The Wilders film
Geert Wilders has posted his long-awaited film critical of the Koran.
The BBC reports:
The opening scenes show a copy of the Koran, followed by footage of the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. The 15-minute film was posted on video-sharing website LiveLeak.
Its planned release had sparked angry protests in Muslim countries. The Dutch government has distanced itself from the views of Mr Wilders. The film is called "Fitna", a Koranic term sometimes translated as "strife". Dutch broadcasters have declined to show it.
It's a 15 minute film which makes some effort to avoid gratuitous insult to Islam, ending for example, with the image of a hand about to tear out pages from the Koran while the subsequent tear sound is described as derived from a the sound of a page being torn from a phonebook. But it's clearly an act of calculated defiance. Here's the link to Liveleak.
By publishing the film Wilders has accepted responsibility for crossing a line in the sand. This act will provoke two possible responses. Protests, boycotts, demonstrations and legal action are almost certain to follow demanding the withdrawal of the film of Wilder's censure. There is also a high probability that attempts will be made to attack Western targets in general in reprisal. Radical Islamists, perhaps accustomed to authoritarian social situations, may regard the Dutch broadcasters unwillingness to broadcast Wilder's film as a mere exercise in "plausible deniability" and hold Western society "collectively responsible" anyway.
But the real significance of Wilder's film is to illustrate the growing loss of control by Western governments over the narrative over the nature of the War on Terror. By criticizing Islam itself, a growing number of voices including Geert Wilders and recent convert Magdi Cristiano Allam (who called Islam "inherently evil") have taken one more step towards tearing down the notion, so carefully constructed by George Bush after September 11 of separating terrorism from the "religion of peace".
By repeatedly invoking Islam as the cause or, alternatively, the justification, for violent behavior, both the Left and the Right have jointly undermined the strategy of forming political coalitions with certain elements in the Islamic world to prosecute other elements. This coalition strategy undergirds the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is implicit in US cooperation with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. In those places the US associates itself with certain elements of the "religion of peace" (such as Grand Ayatollah Sistani) against other elements.
But this down-the-middle approach has earned itself many enemies. It is viewed on the Left as a persecution of Islam; or worse, as its corruption. And because a coalition approach takes a long time to succeed it is often rejected out of hand by pacifists, who would either simply deny that any War on Terror exists or insist that the Jihad is justified (as exemplified by Jeremiah Wright's theory that "America's chickens have come home to roost"). Conservatives have grown to distrust coalition warfare as a collection of half-measures. And there is little room between those who would regard the handling of a Koran with anything but white gloves as blasphemy and those who would criticize it as inherently evil. And there may be less room with every passing month.
If the Left had been smart they would have supported Bush's war on targeted elements of Islam. But by falling back on a reflexive pacifism, they gradually deligitimized this appoach without providing a viable warfighting strategy of their own. The Left's own rhetorical unconsciously painted them into the corner of inaction. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for example, rely on the slogan of "getting troops out of harm's way" in place of any real program for resolving the current world crisis.
With Bush's coalition warfighting strategy under attack both from liberals and conservatives, the public may be left with stark choice of either regarding Islam as an misunderstood ideological "friend" -- the abstract equivalent of a protected minority class -- or as an implacable enemy, one bent on the destruction of the West. The problem with this formulation is that the pacifist approach is certain to be discredited over time because Islamic radicalism will implacably attack. And without the coalition strategy available policy will oscillate between the extremes. The price for not fighting the War on Terror effectively is that it eventually degenerates into a War of Civilizations.
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