New wave of Muslim outrage?
Remember the 2005 uproar about supposedly blasphemous cartoons in a Danish newspaper? Extremist Muslim clerics claimed the cartoons mocked Mohammed, and sparked violent protests across the Islamic world. Danish embassies were set on fire. Death threats were issued. Rioters clashed with police, costing more than 100 lives. All because of some cartoons. Well, brace yourselves. We may be in store for another round of Islamic outrage, this time emanating from the Netherlands.
Geert Wilders is a controversial Dutch politician and Parliament member who takes a hard line against immigrants, especially Muslims. Last August, he wrote an inflammatory essay calling the Koran a "fascist book" and advocating it be legally banned just as Hitler's "Mein Kampf." Now he says he has produced a short film on the subject, which may show him defacing a Koran on camera. Wilder says it will soon appear on the popular media site YouTube, for a world-wide audience.
Wilders heads the recently-formed Party for Freedom (the Dutch acronym is PVV), which has just two main planks - "less tax, and less Islam." Just a decade ago, the PVV would be seen as a reactionary right-wing splinter group, but it did surprisingly well in 2006 elections, capturing nine seats and becoming the third largest opposition party.
Many Dutch citizens are alarmed at what they see as increasing "Islamization" of their country, with a growing minority population of non-assimilating Muslims. As in other European countries, Dutch Muslims are creating separate schools, communities and mind-sets. Out of 16.5 million people in the Netherlands, about 1 million - both citizens and non-citizens - are now Muslim.
More alarming are violent acts and threats of violence stemming from that minority. In 2004 film-maker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a self-proclaimed jihadist. A young Dutch-born Muslim citizen shot him eight times, then cut his throat on a public street. Van Gogh's killing produced a backlash against the growing tide of Islamic immigration, and the rise of Geert Wilders and the PVV followed.
Now Wilders and his film are at the center of the storm. Muslims in and out of the Netherlands are threatening to lash out if Wilders releases his video. The Grand Mufti of Syria proclaimed that any "riots, bloodshed and violence" that result from the film will be Wilders' responsibility. A radical group inside the country, the Hizb ut-Tahrir, threaten that "if this film will be released, then it's WAR!"
How absurd. When those espousing the "religion of peace" advocate violence and mayhem and murder in reaction to any perceived disrespect of their faith, then what are we to think? More important, where are the moderate Muslims who reject such tactics of intimidation? Are there any?
Centuries ago, the Dutch carved out a country, protected by dikes to hold back the sea. And in their prosperous, modern country they have prided themselves on open immigration policies and "tolerance" for minority communities. Now that tolerance, of Islamic radicals who reject and dispise the very values that protect them, threatens to finally sink them.
1) New wave of Muslim outrage?