A film-maker who lives in the shadow of a fatwa

Geert Wilders, the controversial Dutch politician, says that the Koran should be banned but his film attacking it must be seen. He makes his case to Douglas Murray

12 March 2008

12:00 AM

12 March 2008

12:00 AM

Debate about Geert Wilders and his anti-Koran film Fitna is everywhere in Holland. Newspapers, television shows and private conversations are awash with apprehension.

Since the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, and the hounding into exile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders is the most prominent critic of Islam in Holland. With his shock of blond hair and startlingly frank language, the MP and leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom is instantly recognisable.

But what about Fitna — the movie that no one has seen, but everyone, including the Dutch government, has already condemned for being likely to kick off the next round in the violent confrontation between radical Islam and European liberalism?

A few days before I saw Wilders last week, Holland’s Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, held a press conference calling for the film to be halted. Others have followed suit. ‘The government leaked that the movie was coming,’ says Wilders. ‘Our foreign minister went to Syria and said what they said to every diplomat all over the world… Listen, there is a movie, we are fully against this movie… So they created a huge thing, almost a self-fulfilling prophecy because, thanks to the government, it was now known from Timbuktu to Afghanistan that there will be a movie.’

The government has tried legal threats, financial and moral blackmail — including the claim that the movie will make Dutch troops in Afghanistan a target — to persuade Wilders to pull the movie. For their part, al-Qa’eda has issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims everywhere to try to kill Wilders. Even for a man who has been under 24-hour security protection for three and a half years (‘It’s something that you don’t wish for your worst enemy’) this is a new order of threat.


And while the death threats flood in, so do the kind of petty threats from the home-side which can rankle even more. Fear of terrorist attacks in response to the film mean the government is threatening to close the streets around the parliament. Shopkeepers are already presenting pre-emptive claims for lost earnings to Wilders.

‘[We] have such a coward of a Prime Minister,’ he says. ‘They are trying to get fear in the heads of the people of the Netherlands. ‘If something happens they want to say afterwards, this guy was to blame.’

And will he not be at all? Wilders is adamant: ‘I’m not bound to any Afghan or Sufi or Pakistani law. I am bound to the Dutch law and I’m sure that my movie will be within all the boundaries of the Dutch law. You can like the text or dislike the text, like the message or dislike the message, but I’m not doing anything that will be an incitement of hatred or things like that.’ So what is his aim?

‘I really believe that the Koran is a fascist book and Islam — which is more ideology, according to me, than religion — is something that is at least very bad for our values and our society. I’m not a cultural relativist. I believe that we should be proud of our culture. Our culture is far better than the more retarded Islamic culture. So this is why last year in an article I wrote, I said, well, we should ban the Koran. I initiated a big debate with the Prime Minister in the Dutch parliament about it and talked about how it would be good if there could be a new Koran like a New Testament and all the hatred and incitement and intolerance — get rid of that.’ The sole limit to freedom of speech that Wilders recognises is incitement. And this is the problem he has with the Koran.

‘Big parts of the Koran today are still used… to do the most terrible things. And I believe a lot of people don’t know that and I hope it will open their eyes and we will get a discussion going about the real nature of Islam. We should stop this process of Islamisation and we should protect not only our identity but also our freedom more. With the growing amount of Islamisation of both our countries and our societies we will lose our freedoms. At the end of the day Islam will kill our democracy and our society, and I know it will not happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow but there is a process going on and there is a total lack of urgency of people who really feel that it is a threat.’

And what is his main message to the non-Muslims who see his film?

‘Stop being a cultural relativist and be proud of who you are, and fight for it especially if, you know, I mean these people are not Buddhist. I wrote an article a few weeks ago that said, imagine if I would have said last year that I wanted to burn the Bible, that I want to make a movie to show the fascist character of Christianity. Would there be extra meetings of the government? Would there be evacuation plans of our embassies in Rome, Berlin and Brussels? Would there be bishops like grand muftis who say there would be bloodshed?… The answer of course is “no”. So it proves my point already. All the reactions of the Islamic world, even unfortunately from the Dutch government, show that Islam is something different, has to be treated differently, as something entirely beside our own culture and values.’

And why did he choose the title he did? Because ‘Islam is our challenge — our fitna. Every day, a few times every Muslim if he sees a woman walking in a short skirt or somebody with a picture or drawing of Mohammed, all the time they have fitnas… A Muslim knows from the age of five what fitna means, every Muslim and, well — Islam is the fitna of our society. Will we survive the challenge of this terrible ideology? Will we be able to stop it or to give it the place that it will not kill our democratic society and values that we share in the West?’

I leave Wilders and head back to Amsterdam. Before flying off I see Sooreh Hera, a young Iranian-exile photographer. She is now in her third month in hiding. Late last year her work attracted condemnation from Muslim extremists in Holland who threatened her life. The gallery where her work was most recently meant to be shown has cancelled the display after the curator received death threats and had to go under protection himself.

Though Fitna looks set to have loud consequences, perhaps the price of silence is already too high. When the limits of freedom of speech are dictated from outside you may not feel it today or tomorrow. But the day after, or some day soon, you will.

Wilders sums it up defiantly: ‘If I surrender, they will win. And they will never win. They have to lose, and they will lose.’

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Show comments
  • Anonymous

    Reading this rather upsetting article, I can only conclude that mister Wilders should go and run for candidacy of the first European president. Heck, he has my vote!

  • Luke

    At least somebody has the gumption to speak up against the creeping threat of Islamification. The liberal intelligentsia that is in charge of the UK seems intent on destroying all of the countries social identity and nobody in parliament is saying a word! In fifty years time, England will be nothing more than a corner of the caliphate unless the spread of this ruinous ideology is stopped.

  • Max Kaye

    I’m sure that in the interests of free speech the BBC will be more than willing to screen this film.

    I can’t wait for The Guardian review.

  • John Matthew Bostock

    I just wish we had politicians like this in the UK.

  • Hans Beunk

    Spot on!

  • Margaretha

    I hope the movie of this very brave man Geert Wilders will open not only the eyes of the Dutch government but also the eyes in the U.K. and in the rest of Europe !

  • Steef

    I think he has every right to make his movie ”Fitna”, though I think he shouldn`t have made it publicly yet. I think he is abusing his seat in the Parliament, cause if he wasn`t nobody would have cared about this movie. I`m from Holland btw 😉

  • John Allback

    Wilders is nothing but a racist. I can’t believe there are so many dumb people that have voted for this man. I am sure some of you have already heard an extremist imam before. Well Wilders does exactly the same, you can compare him to a extremist imam.

  • Margaretha

    “John Allback
    March 19th, 2008 8:36pm
    Wilders is nothing but a racist. I can’t believe there are so many dumb people that have voted for this man”

    Yes 1 million people in the Netherlands who voted for Wilders are all dumb but very much awake! And that is more than I can say about the “clever” people like you who want to sell out our European identity to the islam. Sweet dreams mr. Allback

  • Margaretha

    March 19th, 2008 5:33pm
    I think he has every right to make his movie ”Fitna”, though I think he shouldn`t have made it publicly yet”.

    It was your prime-minister BALKENENDE who shouted about the film all over the world. NOT Wilders!

  • Mari Sanders

    Excuse me, Margeretha? 1 milion voters for Wilders? Dream on! Where did you get those numbers? It’s far overated.
    Wilders is really out of his mind. I’m the last to say that I’m against freedom of speech, but when you’re putting other lifes at risk by making a film with the clearly intension to insult a whole culture (I refer to the things he said during the election period, like: ‘We have to stop the Tsunami of Islam in the Netherlands.’) you’re really going 10 steps too far. I still hope it’s a bad 1 april-joke.

  • Jen

    God bless Geert Wilders! Without people like him, in fifty years time, England will indeed be nothing more than a corner of the caliphate. The rest of Europe will follow. This sums it up! http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ai=214&ar=1050wmv&ak=nul>

  • Jan Klaassen

    Mari Sanders iam Dutch youre not youre Jewish and iam telling you indeed alomst 1 million Dutch people voted for Geert Wilders he is now in the polls voor 2 million votes, so pack your bags and return too Israel too fight the Islam who wants too destroy your Jewish people.

  • marilou

    I can value a (wo)man who stands for her/his case. However the way this is done is not productive i.o t. create a world where people respect each other and try to live together, for: who is in fact the owner of the planet’s grounds? No one,we are all granted to make a living upon it and since centuries to move…. Dominance is always a token of insecurity. One should have the right to express his opinion clearly, never the right to condemn another’s,avoid a requested dialogue, stimulate groups of insatisfied people to fascist re- actions.. – on either side- and this is what happens around this film in holland and reminds me of the late thirties in the last century…


    Hi All,

    The amount of people that voted for Geert Wilders in the November 2006 Dutch national elections was about 600.000 people. He got 9 out of 150 seats in the “2de Kamer”, which is equivalent to the “Commons”. In the current opinion polls Geert Wilders is getting more that one million votes. The party of Geert Wilders will keep growing for now, and that is the best thing that has recently happened.

    I hold a British & Dutch passport / nationality. I am pround to say I voted for Geert Wilder & I will continue to vote for him.

  • Dieter

    The Islam is a problem in Holland a problem in Europe and a problem of the hole world.
    If we don’t stop it right now it will be to late to stop it.

    Politicians are scared
    But I’m Dutch and i will never forget that it is my land and it will stay my land.

  • Jan-Willem

    In perspective to our most treasured piece of legislation called: “Freedom of Speech” I personally think that Geert Wilders must be allowed to speak his mind and release his movie. In my personal opinion, I seriously doubt the man’s sanity, but a lot of Dutch citizins find inspiration and maybe a little comfort in his words. He’s the populist who strengthens and comforts the uncertain and scared masses. It has been done for decades by all populists in the world. Ofcourse the Islam has some very extremist en outrages quirks, but my 2 cts is that all religions are like this when they cross the boundaries of common sense. I strongly condemn the infrigment of Islamic extremists in local lawful affairs but every normal muslim will also share this opinion. I think Wilders will be a catalyst for furhter extreme behaviour of islamic terrorists. Pointing out their flaws will not solve the problem.

  • Vince

    I’ve seen the movie, and yes it proves that the extremist islamic culture is indeed a threat to our western civilization. Wake up Europe

  • helmutt brohl

    Its interesting to see how many people have already reacted to this film, without having seen it for themselves. I just watched it. There is really not much “news” in the film, its just a collection of events, shown side by side with Quran Quotes. Most of the things there we have seen already, but like many of us we have been living with a type of cultural filter, that tells us not to believe such things. Unfortunately we do have to live with the fact that there is a growing minority of muslims who take the book by word (as instructed) and hate our western society and ideals with a vengeance. Islamification is a rather dirty and generalist word. Just as not every german was a nazi, not every muslim is a islamist jihadist.

  • Trust in Churchill

    “Wilders is nothing but a racist. I can’t believe there are so many dumb people that have voted for this man. I am sure some of you have already heard an extremist imam before. Well Wilders does exactly the same, you can compare him to a extremist imam.”

    Reporting the hatred of others (which is all that the film does) isn’t hatred itself. It is just reporting. Winston Churchill (to whom you owe your freedom today) considered Islam to be a more dangerous ideology than Nazism. Look up his warnings on Islam.


    when your country live in peace ,why you ask for war and terrorist as the world call them…you put your country and your citizen in danger point ,has not back road as this person cross the road and your country too.

  • Asif

    Comments on “Dutch movie FITNA” released by a Dutch MP.

    * If you see the movie FITNA by an open mind/eyes, you clearly see, the mind/thinking working behind this is only hate of an individual against Islam.

    * The film maker picked the verses of Quran out of context and tried to develop hate to Islam among innocent people of other faiths by joining the video effects/clips.
    Producer tried to play with innocent hearts by joining video clips like, Twin Tower attack clips, with verses.

    * In this movie, speeches of Politician doesn’t mean that it is the sayings of Islam. and individuals’ act don’t mean the sayings of Islam.


    We believe in “FREEDOM OF SPEECH” but with responsibility. By this kind of so called FREEDOM, actually you are hearting the millions of people. In humanity, freedom should be constructive, not for promote the hate in society/world.


    I personally feel, the act of Dutch MP is based on hate to Muslims. Not only for Muslims but he is also against his society and country. His Movie will work as a fire in the society of Netherlands as well as in between thousands of Muslims and Christians in the world.

    May God/Allah help us to live with peace.