Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Fit Over "Fitna"

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.


Theresa said...

An interesting piece. But I think that as far as it happening here, I think it will be a long time coming, if at all. I feel what Osama wanted to do that day (9/11)was to hurt the economy, and send a message. If you are wondering what message, I think people will interpret that themselves. But I think it meant they are watching.

In our quest to bring justice for that day, we got blinded by an ideology. I feel in much the same way that some of those people in the film did or are.

Andrea said...

I didn't know anything about this movie, so it's interesting to read your take on it.

I have a question for you, Tommy: why do you think there haven't been any suicide bombers here in the states? We have regular American crazies shooting up the malls and schools, but why no suicide bombers? They could be blowing up everywhere, every week, if they wanted. I'm not trying to be facetious, I'm honestly curious.

tina FCD said...

Andrea, great question. Really, it's an interesting point.

Tommykey said...

Hi Andrea. It's a perfectly good question. The primary factor is that firearms are much easier to obtain in the United States than bombs, so there are going to be more mass casualty incidents involving firearms than bombs.

A handful of shooting incidents in the US perpetrated by Muslims do come to mind. On July 4, 2002, a Middle Eastern immigrant went on a shooting spree at the El Al terminal at Los Angeles airport. An Egyptian man went on a shooting spree on the observation deck of the Empire State building some time in the late Nineties I think. Then there were also the two Black muslim snipers in the DC area several years ago. I think there was also an incident in the 1990's where an Arab immigrant opened fire on a bus in Brooklyn filled with yeshiva students.

I do believe it is possible that there might be a suicide bombing here in the US, but only time will tell.

The reason you see suicide bombings more in places like Israel and Iraq is that it is a weapon of the powerless against the powerful. The Palestinians, for instance, can never hope to defeat Israel in open battle. So they engage in assymetrical warfare by using tactics such as suicide bombings. The Palestinian economy is in shambles, in part due to the corruption and mismanagement of the Palestinian Authority, and in part because Israeli checkpoints and other restrictions effectively throttle the Palestinian economy so that there are no jobs. You know the old saying, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Tommykey said...

Sorry, I ended my comments before completing what I wanted to get across.

When you have conditions like the Palestinians experience, with lots of rage combined with hopelessness, blowing oneself up for a cause seems almost like a reasonable proposition. You know that your family and neighbors will celebrate you as a martyr. Hamas or whatever organization that sponsored your attack will give some aid to your family as a reward for your act of self-sacrifice.

Andrea said...

I see what you're saying. It just seems like it would be such an effective tool here...one bombing in a casual place like a grocery store or a movie theater, and people would go apeshit. Something right in the heartland, not on either coast, but still a big city like Dallas or Chicago. If the religious & political fervor is there, I just wonder why it hasn't happened yet.

The Geezers said...

Nicely presented argument.

I've typically thought of WEstern Europe as being less hysterical than Americans on this subject, but some recent conversations with business colleagues from Europe indicates that if anything the paranoia regarding Islam is even more pronounced there.

Stardust said...

Tommy, good post.

I have a thought about the Palestinians and others who are living hopeless lives just because of a tiny piece of land. Why can't they go to other Muslim lands and start anew and live comfortably with opportunity? There are so many Muslim lands where they would be welcomed. Same goes for Israel. I don't know why they hang on to a tiny clump of desert when they can easily fit into western society and live safer lives.

It's all because of that stupid ass religious site...Jerusalem, and a stubborness on both sides not to give it up. Makes no sense to me.

Another question. Why do we not see Christians in these poverty stricken lands using suicide bombings in retaliation against muslims and other enemies?

Tommykey said...

Stardust, the thing is, there are no other Muslim lands where the Palestinians are welcome. A lot of them find work in other Arab states, but they are treated at best as second class citizens.

The mindset of the wealthier Arab states is that if they integrate the Palestinians into society so that emigration is a viable option for the Palestinians, then it would diminish the conflict with Israel. It is better in their mind to cynically perpetuate the crisis.

The only sensible solution, and I know that BEAJ won't like it, is not a two-state solution but a one state solution, the Israelis and Palestinians must have a unitary state. Of course, they have a lot of issues to work out in order to get there. They would probably have to adopt something like a Swiss model, with their being separate cantons.

As for why aren't there Christian suicide bombers. While my understanding is superficial at best, I think that Muslims and Christians have different concepts of martyrdom. The Christian concept of martyrdom is to not renounce your faith in the face of oppression and torture. The Muslim concept of martyrdom is to die while engaged in act of violence against your enemy.

Also, if you are part of a small minority, like say Christians in Iraq, using suicide bombing tactics against Muslims can imperil the entire community because of the retaliation it will bring on them.

I don't consider it impossible that a fringe group of Christians could find theological justification for suicide bombing, but I do not see it as becoming a widely adopted tactic by Christians.