Friday, 5 March 2010

Geert Wilders to show Fitna film in House of Lords today

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Geert Wilders, fresh from success for his far-right Freedom Party in Dutch local elections this week, arrives in Britain today for a screening of his anti-Islam film Fitna in the House of Lords, at the invitation of Lord Pearson of Ranoch, the leader of UKIP. Well, what a glorious moment in the history of the world's oldest Parliament that will be. For those of you who might have missed out on the existence of Fitna (and well done if you have), it's a short film juxtaposing Islamist atrocities with some choice verses from the Koran. You might summarise the plot as follows: the existence of terrorism + the presence of some violent lines in the Koran = cause to be very afraid of Muslims. (If you really feel the need to watch it, just Google it and have a look at online.)

With a general election looming in the Netherlands in June, the Freedom Party's acquisition this week of its first local government seats, in The Hague and the town of Almere, suggests that Wilders could play a key role in determining the nature of the country's next coalition government. He could even end up as Prime Minister, say some. But a useful counterpoint is provided by an Amsterdam-based writer, Mark Fonseca Rendeiro, on Comment is Free, who says that Wilders' gains are not as significant as the headlines suggest – Dutch politics has a long history of short-lived successes for parties from the far-right and far-left, and other parties, such as the Greens and a moderate conservative party, made big gains in this week's poll (but don't provide the shock headlines like Wilders).

Protests are expected outside Parliament by Muslim and anti-fascist groups. If you have any interest in reading more of my view on Wilders, his brand of politics and his self-appointed status as a "free speech martyr", I've written about it in more detail on this blog on several occassions in the past, most recently in this post. But on this occassion I'll leave you with one point – there'll be a counter-march in support of Wilders in London this afternoon. By the English Defence League.

That, surely, tells us what we need to know about Geert Wilders.

23 comments:

Nick said...

What an appalling, ignorant article. Fitna does more than juxtapose verses from the Koran with acts of violence, it also shows Muslim religious leaders exhorting their fellow believers to follow those verses. That's the key point. For many Muslims, the Koran is not a dead book, but a living document which is as relevant today as it was to Mohummed. This is worrying for everyone - not only Jews, unbelievers and polytheists (like Hindus) who are to be treated with violence and hatred according to the Koran, but also for Muslims who wish to take a more "enlightened" attitude to their religion - to cherry pick the good bits and try and live by those - these people are at risk of being called apostates and are at risk of violence from their co-religionists.

Even if you disagree with my assessment of Fitna, you must surely recognise that it is Wilders who is under 24 hour armed guard. He is not thretening the life of anyone, but there are plenty of followers of "the Religion of Peace" who would seek to harm or kill Wilders (as they did Theo Van Gogh for the similar crime of making a movie).

Wilders, and many of us are worried that Islam (not necessarily Muslims) presents a danger to our culture. The demand for special treatment from Islamic organisations, the demand for a world-wide blasphemy law to protect Islam, the many, many acts of terrorism and violence inflicted on the West, but also on Muslim populations in Muslim-majority countries speaks strongly in favour of this conclusion.

Wilders is very brave saying what he does. He does not deserve to be criticised in such a snide manner by a magazine which should be full square behind Wilder's defence of Enlightenment values.

For shame, New Humanist

Paul Sims said...

Firstly, for a more detailed example of my opinion on Wilders, I'd suggest you read this post: http://blog.newhumanist.org.uk/2010/01/geert-wilders-martyr-of-truth.html

In my view, Geert Wilders is using the same tactics being used by far-right politicians across Europe, including the BNP, which is tapping into people's fear of Islamic extremism in order to further their agendas. It's why Nick Griffin was once caught on camera stating that he would focus on attacking Muslims, due to the favourable post-9/11, 7/7 climate, while laying off Jews for the time being.

I am not saying that there are not legitimate issues regarding Islamic extremism and preachers advocating it, but what politicians like Wilders say and promote goes beyond that. This is not a man who deals in nuance, but rather broad brush strokes. When he points out, extremely crudely in Fitna, that there is a link between terrorist atrocities and Islam, and there are some in Western countries who would promote that, he does not then suggest that extremism must be dealt with by supporting non-extremist Muslims at the expense of extremists.

No, his focus is not on extremists as a minority, but on Muslims as a whole. Islamist extremists are Muslims, and so Muslim populations as as a whole must pay. He suggests that Islam in Europe is a "Trojan Horse", that Muslims are swamping Holland, that Europe will become, in future, a majority Muslim "Eurabia" (demographers have shown this is absolutely not true), that there should be a ban on immigration, a ban on headscarves, a ban on building new mosques. He is even a man who suggests the banning of a book - the Koran.

Are these Enlightenment values? Not in any form that I understand them. And as for Wilders requiring 24-hour protection - all that proves is that there are extremists out there who will attack those who criticise Islam. We know this already. It does not follow that Wilders is correct in the far-right policies he proposes for Holland.

As a secularist, a freethinker, a humanist, I believe in standing up to extremism in all its forms. I think it is absolutely essential that, in standing up to Islamic extremism, we do not fall into an unholy alliance with those on the far-right who claim to do the same. We must see through their posturing, and look at what they are actually proposing.

DavidMWW said...

Paul, you write:
But on this occassion I'll leave you with one point – there'll be a counter-march in support of Wilders in London this afternoon. By the English Defence League.

That, surely, tells us what we need to know about Geert Wilders.


And then you write:

And as for Wilders requiring 24-hour protection - all that proves is that there are extremists out there who will attack those who criticise Islam. We know this already.

Just saying.

Paul Sims said...

David, could you explain what you mean by that? You seem to imply that those statements are contradictory somehow, but I don't see it.

Nick said...

Gosh! You criticise a politician for "tapping into people's fears... to further their agendas". Surely that is the raison d'ĂȘtre of a politician. While I don't agree with everything that Wilders suggests, for example I don't see any reason to ban headscarves (but people who choose to wear a niqab should accept that there will be some restrictions on their movement, ie into a bank or jewellery store or a shopping centre that bans hoodies or use of photo ID cards) I do think that he is right to speak out about this problem and to propose solutions. Wilders may be wrong, but to assume that he is wrong, and deprive him and his constituency of raising legitimate questions seems to ignore this important issue.

I understand his idea to ban the Koran - in the Netherlands Mein Kampf is banned because it is a horribly racist book. Wilder's argument is that if Mein Kampf should be banned, then on the same grounds, so should the Koran.

As to your comment about swamping the culture, I agree that over our lifetimes, Muslims will not reach a majority in any European country, but to say that is to ignore the fact that quite small populations of Muslims can cause discord and cultural strife in a community. Why should a native population have to put up with that from newcomers?

Most groups of immigrants arrive in a new country and seek to fit in. However, we see all over the world - in Nigeria in Africa, in Holland and the UK in Europe, in Australia and Canada and the US, Muslim populations (not all Muslims, but certainly most Muslim organisations) seek exemptions and privileges not available to either natives or to other new-comers. I think this is what the people who support Wilders are reacting against.

I don't think that Wilders is a racist, and for you to attempt to brand him as one diminishes the real racism felt by many people. How many times do we need to say that Islam is not a race? By it's own lights, it is a universal ideology that governs every aspect of it's adherent's lives (and for it's adherents, every aspect of everyone's lives - fancy being a dhimmi Paul?) In this way, Wilder's characterisation of Islam is more akin to Communists during the Cold War. There were people actively working to undermine Western Democracy during the Cold War, and there are people who are doing that now, under the ideology of Islam. The only difference is that most of the people who would replace our imperfect society with something orders of magnitude worse have brown skins, not white. You're a racist if you don't oppose the Islamisation of Europe.

As far as I can see, Wilders is a defender of Enlightenment values from people who would deprive us of the benefits that we have invented in the West.

Paul Sims said...

Nick, to address a few of your points:

1) "Wilders may be wrong, but to assume that he is wrong, and deprive him and his constituency of raising legitimate questions seems to ignore this important issue."

When did I advocate depriving him of raising his questions? I think it was wrong to ban him from coming here, I think he shouldn't be on trial in Holland. But I think he is profoundly wrong in what he proposes, and in the way in which he sweepingly characterises Muslims, and I think politicians like him must be argued against. I'm not questioning his right to say what he says.

2)"Muslim populations (not all Muslims, but certainly most Muslim organisations) seek exemptions and privileges not available to either natives or to other new-comers. I think this is what the people who support Wilders are reacting against."

In certain respects this is true - for instance our government has been wrong to engage so enthusiastically with self-selected groups of "community leaders" with reactionary views, such as the MCB. But it has keenly granted privileges to religions of all stripes. Is the way to push back against this to imp=ose restrictions on all adherents of those faiths? Because that's what Wilders proposes for Islam.

3) "How many times do we need to say that Islam is not a race?"

No, it isn't. But it provides a convenient way for racists to say they're not being racist. A big part of Nick Griffin's attempts to make the BNP more palatable has been to focus on "Islam" rather than "race". When this kind of politics makes sweeping statements about the adherents of a religion, that's as good as making sweeping statements about race, in my view.

DavidMWW said...

You are correct that the fact that Wilders requires 24-hour protection proves only that there are extremists out there who will attack those who criticise Islam. To claim otherwise is fallacious.

Yet your claim in the OP - that the fact that there will be a demonstration by the EDL in support of Wilders "tells us all we need to know about Geert Wilders" - is fallacious for the same reason.

All it tells us is that there are extremists out there who are counter-marching in support of Geert Wilders.

Paul Sims said...

David,

Fair enough. That was a flippant way to end my OP, as obviously there is much more to know about Wilders than the fact that the EDL will march in support of him. But I stand by my meaning, i.e. the fact that Wilders has attracted EDL support says a lot about his politics.

DavidMWW said...

Then, by the same reasoning, will you concede that Wilders' requiring 24-hour protection says a lot about Islam?

Paul Sims said...

No I won't. Because there's a difference between something being telling about one man's politics, and something being telling about an entire religion, and by extension over 1 billion people.

Nick said...

Hi Paul

1) Yes, you say that he shouldn't be on trial, that he should be allowed to come to the UK and that he is entitled to free speech, but the tone of your piece is that we would all be better off he he just shut the hell up and slunk back under the rock from whence he came.

You say: "I think politicians like him must be argued against. I'm not questioning his right to say what he says." But you don't argue against him at all, you use innuendo and guilt by association "the BNP are coming!", "the EDL are coming!" to smear him. What is your argument that he's wrong - what in Fitna for example is wrong? Where has he made a mistake. I agree with you that there are some policies that I don't agree with, but I am more concerned about his right to even say that there is a problem. Liberals like you (and I count myself as a Classical Liberal) want to smear Wilders with the "racism" brush in an attempt to stop the debate before it even gets out of the starting gates.

2) I think that people should be free to practise Islam as a personal faith, I have no problem with people choosing not to drink, or not eat pork, or bow down on Fridays or wear their trousers above their ankles (or even wear a bin bag, with the proviso that the niqab/burkha wearer is the one to bear the costs of their decision) but I do object to Islam as a political project. It's Islamic politics that I have a problem with, and I think that it's as appropriate to combat Islamic political ideals as it was to combat Communistic political ideals during the Cold War. If large numbers of Muslims support Islamic political ideals, then it is appropriate to combat that large group in order to defend our own society and values. Muslims who are genuinely opposed to Sharia should be on our side - I see the Council of Ex-Muslims and groups like Muslims Against Sharia as showing that it is possible for them to be on our side.

3) Again you're talking about the BNP. I'm not a BNP supporter. I think their politics are stupid and ignorant. I realise that the BNP have squalid ideas and use "religion" as code for "race". But just because the BNP supports an idea doesn;t automatically make that idea wrong. I think that if they are actually talking about the religion of Islam, as they sometimes do, even the BNP say some things I agree with.

The only question you need to answer is whether the Enlightenment is worth defending. If it is, then we must find allies where we can, while denouncing the worst of the policies of those who support women's rights, rights for gay people, rights for non-believers and apostates, rights for people who have other religions.

The most amazing thing about all my reading into Islamization is how the best defenders of women's rights these days are the sort of neo-conservatives who I used to revile, but who now stand head and shoulders above people like Germaine Greer because they think Muslim women are valuable and have rights too.

DavidMWW said...

OK, just to be clear. Do you think that the fact that Geert Wilders requires 24-hour police protection because of what he has said about Islam has nothing (or at least, not much) to tell us about Islam?

Paul Sims said...

Only in so far as Barack Obama requiring 24-hour protection tells us something about right-wing US Christian extremism. I think it tells us that Islam has an extremist wing that has to be stood up to, but we knew that anyway. We didn't need Geert Wilders to remind us.

Where do you stand on Wilders, David? By which I mean everything from his right to free speech, on which I believe we agree, to his politics.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

"Islam has an extremist wing", would that be the 40% of British Muslim students in the recent report by the Centre for Social Cohesion who were "very" or "fairly" supportive of Sharia Law in Britian for Muslims? http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1231525079_1.pdf.

Oh dear, not exactly the "Tiny Minority of Extremists" we've been told about is it.

The truth is, there is a large minority, or a small majority of Muslims living in the West who want to live under Sharia law. In my view, that's extreme.

I cannot believe that you linked the death threats against Geert Wilders with the protection provided to the President of the United States. Do you have any comment on the murder of Theo Van Gogh?

(Sorry about the deletion and repost: forgot an import clause in a sentence!)

John Doe said...

"No I won't. Because there's a difference between something being telling about one man's politics, and something being telling about an entire religion, and by extension over 1 billion people."

O rly?

Your "one man's politics" is the politics of about a third of the Dutch electorate who have voted in recent elections or been asked the question in recent polls. Are you going to allow Islam and by extension its believers this exception to generalisation but deny it to the politics and therefore voters of the PVV and Wilders?

Leftist mental gymnastics will only get you so far before you end up chasing your own fallacious tail as DavidMWW has so deftly pointed out.

Making generalised statements about a belief system is entirely different from making generalised statements about race. A man can choose one but not the other.

DavidMWW said...

I largely disagree with him. His Eurabia fears are not founded on reality, and betray a lack of belief in the persuasive power that liberal democracy has over its children, even if their parents are against it on principle. I think his immigration policy is inhumane, and much of his social policy illiberal. I think his commitment to free speech is admirably courageous when it concerns his own speech, but I suspect that it does not apply to everyone to the same extent - and if he ever gets in power, we will see just how far his commitment extends.

But I agree with him on one thing: that although Muslims are as capable as anyone of living happily, peacefully, and harmoniously in a liberal democracy, adding value and cultural diversity to society, Islam itself is a big steaming pile of cack.

I take my hat of to him for having the courage to say so.

Paul Sims said...

Nick,

On Fitna: you ask "what in Fitna for example is wrong"? Since the flim does little other than juxtapose news footage of things that have happened with lines from a book that exists, there is little in it that is factually "wrong" in that sense (although there are some things, which I'll come to).

But the implications the film makes are wrong. It is a typical piece of propaganda, which explores a complex issue entirely from one side, in the crudest manner possible. There is not a single point in the entire 17 minutes where an alternative viewpoint is offered. If this was a documentary on TV, it would be slated for this. Even a polemical journalist, if they are any good at what they do and have confidence in what they're saying, would acknowledge counter-arguments.

So Fitna is nothing but crude propaganda. And lets look at what it's saying. The most obvious criticism, and one that's been said in many, many places, is that it's a standard piece of cherrypicking. You could sit down and make the same thing with a Bible. Throughout the film, every Muslim we see is an extremist, from the terrorists, through the preachers, to the young girl who says she hates Jews. Not one bit of the film recognises that not all Muslims think like that. The implication of the film is that all Muslims are extremists, or potential extremists, or at the very least acquiescent in extremism. This is false.

And the big implication of Fitna is that Muslims are taking over the Netherlands and Europe. There is a scene headed "The Netherlands in the Future", which implies that one day in the future, Holland will see Saudi-style executions, stonings etc. To support this view, Wilders uses graphs of demographic statistics, and implies that the Muslim population in Holland and Europe is growing exponentially. The future bar for Europe grows until it is off the screen, implying that the Muslim population will continue to grow until it is in the majority. (Wilders' statements also imply this). In this, Wilders is certainly wrong. Demographic projections suggest the Muslim population of Europe will be at around 10-15 per cent by 2050. It is common for those who talk of Eurabia to misrepresent demographic data.

So in answer to your question what is wrong in Fitna, I say a lot.

Andy said...

You want views on Wilders? Here's some:

1. Wilders' analysis is wrong. Islam is not an inherently violent religion, but it is, like most religions, open to interpretation, and the Koran (like the Bible) contains plenty of ammunition for most viewpoints. The problem with Islam is not any inherent message, it is the general cultural firewall around religions that makes it hard to tell extremists that they are simply wrong.

2. Free speech is absolute. It means freedom precisely for those people with views you find abhorrent, or it means nothing.

3. Purely pragmatically, Wilders banning from entering the UK was a mistake, since it attracted attention he doesn't warrant.

4. There is a silver lining, which is the opportunity to emphasise UKIP's role in all this. UKIP's unseemlier elements need more exposure, I feel.

Paul Sims said...

David - then I think we agree on a lot more than we're disagreeing on here. What bothers me is that I imagine Wilders would happily cite those who have stood up for his right to free speech as sign of wider support for his politics.

DavidMWW said...

Paul, you have identified exactly where our disagreement lies.

What bothers me is people NOT standing up for his right to free speech for fear of being lumped together with the EDL or the BNP, or of simply being seen (by Wilders or others) as signaling wider support for his policies.

DavidMWW said...

If people are too concerned with distancing themselves from what is wrong, they sometimes fail to stand up for what is right.

John Doe said...

Paul Sims continues to gloss over the fact that he is against generalising one belief system, which just happens to be a religion, and for generalising another set of beliefs, which happen to be a political platform. Neither is equivalent to race - a delineation which the individual has no control over.

Wilders' political platform is one, I repeat, which according to polls represents about 1/3 of the Dutch voting public.

But I suppose they're an easy target aren't they - not a hallowed victim group according cultural Marxist theory.

***********

"Islam ... is, like most religions, open to interpretation, and the Koran (like the Bible) contains plenty of ammunition for most viewpoints."

The difference between Islam and the Judeo-Christian tradition is that the Kuran is the direct, unalterable, immutable word of God for all time. It is not recognised as having been written by men - it was written by God. In Islam it is not considered the case that the Kuran was physically written by a man or group of men.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition there is a recognition that the holy books were physically written by men and thus, over time, became open to interpretation.

Understanding this subtle yet vital difference is key.