Monday, March 31, 2008

Fitna of pique

Fitna, if I may be forgiven the pun, is all the rage on the starboard side of the blogosphere at the moment. No, I'm not about to put up a link to this miserable little propaganda effort, any more than I'd link to Der Ewige Jude. But I have seen it--twice--and I've been challenged by regular commenter Peter to say a few words about it, and so I shall.

Fitna is a film produced by the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Its thesis is simple, not to say simple-minded: recent
frightful acts of Islamic terrorism are scripted and mandated in the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an. It's the religion, stupid. Tear out the pages of the book, he concludes, that promote terrorism.

Needless to say, the conservatives are having a field day with this one. And some Islamist nutcases have been making things easier for them, trying to threaten the film off the Internet. (Good luck with that one, fellas.)

Some holy books do have a certain tone to them in places, no mistake. But anyone can seize on a verse or two as an excuse for mayhem. It is not surprising that, in the charged and complex context of the Middle East today, there are strains of violent fanaticism that emphasize verses such as those quoted by Wilders, but not (for example) like these:

Say, 'O ye misbelievers! 2 I do not serve what ye serve; 3 nor will ye serve what I serve; 4 nor will I serve what ye serve; 5 nor will ye serve what I serve. 6 Ye have your religion, and I have my religion!' (Sura 109, Qur'an)

But fundamentalism, of course, is not restricted to Muslims. One-quarter of Americans thought the Rapture was going to happen last year; a majority of them reject the theory of evolution. Luckily we do not live in a world in which American Christians are subject to the same misery that has been visited upon Middle Eastern Muslims, or else we might see people acting on such Biblical verses as these:

Psalms 137:9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Leviticus 20:12-14 If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Matthew 10:34-36 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Deuteronomy 7:2 And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.

Psalms 58:10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

1 Samuel, chapter 15, verse 3: Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

Hosea, chapter 13, verse 16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.

Numbers, chapter 31, verses 17-18: So now put every male child to death, and every woman who has had sex relations with a man. But all the female children who have had no sex relations with men, you may keep for yourselves.

Isaiah chapter 13, verse 16: Their young children will be broken up before their eyes; their goods will be taken away, and their wives made the property of others.

To blame terrorism on religion rather than on a series of circumstances in which religion becomes an alibi for violence is a grossly simplistic variant of root cause theory. Folks, the Qur'an is the wrong target. You're going to have to take a hard look at geopolitics today to unravel the causes of terrorism, and the appeal to religion is certainly a strand, if not the most significant one, in that sorry tale. But attacking the faith of hundreds of millions of people* because a relatively small handful of fanatics uses it as an excuse for atrocities is no more logical than attacking Christianity because of the excesses of Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps.

In fact, it's hateful and counterproductive. Wilders' attempt to portray Islam and its followers as a whole by the barbaric acts and mouthy fanatics shown in his film is hardly worth the trouble of refuting. But I do like to please my commenters. Follow-up comments, as always, are welcome.

*UPDATE: (April 1) In fact, there are 1.3 billion Muslims today--one-fifth of the world's population.


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