreasonable, you see, and he — not the lunatics who are poised to riot and kill because of his film — is endangering Dutch interests:
Nor is he moved by Dutch expatriates abroad who, remembering the fallout from the Danish cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad, worry that the film may make their lives harder, or even dangerous.
Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, told a public television reporter that he found it “irresponsible to broadcast this film.”
“That’s because Dutch companies, Dutch soldiers and Dutch residents could and will be in danger,” Mr. Verhagen said.
Such statements spur Mr. Wilders on, and in his opinion unintentionally prove that Islam is a rigid, intolerant religion whose followers try to muffle criticism, often violently. Framing himself as a defender of free speech, Mr. Wilders said there would not be such a fuss about his film if it were about the Bible.
Can anyone dispute that?
“We can never allow people who use nondemocratic means, people who use violence instead of arguments, people who use knives instead of debates, we can never allow them to set the agenda,” he said.
And in this part of the story the Times comes close to doing Wilders justice, and actually illustrates his statement, as it failed to do so above when he spoke about the Qur’an, with examples proving his point:
After the 2004 release of a short film here that graphically portrayed the abuse of women in the Islamic world, the director, Theo van Gogh, was killed by a Muslim extremist.
Mr. Wilders, already in the Dutch Parliament for six years at that point, was not associated with that film, but he went briefly into hiding when government security forces feared he might become the next target.
Two years later, memories of the van Gogh murder “” coupled with concerns about Muslim immigration “” helped Mr. Wilders and his newly formed Party for Freedom capture 6 percent of the seats in Parliament.
Of the Netherlands” 16.5 million residents, a million are either Muslim or of Muslim descent. Many of them are so-called guest workers from Morocco, Turkey and other Islamic countries who came here decades ago to work in factories and stayed to raise families of their own.
But don’t get the idea that Wilders is some sort of heroic figure. He is, like Bertrans de Born, just a stirrer-up of strife, a successful miner of unease:
Occasionally, conflicts arise between mainstream Dutch society “” which supports gay marriage and legalized prostitution, for instance “” and the often more conservative Muslim minority, and Mr. Wilders has successfully mined the unease between them.
“Ten to 15 percent of the Dutch voters more or less see him as a new leader, one who dares to say what he thinks,” said Hugo van der Parre, deputy editor of the Dutch television news program “Nova.” But “many people see him, as well, as a nut case.”
MR. WILDERS says he detests Islam but not Muslims. “I believe the Islamic ideology is a retarded, dangerous one, but I make a distinction,” he said. “I don’t hate people. I don’t hate Muslims.
He added: “I am not saying all Muslims are wrong or are terrorists or criminals. You will never hear me say that.”
One would think this is an elementary point, but it eludes the grasp of many on both sides of this issue. Many of those who regard any criticism of the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism as “bigoted” and “racist,” as well as those who well understand the violent and supremacist teachings contained within the Qur’an and Sunnah as they have been traditionally understood in Islamic theology, seem to have trouble distinguishing between belief and practice. Benazir Bhutto, and/or her ghostwriter Mark Siegel, did this when they accused me (on the basis of an Ibn Warraq quotation they falsely ascribed to me) of failing to “differentiate between moderate Muslims and violent Islamists.” The quote meant to illustrate this only points out that the jihadists are acting on traditional and mainstream teachings of Islam, as they manifestly are.
But does this mean that all Muslims are acting upon them? That would be absurd. People who have no difficulty grasping that not everyone who identifies himself as a Christian loves his enemy or turns the other cheek, or even cares to, or even perhaps knows that he ought to or has ever thought about what it might mean to do so, seem to have trouble conceptualizing the possibility that huge numbers of Muslims — and this is reinforced also by various cultural factors around the world — have no interest in forwarding the Islamic supremacist program, and may in all sincerity not even be aware of it.
That doesn’t mitigate the existence of that program one whit, or alter the fact that jihadists are recruiting among cultural Muslims by calling them back to what they present, often successfully, as the “pure” and “true” practice of Islam. Nor does it mean that non-Muslims should not have a healthy awareness of the possibility that they are being deceived, as per not just Shi’ite doctrine but Qur’an 3:28 as it has been understood by Sunnis also, or that they should sit by passively as the Islamic supremacist agenda is spread not by guns and bombs and terrorist attacks but through other, non-violent means. But it does mean, quite simply, that Wilders’s distinction is perfectly legitimate — as in Ibn Warraq’s lucid phrase, there are moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam.
Mr. Wilders, who is married and has no children, was raised Roman Catholic, but is no longer religious. The youngest of four children, he traveled and worked his way through the Middle East for two years after his high school graduation. Since then, he said, he has visited Israel at least 40 times and maintains close contacts there. But he has no real connections from his time in the rest of the region, admitting he does not have any Muslim friends.
Ah. So therefore, the Times is telling us, he must not know what he is talking about, or at very least must secretly hate Muslims despite his protestations to the contrary.
His claims to the contrary, some Muslims believe that Mr. Wilders”s animosity toward Islam extends to them.
“If you say the prophet is a war criminal, you say, I hate Muslims,” a Dutch newspaper columnist, Youssef Azghari, said in an interview. “Because the prophet is a symbol. He was the one who invented the Islam.”
Youssef Azghari, if he really wanted to blunt the forces of such charges about Muhammad, could take up the uncomfortable aspects of Muhammad’s career (as that career is sketched out in texts accepted by Muslims) — his battles, his assassinations of his enemies, his marriage to a nine-year-old, and the rest — and rather than simply deny the existence of this material, as Islamic apologists in the West usually do, offer a way for Muslims to reject its literal application. That he does not do so, and probably cannot do so, only makes Wilders’s charges ring truer. If Muslims today are going to be following Muhammad as a literal, transhistorical model for conduct, that will threaten the lives and security and civilizations of non-Muslims, and that needs to be said.
Since no one has actually seen Mr. Wilders”s film, some here have started wondering if it is as fake as his hair color, a clever publicity stunt devised to prove his point that Islam and freedom of speech cannot coexist.
Mr. Wilders insists the film is every bit as real as his long-held belief that Islam is a danger to Dutch and other Western societies.
“I get in so much trouble, both privately and politically, that if I would do it for publicity reasons, I would be a fool,” he said.
That is a sentence that applies to many more people than just Wilders himself.