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About the Removal of YouTube Videos in Which We Were Hosted by an Arab Channel:
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The Relation between the Yathreb City-State of Prophet Muhammad and the People of the Book
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Our Response to Al-Qaeda Criminals Inciting their Terrorists to Murder Our Person
Human rights
Pondering on this Quranic Verse Which Is Mostly Misunderstood "Muhammad the Messenger of God And Those with him..." (48:29)
Bangladesh v. Radical Islam
How God was presented in the Qur’an?
An Adulterated Remedy!
Forced Displacement: A Historical Fundamental Overview
Human Beings and Jinn within a Quranic Vision
Fitna
Fitna and the challenge to moderate Muslims

With surprisingly minimal fanfare, the much anticipated short film Fitna, written and produced by Dutch Member of Parliament, Geert Wilders, was released via the internet on 27 March. Despite its somewhat discrete entry into the public realm, Fitna has already elicited a disproportionate reaction from the Muslim world, which by and large has called for its circulation to be proscribed. It has placed, once again, the question of the congruence of Islam with universal human rights, centre stage.

As a Muslim, I experienced a range of emotions in viewing the film. At a fundamental level, while I found the content and substance disturbing in its simplistic indictment on Islam, and the Qur'an in particular, I believe its unfettered distribution is necessary to demonstrate "putative" Islamic tolerance, and to support the absolute right to freedom of expression. Nevertheless, the film instilled a sense of anger in me, as I suspect it does for most genuinely moderate Muslims. My anger however, is directed inward, towards Muslim thinking, rather than Mr Wilders or other critics of Islam.

Fitna, at approximately fifteen minutes long provides, by no means, a thorough exposition into the Qur'an or Islam. The film's apparent objective is to convey at least three key messages:

(1) Islam is inherently a violent religion and ideology that is inextricably linked with Muslim terrorism and oppression
(2) increasing Muslim immigration is a threat to Western civilisation, and
(3) Islam, as an ideology, should be "destroyed".

Overall, the film presents a succinct, yet superficial (and perhaps simplistic) overview of particular verses of the Qur'an, and the Muslim tradition which can be interpreted to mandate violence and oppression, and attempts to demonstrate how these verses have been applied to justify Islamic terrorism and the maltreatment of non-Muslims, women, homosexuals and others. Nevertheless Fitna uses powerful imagery, concrete examples, Islamic sources and actual words and statements of Muslims and Muslim commentators to support its thesis. Fitna provides a powerful reminder of the drivers behind the terrorist murders which took place on September 11th and in London, Madrid and many other locations.

The film suffers from an important flaw however. In its conciseness and brevity, it does not provide a full picture of modern Islamic thought. It leads the viewer to believe, that there is only a singular understanding of Islam and of the verses in the Qur'an. It overtly ignores the existence and work of moderate Muslims and more liberal schools of Islam. That being said, it would be disingenuous to argue that the substance of the film is somehow inaccurate. These verses have been used and justified, extensively by both traditional and modern scholars (such as Sheikh Al-Rashudi and Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi). While there are liberal and moderate schools of Islamic thought, they are, unfortunately, not predominant. Nonetheless, the portrayal of Islam as a singular monstrous monolith is troubling, from the perspective of a moderate Muslim.

At the same time however, the film (perhaps unwittingly) speaks to moderate Muslims and poses a challenge. This takes place during arguably the film's most powerful moment the film rests is its conclusion where an image of the Qur'an is placed on the screen, and the sound of tearing pages is heard in the background. The narrator immediately puts forward a challenge to Muslims:

The sound you heard was a page being removed from the phonebook. For it is not up to me, but to Muslims to tear out the hateful verses of the Qur'an.

The film, in obvious terms, will offend (to varying degrees) most Muslims, from traditionalists and Isuch as Sheikh Al-Rashudi and Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi). While there are liberal and moderate schools of Islamic thought, they are, unfortunately, not predominant. Nonetheless, the portrayal of Islam as a singular monstrous monolith is troubling, from the perspective of a moderate Muslim.

At the same time however, the film (perhaps unwittingly) speaks to moderate Muslims and poses a challenge. This takes place during arguably the film's most powerful moment the film rests is its conclusion where an image of the Qur'an is placed on the screen, and the sound of tearing pages is heard in the background. The narrator immediately puts forward a challenge to Muslims:

The sound you heard was a page being removed from the phonebook. For it is not up to me, but to Muslims to tear out the hateful verses of the Qur'an.

The film, in obvious terms, will offend (to varying degrees) most Muslims, from traditionalists and Islamists to moderates and reformers. In my view, anger is justified. The penultimate question becomes, however: to whom and/or what should Muslims, particularly moderate Muslims, direct their anger towards? Is it Mr Wilders or other vociferous critics of Islam? Or is it towards the traditional Muslim framework of thinking that created the subject of Mr Wilder's film? My anger is directed towards the latter. It is not directed towards Mr Wilders, although I would view Mr Wilders and his motivations with scepticism. My anger and discontent over the substance of Fitna is firmly directed towards the traditional schools of Islamic thought that are responsible for creating the context and environment for Islamism, in which this film emerged. It is not enough to simply blame Wahabism or Salafism. The principles of aggressive jihad, dhimmitude, and other forms of Muslim tyranny were initially elucidated not by Ibn Tamiyya and Abdul Wahab, but Islam's foundational scholars and rulers.

Muslims should be angry about Fitna, but that anger should be directed to those ulaema and leaders who perpetuate traditional Islamist positions. Nevertheless, despite any feelings of anger Muslims must tolerate it, and other perceived insults to Islam, in order to demonstrate true Muslim tolerance and compatibility with wider civilisation. Moderate Muslims, in particular must play a leadership role by defending the universal freedom of expression, even in the face of insult, as Christians, Jews and members of other faiths so often do.

Moreover, Fitna's concluding challenge is one that should be immediately taken up collectively by moderate Muslims. It is beyond dispute that certain verses of the Qur'an, and moreover, the Muslim tradition, are the direct source of Islamism and the current civilisational conflict with the West. While simply removing parts of the Qur'an per Mr Wilder's suggestion, is unlikely to occur, moderate Muslims can nonetheless accept Mr Wilder's challenge by working towards new hermeneutical approaches to the Qur'an and other sources of Islam. To a degree this is already occurring through the work of moderate Muslim scholars such as Abdulahi Na'im, Amina Wadud and Ahmed Subhy Mansour who are developing Islamic solutions to combat Islamism and putting forth alternative approaches to the Qur'an and Islam.

But as the Islamist reaction to Fitna grows, moderate Muslims must not only accept the Fitna challenge, but must also play a central leadership role in ensuring that the blame for Fitna is not placed on Mr Wilders, but squarely on the shoulders of Islamists. For moderate Muslims, this is a defining moment.


The views and opinions of authors whose articles and comments are posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of IQC.