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Combating Fitna

To ensure freedom of expression is not compromised, moderates on both sides should step in to find a sustainable mechanism to bridge the divides in our globalised world, in which racism and radicalism have a devastating effect on everyone, says Ibrahim El Houdaiby.


CAIRO - Last week, Dutch MP Geert Wilders released his movie Fitna, attacking Muslims and the Qur'an, amidst wide international worries that airing the movie would only lead to further cross-cultural tensions, and perhaps violence. Influential Muslim figures, including some Salafi Saudi scholars, had threatened to boycott the Netherlands while official figures in Iran threatened to review diplomatic relations with the country if the film was aired. Once again, the overall cross-cultural scene seemed less than promising.

Thankfully, the reaction of Danish Muslims was sedate. However, it is clear that people like Wilders feed on the type of contentious atmosphere leading up to the film's release. Opinion polls demonstrated an all-time-high popularity of his political party after the brutal assassination of Theo van Gogh, and again after the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy.

Wilders opts for political gains that come at the cost of long-term strategic interests, such as mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence. Only a few days ago, a Danish teenage Muslim was insulted, harassed and then beaten to death by teenage racists in a contentious Islamophobic atmosphere, while Wilders' movie seems to be provoking more violent reactions from Islamic political groups, who are also feeding on the hype surrounding the film to advance their radical ideas.

Moderates of both sides should make a quick move to prevent radicals from determining the course of events surrounding this debate. The Dutch Constitution prevents the government from banning the movie, and I am personally sceptical towards any attempt to silence an idea. Such subjective decisions open the door for totalitarian regimes to restrict the freedom of expression of their opposition.

But sponsoring such provocations should be equally rejected. It is true that boycotting the Danish economy or reviewing diplomatic relations is irrational and both ethically and politically wrong because it makes sweeping generalisations, overlooks constitutional and legal realities, and inflames tensions.

Yet boycotting media outlets that choose to sponsor hatred, and companies choosing to advertise and sponsor these outlets, is one possible response. Selective boycotts could be championed by promoters of tolerance on both sides to marginalise racism and hatred.

However, boycotts will not operate as stand-alone solutions for such conflicts. In fact, boycotts are the red flags that send alarm signals when things seem to be getting out of control. They also signal the failure of sustaining a constructive dialogue that is based on mutual respect and appreciation of diversity.

For such dialogues to succeed, Wilders' film and similar provocations should be ignored. Highlighting these provocations in the media only serves to feed radical sentiments.

Ignoring the provocative insults does not mean overlooking the critique therein. Inquiries, misconceptions and critiques should be dealt with in a healthy atmosphere, where common ground is identified and different perspectives are scrutinised.

Instead of the long series of condemnations and denunciations following each round of these insults, governments from both sides should sponsor and promote initiatives that create this kind of atmosphere.

A successful dialogue never takes place over a few days or weeks. In fact, it would be impossible for such a discourse to cover the wide range of contentious cross-cultural issues in a few sessions, especially with mounting frustration and mutual mistrust. It should therefore be ongoing and take different forms, including student exchange programmes, seminars, lectures, conferences and exhibits, while building self-sustaining institutions that scrutinise cross-cultural issues and would guarantee continuous interaction.

One of the fruits of this dialogue should be a "code of ethics" for intercultural relations sponsored by governments, academia, major media, and cultural and religious institutions. While the code should not necessarily be embedded in domestic legislation, it should draw lines between constructive criticism and insults, and pave the way for constructive responses.

Freedom of expression has been increasingly manipulated over the past few years, and has been used as a pretext for insult, one that contributes to widening the gap between different cultures and civilisations. To ensure this freedom is not compromised, moderates on both sides should step in and find a sustainable mechanism to bridge the divides in our increasingly globalised world, in which racism and radicalism have a devastating effect on everyone.

_____________________________________________________________

Ibrahim El Houdaiby is a board member of IkhwanWeb.com, the Muslim Brotherhood's official English-language website. He has a BA in political science from the American University in Cairo and is working towards an MA in Islamic studies at the High Institute of Islamic Studies. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews.

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Added: Apr-4-2008 
By: theblue8
In:
Iran, News
Tags: Fitna, Geert Wilders, Moderate, Extremist, Islam
Location: Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt (load item map)
Views: 8470 | Comments: 26 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 2 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • Boilerhouse: "For the Islamists, and Muslims.
    when you travel to a friendly country or into your neighbours house you do not deficate on the kitchen floor.
    what the muslims have been doing for a long time, is come into your house and crapping on your floor. Then the Muslim complains about the stink that they just dumped.
    Western Europe didn't ask for the Muslims to give up their religion, all they asked was respect the host country. But in traditions of Islam, and the fact their religion will not recognize the host country, the Muslims crap all over the place and blame the host for inv More..
    I'm Christian, but I'll crap on your "kitchen floor" anytime I want, because you are a Zionist tool!

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (2) | Report

  • Aninsidejob: "Use your brain. Fitna is propaganda crafted to stir-up more violence & hatred toward Muslims. "
    muslims are doing just fine causing hatred toward them!

    Civilized People has ALWAYS rejected and hated islam.

    and fitna only showed the actions and words of muslims!

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • JihadKiller1s1k: "
    Ezedeen: "
    U-tube: "The fitna movie attacked Islam, not muslims per se.
    "
    Thats the whole point. Attack Muslims, not Islam.

    Islam is perfect, Muslims are not -----Yvonne Ridley"
    islam SUCKS ASS!

    some muslims are good

    islam is evil
    "
    You post pure Zionist propaganda!

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Don't give us that line about racism and intolerance being devastating for everyone "in this globalized world"...wtf is a globalized world anyways huh? Is that like a shelled egg? Maybe a person with skin? An air-tight atmosphere?

    whatever.

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • JayStubbs: "Tolerance is the answer, not propaganda like Fitna. I mean, was the footage on Fitna really a surprise to anyone? Had anyone not seen that footage before? It's old news, man. Muslim violence has been well documented, to say the least. Wilders isn't trying to open eyes, he's rubbing it in our faces. Either that or he's been living under a rock for the last decade, and hasn't noticed Islam/Western conflicts. He's alienating and marginalizing Muslims. He might as well start recruiting Jihadis.

    I haven't heard much from American Muslims. Could it be that America is more More..
    On the contrary... it speaks the truth. It gives facts....

    If nothing else it might at last stir up the vast majority of peaceful muslims to react against the evil in their midst. When we stop telling the truth, even though we have said it a million times, we may as well give in to evil.

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Aninsidejob: "
    Boilerhouse: "For the Islamists, and Muslims.
    when you travel to a friendly country or into your neighbours house you do not deficate on the kitchen floor.
    what the muslims have been doing for a long time, is come into your house and crapping on your floor. Then the Muslim complains about the stink that they just dumped.
    Western Europe didn't ask for the Muslims to give up their religion, all they asked was respect the host country. But in traditions of Islam, and the fact their religion will not recognize the host country, the Muslims crap all over the place and bla More..
    I'm Christian, but I'll crap on your "kitchen floor" anytime I want, because you are a Zionist tool!"
    we got also muhjis aboard with us flags, at least no matter what you are, you can be everything here also backward speaking budgie or a hindu with a buddhist philosophy etcetera :)

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • I'd like to see a bomb dropped on Mecca. The muslims have been desecrating all other religous sites for decades, nows our turn!

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • drosser: "
    JayStubbs: "Tolerance is the answer, not propaganda like Fitna. I mean, was the footage on Fitna really a surprise to anyone? Had anyone not seen that footage before? It's old news, man. Muslim violence has been well documented, to say the least. Wilders isn't trying to open eyes, he's rubbing it in our faces. Either that or he's been living under a rock for the last decade, and hasn't noticed Islam/Western conflicts. He's alienating and marginalizing Muslims. He might as well start recruiting Jihadis.

    I haven't heard much from American Muslims. Could it be that More..
    On the contrary... it speaks the truth. It gives facts....

    If nothing else it might at last stir up the vast majority of peaceful muslims to react against the evil in their midst. When we stop telling the truth, even though we have said it a million times, we may as well give in to evil."
    Good point about getting moderate Muslims to react. Very true. I'm not suggesting we stop telling the truth. The truth, as you stated, is that extreme Islam is a fraction of the Muslim population. The film doesn't address this at all. It makes a generalization that implies that all, not some, Muslims are radical. I think this is counterproductive to Muslim/West problems.

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • For the Islamists, and Muslims.
    when you travel to a friendly country or into your neighbours house you do not deficate on the kitchen floor.
    what the muslims have been doing for a long time, is come into your house and crapping on your floor. Then the Muslim complains about the stink that they just dumped.
    Western Europe didn't ask for the Muslims to give up their religion, all they asked was respect the host country. But in traditions of Islam, and the fact their religion will not recogniz More..

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Why is this posted here, should be your say as it is obviously an opinion piece...

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Tolerance is the answer, not propaganda like Fitna. I mean, was the footage on Fitna really a surprise to anyone? Had anyone not seen that footage before? It's old news, man. Muslim violence has been well documented, to say the least. Wilders isn't trying to open eyes, he's rubbing it in our faces. Either that or he's been living under a rock for the last decade, and hasn't noticed Islam/Western conflicts. He's alienating and marginalizing Muslims. He might as well start recruiting Jihad More..

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • JihadKiller1s1k: "
    Ezedeen: "
    U-tube: "The fitna movie attacked Islam, not muslims per se.
    "
    Thats the whole point. Attack Muslims, not Islam.

    Islam is perfect, Muslims are not -----Yvonne Ridley"
    islam SUCKS ASS!

    some muslims are good

    islam is evil
    "
    How many Muslims have you known in your life? Have you even met one? Seen one, besides TV?

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (0) | Report

  • The fitna movie attacked Islam, not muslims per se.

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-1) | Report

  • Use your brain. Fitna is propaganda crafted to stir-up more violence & hatred toward Muslims.

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-1) | Report

  • Ezedeen: "
    U-tube: "The fitna movie attacked Islam, not muslims per se.
    "
    Thats the whole point. Attack Muslims, not Islam.

    Islam is perfect, Muslims are not -----Yvonne Ridley"
    islam SUCKS ASS!

    some muslims are good

    islam is evil

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-1) | Report

  • JayStubbs: "
    JihadKiller1s1k: "
    Ezedeen: "
    U-tube: "The fitna movie attacked Islam, not muslims per se.
    "
    Thats the whole point. Attack Muslims, not Islam.

    Islam is perfect, Muslims are not -----Yvonne Ridley"
    islam SUCKS ASS!

    some muslims are good

    islam is evil
    "
    How many Muslims have you known in your life? Have you even met one? Seen one, besides TV?"
    probably passed one on the street and figured between that and anti-Muslim propaganda on th More..

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-2) | Report

  • U-tube: "The fitna movie attacked Islam, not muslims per se.
    "
    Thats the whole point. Attack Muslims, not Islam.

    Islam is perfect, Muslims are not -----Yvonne Ridley

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-2) | Report

  • JayStubbs: "
    drosser: "
    JayStubbs: "Tolerance is the answer, not propaganda like Fitna. I mean, was the footage on Fitna really a surprise to anyone? Had anyone not seen that footage before? It's old news, man. Muslim violence has been well documented, to say the least. Wilders isn't trying to open eyes, he's rubbing it in our faces. Either that or he's been living under a rock for the last decade, and hasn't noticed Islam/Western conflicts. He's alienating and marginalizing Muslims. He might as well start recruiting Jihadis.

    I haven't heard much from American Muslims. More..
    On the contrary... it speaks the truth. It gives facts....

    If nothing else it might at last stir up the vast majority of peaceful muslims to react against the evil in their midst. When we stop telling the truth, even though we have said it a million times, we may as well give in to evil."
    Good point about getting moderate Muslims to react. Very true. I'm not suggesting we stop telling the truth. The truth, as you stated, is that extreme Islam is a fraction of the Muslim population. The film doesn't address this at all. It makes a generalization that implies that all, not some, Muslims are radical. I think this is counterproductive to Muslim/West problems."
    and that is exactly the problem, yes

    thank you, Jay. am continually grateful for your presence on this site (you too, theblue8)

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-2) | Report

  • lasrever: "
    JayStubbs: "
    drosser: "
    JayStubbs: "Tolerance is the answer, not propaganda like Fitna. I mean, was the footage on Fitna really a surprise to anyone? Had anyone not seen that footage before? It's old news, man. Muslim violence has been well documented, to say the least. Wilders isn't trying to open eyes, he's rubbing it in our faces. Either that or he's been living under a rock for the last decade, and hasn't noticed Islam/Western conflicts. He's alienating and marginalizing Muslims. He might as well start recruiting Jihadis.

    I haven't heard much from Ame More..
    On the contrary... it speaks the truth. It gives facts....

    If nothing else it might at last stir up the vast majority of peaceful muslims to react against the evil in their midst. When we stop telling the truth, even though we have said it a million times, we may as well give in to evil."
    Good point about getting moderate Muslims to react. Very true. I'm not suggesting we stop telling the truth. The truth, as you stated, is that extreme Islam is a fraction of the Muslim population. The film doesn't address this at all. It makes a generalization that implies that all, not some, Muslims are radical. I think this is counterproductive to Muslim/West problems."
    and that is exactly the problem, yes

    thank you, Jay. am continually grateful for your presence on this site (you too, theblue8)"
    Thanks man.

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-2) | Report

  • JihadKiller1s1k: "
    Aninsidejob: "Use your brain. Fitna is propaganda crafted to stir-up more violence & hatred toward Muslims. "
    muslims are doing just fine causing hatred toward them!

    Civilized People has ALWAYS rejected and hated islam.

    and fitna only showed the actions and words of muslims!

    "
    you're speaking on behalf of civilized people?

    lol...

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-3) | Report

  • thumbing up your own comments doesn't make them any more relevant, either...

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-3) | Report

  • Aninsidejob: "Use your brain. Fitna is propaganda crafted to stir-up more violence & hatred toward Muslims. "
    this should be obvious to most people -- but then again this is Liveleak

    Posted Apr-4-2008 By 

    (-3) | Report