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    We should not ignore ‘Fitna’ but use it

    by Sunny on 2nd April, 2008 at 8:33 am    

    This is a guest post by Reem Maghribi

    Society can only progress if it is allowed to question. This applies to issues concerning both science and faith. Regardless of whether or not Wilders’s intentions are based on assisting the progression of society by encouraging dialogue, I would invite his film – bland and poorly produced as it is – to become a tool for Muslims and non-Muslims in discussion of faith, freedom and difference.

    The film offers footage of carnage at the hands of terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam and God.

    What Wilders has done in this film is to directly associate lines in the Quran with acts of violence in recent times thus suggesting that these terrorist acts are justified and even encouraged by the Islamic holy text and refuting the argument of many of Europe’s Muslims that Islamist terrorists, such as al Quaida, do not represent the majority and do not represent the Quran.

    The film may be poorly produced enough that it would not have received tv air time regardless of a decision on whether it should be banned, but its content is effective in giving Islamaphobes justification for their fears and hatred.

    It is easy to dismiss Wilders film by claiming that all religious texts can be interpreted in many ways, but those who already hold negative views of Muslims and Islam – or worse, those who were undecided – may be affected by Wilders’ film and may only reconsider their views if someone offers them a rebuttal or alternative interpretations.

    Wilders has put Muslims in a position to defend their religion and offer alternative explanations for the Quaranic verses which the film has quite dramatically and uncomfortably linked with heinous acts. Muslims must react accordingly. Not by being insulted and angered but by joining the discussion.

    Although the Quran itself encourages open dialogue and interpretation of itself, there is often a sense of fear that encouraging interpretation will ultimately lead to a demise in the sacredness of the text, as is sometimes perceived to have been the case with Christianity.

    Additionally, the questioning of the text is no longer encouraged by Imams in the East who take instruction from regimes who fear free-thinking will encourage social and political unrest and ultimately revolt.

    It is these same regimes that did not control revolts against Danish embassies in 2006 or advise their people that the Danish government and people are not responsible for the acts of one newspaper. Ultimately it is in these regimes’ interests to encourage their people to see the West, or at least certain facets of it, as he enemy, just as some western regimes have an interest in encouraging their people to see Muslims or Islam as the enemy in order to justify their illegal invasions.

    Conflict has only ever been resolved in one of two ways – violence and dialogue. Ultimately the process of communication and understanding which is necessary for Europe to overcome its woes in relation to immigrants and identity will be eternally ongoing.

    Wilders wants all Muslims out of Europe. He feels that they have demanded too much from Europe and that European governments have bent too far, often at the expense of their citizens, in the name of social cohesion in order to appease immigrant Muslims. He has produced this film to prove his point.

    If governments banned it from being aired on national television he would suggest they were being too cautious of the concerns of Europe’s Muslims. If they did not he would expect an uprising similar to the aftermath of the Danish cartoons and add clout to his belief that Islam is an intolerant religion that promotes violence against the enemy.

    Hence, the existence of the film is as much a political tool in itself as its contents. I doubt, considering the lack of originality and poor production quality, the film would have received television air time in any case.

    We should not simply shrug our shoulders and ignore Wilders’ film simply because it is produced by an Islamaphobe with a political agenda. Muslims in Europe, immigrant or otherwise, also have a political agenda – to be European citizens with equal rights.

    Let us therefore respond to Wilders allegations, flesh out the issues at the root of his hatred and address them too. We may not be responsible for the actions of Islamist terrorists but we, Muslims in Europe, do have a responsibility to be part of the dialogue and solution to the unrest surrounding us, not because we or our beliefs are to blame for the unrest but because it is in our interests to do so.

    Reem Maghribi
    Sharq magazine

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