A Certain Blindness
Several blogs have been praising Fitna, a film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders. I'm not one of them. I support free speech, oppose intimidation, and believe in criticism of any religion including my own.
But that doesn't mean I'm going to endorse everything that tries to come under the heading of criticism. In this case we have a film which juxtapositions violent passages in the Qur'an with images of terrorist attacks and extremist statements by various Muslim clerics.
There's a certain snuff film quality to it, especially the showing of dead bodies and beheadings with stern classic music. In the end, this film follows other classic propaganda films, but in an over the top manner. It wants a visceral reaction from the audience.
I don't want to diminish violence and terrorism done in the name of Islam. But Fitna acts that such violence comes in a vacuum, born of some irrational wickedness (and what can one do with irrational wickedness but wipe it out. One doesn't reason with it).
I'm reminded of a passage by Reinhold Niebuhr, "so persistent is the cry of peace among the ruling classes and so strong the seeming abhorrence of every form of violence and anarchy that one might imagine them actuated by the purest pacifist principles.. "
But then we'd have to ignore our own history. Imagine a film which showed the dead from the Iraq war, which some estimate at a million, or our bombing campaigns against various communities in the Middle East. Picture those pitted along side statements from the Bible.
Or of statements by some religious leaders which suggest that we are on a crusade against Islam. If we were acquainted with the violence enacted in the name of our religion and our nation in this area over the last century, would that have changed the reception of this film?
Stopping violence is a good thing. One way to do this is to confront our own violence, our own complicity in the things that fuel support of extremist movements. Otherwise, we'll be like those groups we oppose, not a recipe for a livable 21st century.