Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Another Provocation Hate Speech or Free Speech

Geert Wilders who is creating a film to create a provocation

The Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders has touched off a fierce debate with his plans to post a short film on the Internet that is said to be highly critical of the Koran and Islam. A date has not been set, and there is no certainty that the film will be posted. But the anticipation has already touched off a heated discussion, and raised fears that the film could set off violence of the sort that followed publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.
Following are four comments on the film and the furor around it.
A recent Gallup poll of Muslims in 39 countries reported that 92 percent of Muslims believe that attacks on civilians can never be justified. When asked to explain their position, a significant segment of the group cited the Koran's insistence on safeguarding innocent life as a moral duty. In spite of this, Geert Wilders would have us think otherwise.
Wilders's film is the latest in a series of provocations against Muslim communities in Holland, and against Islam in general. Its title, "Fitna," is taken from an Arabic word meaning chaos and civil strife.
It seems that this is also Wilders's intended outcome in producing the work. He argues that most Dutch Muslims should leave Holland or tear up at least half the Koran if they wish to stay. He promises that his film will definitively show "the violent and fascist elements of the Muslim faith."
There is no doubt that a small number of criminal extremists have committed violence in the name of Islam in recent years. But they do not represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims.The Gallup poll also shows that the tiny minority of people who believe that violence can sometimes be justified rarely use religion or the Koran to support their views. Their reasons are mostly geopolitical. In other words, Wilders's anti-Muslim ranting is not only racist, it is inaccurate.
The cynical use of identity politics to pit people against each other for political gain is not a new tactic. The past few years have been marred by a rise in tensions between small groups of extremists all over the world promoting the perception of a supposed "Muslim-West" divide.
It is no surprise that those on the fringes of either side of "the divide" use similar, incendiary rhetoric to provoke young people, with the ultimate aim of strengthening their own political platforms. In releasing a film that will undoubtedly insult deeply held religious beliefs, it seems that Wilders is hoping to cause a violent reaction to prove his own argument.
As with the Danish cartoon crisis two years ago, this situation, while dangerous, also presents unique opportunities.
Every time resources are deployed to spread disinformation, there is an attendant rise in the public's curiosity. Already there are many who are interested in learning more about Islam. It is likely that their number will grow after this. It is critical that we seize this opportunity to mobilize ourselves to present a more accurate picture of Islam.
As mediators in an increasingly heated debate, our efforts to counter the likes of Wilders must be both outwardly directed - in teaching others about Muslims - as well as inwardly directed toward our youth.
How do we ensure that our youth do not fall prey to such provocation?
We must be sensitive to their needs, and listen to them carefully. We should use every opportunity to further the development of healthy Western and Muslim identities. We must provide them with alternatives both in terms of information and platforms for dialogue and participation. And the best way to start doing this is to exemplify moderation in our own words and actions. Our Prophet would have done no less.

By Hamza Yusuf, Din Syamsuddin & HH Prince Hassan bin Talal.


Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson is a Muslim American scholar of Islam. Din Syamsuddin is the president of the Muhammadiya, the second largest Islamic organization of Indonesia. Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan is the president of the Arab Thought Forum.

Please Geert Wilders do not start the flame of hate, we have seen to much hate in this world of ours.Hate only generates hate, which leads to violence not peace.What saddens me most is that your speech, Geert is very inaccurate, if you study the history of tolerance, you will discover that tolerance was introduced in Europe through Islam.Like most things that you take for granted such as the street lights you walk under which came from Muslim Spain, or the orange juice you drink in the morning which also came from Muslim Spain.Not to much the Algebra you were taught that helped you to pass your Maths exams in school, not forgetting the coffee you drink that was invented by a Ethiopian Muslim, his idea went to Arabia, then was practiced in Turkey, finally appearing in Italy.This probably calms you down when you are stressed and helps you stay awake when you burn the midnight oil.Oh I forgot the shampoo you use when you have wash your hair that to my dear friend is an Islamic idea. These are just some of the vast contributions Islam has brought to the west.I pray that you correct your speech and understand what Islam really is and not what the media conveys.

Peace your brother in humanity

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