* After a revolting interview yesterday, the once respectable SPIEGEL allows Henryk Broder to present his views, obviously because we need some’ balance’:
Dutch politician Geert Wilders may be many things, but he is not the right-wing populist he is accused of being. What the debate over his film “Fitna” reveals most clearly is the West’s cowardice toward Islam.
So, it comes as no surprise that TV presenter Tom Buhrow opened the Friday late-evening news on the German TV channel ARD with a report on the “anti-Islamic video of the right-wing populist” Geert Wilders — as though there were a central authority in the otherwise censor-free Federal Republic of Germany that is responsible for prescribing the vocabulary of Euro-Islamic affairs. It was followed by a report on the relaxed response of Dutch Muslims, who were shown sitting in their cafes peacefully drinking coffee while Wilders raised havoc outside.
According to this interpretation of events, Wilders has only himself to blame for the fact that he has to be under 24-hour police protection and sleep in a different location every night. If he’d taken on, say, the Federation of Dutch Floriculturists, his private life would be fully intact.
The hostility does not lie in the eye of the beholder, but rather in the nature of the film’s subject. Part of the ritualistic response of Muslim communities to the observation that Islam is not always a peaceful religion is invariably the threat of violence, should the “insult” not be retracted — regardless of whether it was made by the pope, a politician or a poet.
And Wilders is guilty of breaking with yet another aspect of the prevailing consensus. He opted to act, not just react. Since announcing his film three months ago, he has been defining the course of the debate, driving his opponent away from him. Nobody would have been surprised if Wilders had ended his game by confessing that the film itself did not actually exist.
What he wanted to accomplish had already been accomplished (more…) with the threat to show an “anti-Islamic video.” He showed the “free West” to be a paper tiger. The Dutch government distanced itself from the project and asked its ambassadors in Muslim countries to explain to their host governments the situation in their home country, where the government is not as omnipotent as it would like to be.
The EU, wanting to please all sides, issued a statement that emphasized the importance of freedom of speech while at the same time relativizing it: “We believe that acts such as (Geert Wilders’) film serve no other purpose than inflaming hatred.”
Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chimed in to condemn the Wilders film “in the strongest terms.” He said that nothing can justify hate speech or incitement to violence. “The right of free expression is not at stake here. … Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility.”
This is the kind of tone that one waits for in vain when Islamists call for jihad, fanatics massacre non-believers or Holocaust deniers organize conferences. The only objective of these exercises is to prevent a repetition of what happened in 2006, when a dozen harmless Muhammad caricatures caused a blaze of indignation from Jakarta to Rabat. At the time, many politicians, including the prominent German Green Party politician Claudia Roth, called for “de-escalation.”
The call was not aimed at the arsonists who were burning Danish flags and destroying embassies, but at the Europeans, who were watching the jihadists in bafflement, in a bid to not pour more oil on the flames.
A similar thing happened recently in Sudan, when a British woman innocently named a teddy bear Muhammad. Or when Salman Rushdie was knighted by the British queen. Muslims were outraged and Europeans sought cover until the storm had blown over.
And now the “right-wing populist” Wilders is being sacrificed on the altar of appeasement policy. He is no cineaste, and his film is certainly no masterpiece. It is, however, a brute challenge to us to at least recognize reality.
* C’mon, Broder, get real: Wilders doesn’t have to be a cineaste and it he didn’t set out to make a ‘masterpiece’, the film is a mirror in the face of ugly Islam, and the ummah don’t like it.