Perhaps there was some disappointment among Dutch and European media due to the relatively weak reaction that followed the online release of the film ‘Fitna’ by the right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders especially since the film has surpassed the boundaries of adherence to freedom of opinion and expression to become a real test of Muslim reaction to a new misunderstanding of their beliefs and identities consequently creating new friction between Islam and the West.
In fact, the 17-minute film that caused tremendous uproar before it was released is an extremist point of view and an indication of the prevailing stereotype of Muslims in the world. It is true that it is not the first time that Islam and violence have been linked to one another but what is noticeable is that the film ends with the following message: Stop the Islamization of Europe. This means that millions of Muslims living in Europe, who constitute 3% of its total population, are being subjected to many accusations, which increases the suffering of migrants, the majority of which fled difficult situations in their native countries. The exaggeration that preceded the release of the film placed the Muslims of Europe and the world in a difficult situation, especially since the press expected a major crisis [to erupt] and perhaps acts of violence as a result of the film.
However, it was apparent that many Muslims were not driven to react in a similar way to the reactions that followed the publishing of the Danish cartoons [that depicted Prophet Mohammed]. Some of these reactions were powerful and irrational and further strengthened the stereotypical image of Muslims as a result of the violations that took place during some protests in a number of Islamic countries. Since the outbreak of the cartoons crisis, which was preceded by the assassination of the Dutch director Theo Van Gogh, and the recent release of ‘Fitna’, the crisis has taken on a new dimension that relates to the depth of the concepts of European and Western awareness. European society has endured a historical rebirth through which it transcended religious beliefs so that it divorced it of holiness through the West’s practices of freedom of belief and expression. Therefore, in the West, religions and prophets do not enjoy the same esteem that is held [for them] by Muslims.
There is no doubt that republishing the offensive Danish cartoons and the release of the ‘Fitna’ film are not guilt free and do not fall under the banner of defending freedom of expression inasmuch as it incites Muslims and highlights radicalism and extremism amongst some of them and this is a trend that cannot be denied. Muslims should make the most of the relative rationalism that emerged in the form of calm reactions to the ‘Fitna’ film and consequently, a shift from bearing slogans that call for “slaughtering them because of their offensive cartoons” to calm responses that make issues such as the cartoons or the film ordinary matters. This alone can ensure dwarfing and confining such issues to a limited sphere in order to pave the way for a serious discussion on the roots of discord between Muslims and the West.
The Europeans are living in fear of Islam that is within close proximity of them whilst Muslims have become captive to groups of extremists and they have become the exclusive image of Muslims today. The failure to trigger violent reactions is the introduction of rational dialogue, which in itself will not be easy in any case.