I finally got around to watching Fitna a few minutes ago. I watched it at this link here.
Expecting that the movie was designed to inflame the sentiments of the viewer, I consciously watched Fitna with a dispassionate eye. The movie shows scenes of violence and atrocities, such as the hijacked airliners crashing into the Twin Towers and pictures of burned or beheaded bodies. The message was clear: the big, bad Muslims are out to get you! In fairness though, a Muslim could make a movie showing scenes of starving and dead Iraqi children while a split screen shows former Secretary of State Madeline Albright tell Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes that the death of some half million Iraqi childrens as a result of the sanctions on Iraq was "worth it" or show pictures of Iraqi civilians killed by American gunfire while showing the infamous Ann Coulter quote "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert their people to Christianity." Purveyors of propaganda are more interested in rousing emotions rather than getting people to think.
I came across a forum post by someone by the name of Raven Gale titled The Freedom To Provoke. I am not certain if Raven Gale is a Muslim, but he/she asks an important question and provides his/her own answer:
So why is there this persistence of creating provocation when the outcome of it is so obvious? There is clearly a more sinister reason than just to offend and provoke outrage in the Muslim community.
All these individuals and concerns have set out to start a “game” at the excuse of the freedom of speech, not realizing that Muslims are able to distinguish between those who wish to debate and those who wish to insult. Trying to camouflage insults under the guise of debate or freedom of speech fools nobody. The real idea is that the tension with Islamic nations should increase so that the international crisis deepens.
The natural reaction among Muslims to such blatant provocation sets the stage for violence and terror attacks. If and when a terror attack does occur, the cartoons and angry Muslims are going to blamed for being the cause, making the reason they were published in the first place, very clear. Europeans will then become increasingly polarized and hostility to Islam will grow making it easier for them to then target Islam in the name of “war against terror”.
So what remains for the Muslim world to decide is, whether they going to let themselves be provoked and trapped into this obvious conspiracy made up of dangerous rhetoric, making them seen like blood-thirsty barbarians? Or do they choose to formulize a strategy to curtail it.
Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician behind the film, is clearly concerned about the the threat that Muslim immigration poses for secular liberal democracy in Europe. If the Muslim population reaches a critical mass, then goodbye gay rights, abortion rights, and mixed gender schools and workplaces, so the concern goes. I agree that these concerns are valid to an extent, though I believe it is also a case that Europe, unlike the United States, has done a rather poor job of assimilating its Muslim immigrants. High levels of unemployment and social alienation leave a void that religious extremism seeks to fill. As this article (subscription required) from The Economist points out: "Yet amid all this hyperbole, two hard realities stand out. The first is the importance of jobs. In America, it is easy for a newcomer to get work and hard to claim welfare; in Europe the opposite is true. Deregulating labour markets is a less emotive subject than head-scarves or cartoons, but it matters far more."
There is also an irony that the Muslim influx into countries such as France and the United Kingdom predominantly hails from their former colonial possessions. French-Muslims tend to be of North African origin, while many Muslim immigrants in the UK are from Pakistan, which once formed part of British India. Of course, this does not mean that Western Europe is getting its just desserts. It does go to show though that when you send soldiers and civil servants to rule over a land thousands of miles away that it should not be surprising if one day the peoples of those lands will seek to go in the other direction.
As an American, Fitna does not get much of a rise out of me. Having seen the Twin Towers burning out of the window of my train on my commute to work on September 11, 2001, and having known a handful of the people who died there, I know full well the danger that militant extremism can pose. However, the nature of the threat to us here in the United States is far different from that of Western Europe. However much some Islamophobes here cry that Muslims seek to impose sharia law on us, there is absolutely no chance of this ever happening. What Islamic navy exists to transport legions of jihadist hordes to our shores? No, the threat to us is not an existential one. Rather it is the danger of seemingly random acts that inflict mass casualties, tremendous property damage, and injury to our economy.
While dealing with the terrorist threat is clearly a priority, Osama bin Laden and his followers cannot conquer us, they can merely hurt us. And it is not as if we do not have our share of homegrown religious nutcases to deal with.