Geert Wilders is making headlines again. Former politician Lousewies van der Laan gives her take on it.Geert Wilders is making headlines again. Calling the Koran a fascist book and having a ten point plan for the de-Islamisation of Holland wasn't enough. He is now making a movie about the Koran, to show that it is a book that breeds violence and hatred. Clearly, he wants to follow in the footsteps of Ayaan Hirsi Ali who made a movie about how the Koran sanctifies violence against women. The film projected Koranic texts on women's bodies and got her on fundamentalists' most wanted lists. The director of the film, Theo van Gogh, was brutally murdered by a Muslim fundamentalist, who pinned a letter to his chest with a knife indicating that Ayaan was next.
Wilders is trying to make the point that Muslim fundamentalists are hot-heated assassins who will murder when someone dares to criticise their religion. I am sure that someone somewhere will oblige. This is becoming a global bullfight, whereby anyone waving a critical red flag at Islam can expect to have the bull charging his way in no time. The Danes discovered that during the cartoon affair and even English schoolteachers are at risk these days. Kids naming a teddy bear Mohammed can now elicit death-demanding demonstrations.
And all that violence is paying off. We have seen it even locally: the Hague Municipal Museum withdrew an exhibit featuring gay love, when it thought one of the pictures might offend Muslims. They admitted that artistically there was every reason to show them, but +-were afraid of possible violence. It has come to the point where we don't even wait for people to feel offended. We self-censure our culture on the assumption that Muslims are tender-hearted children who cannot handle criticism or debate.
You would think that all of Holland would rally to the defence of freedom of art and freedom of speech. The opposite is happening. Doekle Terpstra, former leader of the Christian trade union and one of our national icons of reasonableness, wants to create a popular movement against Wilders. When Wilders' movie comes out Terpstra wants massive demonstrations against it on the Maliefield. No one yet knows what will be in the movie, but the Organisation of Islamic groups in the Netherlands have already threatened an injunction. Apparently any criticism of the Koran is not allowed. I don't hear Terpstra, a devout Christian, saying the Koran is a perfect book above critique. He just doesn't want to upset anyone. Just like the Municipal Museum.
I would suggest to the Islamic groups to make their own movie, showing – if that is their point – that the Koran is a beautiful and inspiring book that prohibits violence. Then people can decide which movie they would like to see. Perhaps both, so that reasonable viewpoints can be developed, without threats either way. I like to live in a world where people can make movies, museums can put on exhibits and kids can name Teddy bears any way they like. That is what I'll go demonstrate on the Maliefield for.
7 December 2007
Lousewies van der Laan is a former MP and MEP for the liberal party D66. She writes a fortnightly column for the expat community in Holland to help you enter into current Dutch debates. If you have comments or would like to propose topics to understand Dutch politics better: please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.