Fitna The Movie

Coming Soon to a website near you!

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders is at the center of a firestorm over a short movie he created that is highly critical of Islam and the Qur'an.  The movie's title,  Fitna, means "strife", "ordeal", or "challenge" in Arabic.  In the Islamic vernacular, fitna, typically refers to challenges to the faith based on logic and rationality.  Wilders uses the term Fitna to describe the challenge that he believes Islamic Fundamentalism poses to Western culture. Wilders is outspoken in his disdain for the effect that the rise of Islam in Holland is having on the traditional culture there and he has referred to his film a "call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamicization." He has also referred to Qur'an as a Fascist document, equating it to Mein Kampf.   Wilders heads the Dutch Freedom Party which has nine seats in the 150-member Dutch parliament, elected on an anti-immigration platform.

Fitna is scheduled to be released in late March and the controversy has accelerated as that date approaches.  Muslim groups throughout the world have condemned Wilders and labeled Fitna as xenophobic and a dehumanization of Muslims. More interesting perhaps is the reaction of governmental and religious organizations who have mobilized in anticipation of the film's release to prevent a repeat of the violence that followed the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad in a Danish newspaper two years ago. According to Radio Netherlands Worldwide,

The anger felt by some people in the Muslim world has already reached such a level that a delegation from the Dutch Protestant church, the Dutch Council of Churches, the Muslims and government contact organization (CMO) and the Islamic contact group is to go to Egypt in a joint effort by these organizations to ward off possible disaster. 1

Dutch television stations have refused to air the movie citing fears of Muslim backlash, and the initial reactions from the worldwide Islamic community suggests that those fears may be justified.  According to FoxNews,

A senior Iranian lawmaker warned the Netherlands on Monday not to allow the screening of what it called an anti-Islamic film produced by a Dutch politician, claiming it "reflects insulting views about the Holy Koran."  Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, promised widespread protests and a review of Iran's relationship with the Netherlands if Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders' work is shown.

No one has yet seen the final version of Fitna, but the New York Times has published descriptions of it "juxtaposing excerpts of the Koran with execution scenes." Adding to the controversy, a nationalist party in Czech Republic has offered to host the film as a response to β€œIslamic terrorists whose blackmail and attacks damage our countries.”

The Dutch government is grappling with concerns for the political violence that the film may provoke as well as their responsibility to offer personal security for Wilders.  Wilders has previously received Islamic death threats and has been under heavy guard since the 2004 murder of Dutch director Theo van Gogh, who made a film critical of Islam's treatment of women. Floris van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch Embassy in Washington, reported that "The government is taking the announcement of this movie quite seriously. Obviously, because the movie hasn't been made, we cannot say anything about the movie until the movie has been shown, but the message Mr. Wilders has told us he wants to portray is disturbing."

The American Internet service provider Network Solutions announced today that it had suspended the film's official website www.fitnathemovie.com while they were, " investigating whether the site's content is in violation of the Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy."  A Network Solutions spokesman said that company guidelines prevent it from allowing "any material in violation of any applicable law."  The Network Solutions' terms of service include a prohibition against "objectionable material of any kind or nature." A Network Solutions spokeswoman Susan Wade said "We felt it was best to take it down while we continued our investigation."

Free speech advocates have disdained Geert Wilders' inflammatory views but have offered support for his right to have them heard. The conservative website AmericanThinker.com frames their perspective on the subject as follows: 

Should Wilder be granted the freedom to spout his ideas about Islam to the world? Given the freedom radical Islamists enjoy to spout their hatred on the internet one wonders why Wilders unseen film should suffer from being banned arbitrarily.

Fitna was released on 27 March 2008

Fitna was first released for public viewing on Liveleak.com and within the first 24 hours it had been downloaded 3,157,386 times. The staff at Liveleak.com had the following comment to share:

β€œTo many of us involved in LiveLeak.com, some of the messages therein are personally offensive. That being said, our being offended is no reason to deny Mr. Wilders the right to have his film seen.”

Islamic Response

In less than 24 hours, the the British Internet hosting service that originally posted Fitna for public viewing succumbed to "serious" threats and removed it from their site. According to LiveLeak.com:

"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature and some ill-informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, LiveLeak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove 'Fitna' from our servers. This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the Net, but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We'd like to thank the thousands of people from all backgrounds and religions who gave us their support. They realized that liveleak.com is a vehicle for many opinions not just for the support of one."
As of this time, the YouTube.com link to Fitna is still working.

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Liveleak.com Release of Fitna: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7d9_1206624103

Youtube Release of Fitna, Part 1: http://youtube.com/watch?v=5kcev1K-NOc

Youtube Release of Fitna, Part 2: http://youtube.com/watch?v=TdLMFs4fv4E

1 Radio Netherlands Worldwide: http://www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/region/netherlands/080324-fitna-wilders-egypt-mc
2 Unofficial Fitna website: http://www.fitnathemovie.info/ 
3 Official Fitna website:  http://www.fitnathemovie.com  

Release: 2008-03-27 (On-line)
Director: Geert Wilders
Length: 17'
Production: Netherlands
Language: Dutch, English
Unrated

Cast: None

And the LORD said: Let there be hooplah! And there was hooplah. Let there be hue and outcry! And there was hue and outcry. Let there be Talking heads spinning like Max Headroom on crack. And, lo, there was talk, talk, talk and rage, rage, rage. This is what Fitna caused even before it was released. This is apparently what it set out to cause. I am not saying that I disagree with all or part of the film's content. I'm not saying that I agree with any of it. There seem to be hundreds of thousands already willing to do one or the other. When I viewed it on liveleak.com, over 2.5 million others had already done so. But let's talk about the film itself.

Fitna is a pure, unadulterated propaganda film. It's an unashamed alarmist appeal to emotion. It doesn't even pretend to employ rational arguments. More than anything else, it's a rallying cry for those who fear the impact of the spread of Islam in western societies. I'd say that it preaches to the choir but that would be me sticking my head in the sand. It has probably achieved its purpose and convinced more people of its claims.

The film opens with a verse from the Quran. This begins a theme in which a verse is shown and heard in Arabic with an English (or, I presume, Dutch, if you're watching the Dutch version) translation of the verse. The verse is presented on the left page of an open book. On the right page, footage is shown of various activities engaged in by Muslim fundamentalists. Between these presentations, full-screen footage is interpolated. This footage includes scenes involving death and mayhem like scenes from the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, various forms of gory executions, Muslim leaders proclaiming "death to the infidels" and everything else that most media outlets would only talk about but not show. The narrative consists entirely of subtitles.

The film basically consists of two parts: first it presents the general evil of Islam; then it focuses on the situation in the Netherlands. The first part consists mostly of the aforementioned recitals from the Quran and third-party footage of the various manifestations of the threat. The World Trade Center, moderate luminaries like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congenially speaking of world domination, phone calls from the scene of terrorist attacks... pretty much everything that can put you into a fertile mindset of fear. The second part makes heavy use of Dutch newspaper clippings. Theo van Gogh is cited more than once. The rest involves mostly statements from his unrepentant killer (as we know, convicted assassins are very representative of Islam, right?), and subjects such as public statements made by some rather radical imams, Salman Rushdie's case, and the likes.

All this serves to demonise Islam. All this has been done before. Take the little girl who says that she's three and a half, and that Jews are "apes and pigs" because "Allah says so." Now tell me that, if you look far enough, you won't find a child in the United States that's been taught to say the same about "niggers," a kid in the UK say the same about "pakis," a Croatian kid who will say the same about Serbs, a Hutu kid say it about Tutsis... you get the idea. If Borat could find grown men who voice their opinions in that way, you and I can find a gullible (that is, every) three-year-old who will do so. I say that little girl wouldn't know a "Jew" if one bit her in the behind.

While you're at it, take Deuteronomy and some of Paul's epistles, make a collage of the juicy bits, and see if you can't make Christianity look just as nutty. Take a bunch of clips from Aryan Nation and Ku Klux Klan rallies, add a touch of Le Pen and the odd neo-Nazi from Leipzig. Mix, retouch, edit. Hell, add a clip of the reverend Fred Phelps (may he rest gaily) in action and your work is done. You can then just as easily present western culture as being every bit as depraved and hateful as the anti-Israel protesters with the "God Bless Hitler" placard. Having mentioned Hitler (and trying to skirt the fringes of Godwin's Law), Wilders's film has a lot more in common with National Socialist propaganda than the on-screen Muslim fanatics do. Except with a lower budget, less class, and an inability to convince me that he didn't produce it during his lunch break at a coffee shop. Leni Riefenstahl he is not. Hell, he's not even Michael Moore. Moore might love being just as slanted as Wilders but at least he puts some effort into it. Wilders, as far as I can tell, contributed about 15 lines of Stalinesque slogans and sourced everything else from media outlets.

As a film, this production's quality is perhaps marginally better than whatever's trending on Youtube today. As a conversation piece, it's barely worth touching. As a provocative statement, it's disappointingly unoriginal. I won't say that it's a total waste of time because it is an accurate representation of the views of a portion of public opinion in the Western world that's large enough to be of consequence. As such it bears watching--but certainly not for its artistic merit or rational arguments.

It's not my intention to downplay the effectiveness of poorly produced propaganda. It's effective. It is my intention to evaluate Fitna as a film around whose release much was ado. Well, on a technical, intellectual, and artistic level, much was ado about nothing.

Film critic style rating, stars'n' all: + (0.5/5)

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