Geert Wilders has kept his word. He has circulated his film Fitna before April 1 and has, as he puts it, been ‘properly’ restrained. The film, which nevertheless appeared unexpectedly on the Internet on Thursday, is indeed not as shocking as expected during the hyped-up prelude to the premiere.
So the film seems like an anticlimax. It goes no further than making suggestive comments: the suggestion that the Koran is the source of all the violence in the world; the suggestion that Islam is a threat to everyone’s freedom, like Hitler and Stalin. But in Fitna, the Koran is not destroyed and the bomb in the prophet’s turban, drawn by the Danish cartoonist, doesn’t quite explode.
Has Wilders been successful in giving an example of his political and artistic skills with Fitna? Certainly not when it comes to his artistic capacity. Wilders doesn’t have enough creative talent and is sloppy in his approach.
This might still prove a problem and he will probably have to explain himself before the courts. For example he used material from the Danish cartoonist without asking permission and wrongly said a photograph of a rapper was the murderer of film-maker Theo van Gogh. And he has dragged others along with him – proof of a stunning lack of responsibility. The Dutch public prosecution department is also looking into whether Fitna incites hatred in the legal sense.
Freedom of expression, one of the fundamental concepts of every democratic state, can cope with this amateurish attack. This confidence is confirmed by the muted reactions to the film to date. Earlier prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende had almost precipitated a sort of emergency by using the word ‘crisis’. But when the hour of reckoning arrived, the prime minister limited himself to a declaration in which he said the government ‘regretted’ the film.
Representatives from Islamic organisations used a similar tone. Some reacted completely laconically. The question now is whether Fitna will be seen in the same way in less articulate circles in the Netherlands and abroad. After all, action and reaction belong together. Governments and individual agitators could use the film as an excuse to get even for other things. But the calm way the film has been received up to now gives hope.
Both left and right-wing politicians have dismissed the film as old hat. They saw ‘nothing new’ in the footage. But such comments show a misunderstanding of Wilders’ political goal. He doesn’t want to bring new insights or promote dialogue. Fitna is just a weapon in his propaganda war. His politics stand or fall with the concept of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. In this sense Wilders hasn’t done himself or the citizens of the Netherlands a service. And that too must be said in public.