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January 22, 2009
Is the Wilders movie 'Fitna' a distortion of Islam? (updated with response)
Rick Moran's blog entry "Geert Wilders to face anti-Islam charges," is uninformed with regard to his claim that the film Fitna distorts Islam. Wilder's documentary Fitna (watch it here) is entirely faithful to classical, mainstream Islamic exegesis on the Koranic verses cited in the film (see Robert Spencer's excellent analysis from March 2008 here; and for details on the jihadist and Antisemitic Koranic verses and their classical exegeses, see my two books here and here) -- regardless of what faux "scholars" -- i.e., cultural jihadists, and their witting or unwitting abettors, may claim.
Moreover, Winston Churchill equated the Koran with Mein Kampf -- in appropriate fashion. Specifically, Winston Churchill on p. 50 of "From War to War," the first part of the first volume of his 6-part Second World War, proclaimed Hitler's Mein Kampf to be, "...the new Koran of faith and war: turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message."
Below is the statement I gave to Family Security Matters on the subject.
Update: Rick Moran responds:
A 17 minute film accurately describes Islam and the Koran?I respect Mr. Bostom's knowledge of Islam but please, don't set Mr. Wilder's film up as anything more than it was; a blatant appeal to bigotry and a generalization about Islam and the Koran in particular.
As I say in my original post, Mr. Wilders should be free to speak his mind and disseminate this propaganda. But to make the argument that this shallow, emotionally charged, and in the end subjective and inaccurate portrayal of Islam should be defended as a revealed truth is wrong.
Can you tell the story of Christianity in 17 minutes? I would like to see that. I am a fan of slapstick comedy. Could you tell the story of Judaism by pulling quotes willy nilly out of the Bible that glory in violence and blood and show the Jews to be wedded to the sword? It's been done. The Nazi short film "The Eternal Jew" was a similar film to Mr. Wilder's in that it dishonestly clipped and pasted sections of the Bible to show the Jews to be violent, acquisitive sub-humans. The propaganda effect was remarkably the same.
Wilder doesn't go as far as all that. But an example of his dishonesty is given by my good friend Michael van der Galien, a converted Muslim, who reviewed Fitna for his blog Poligazette:
So I would say to Mr. Bostom that there is the idea that Fitna is "entirely faithful to classical, mainstream Islamic exegesis on the Koranic verses cited in the film" and then there is the simple fact that Wilder distorted the truth.
I have absolutely no doubt that Islams holy men use these versus in the Koran to incite their suicidal, hate filled followers. But to condemn an entire religion practiced by more than a billion people by taking these verses out of context and overlaying images of death and destruction caused by the small subset of extremists we are at war with just doesn't make sense. Before we have defeated the terrorists, we are going to need those billion on our side. I hardly think the rantings of an ambitious politician like Wilder who is seeking to ride the wave of revulsion against Islamic immigrants in the Netherlands to power is going to advance that cause.
Andrew Bostom responds:
Uncritically Accepting Corrosive Islamic Apologetics, and Spraying Charges of "Demonization of Muslims" Against Those Who Don't
Rick Moran accepts uncritically the corrosive Islamic apologetics he cites on the one hand, and then makes his own ugly accusations of so-called "demonization" of Muslims by Wilders, on the other, because he is self-righteously ignorant of all the following:
Disregarding their validity as sources for the historical advent of Islam, what matters, ultimately is the lasting impact of the pious Muslim narrative as recorded in the Koran, hadith, and sira (earliest pious Muslim biographies) on Islamic doctrine and Muslim behavior. Robert Spencer's 2006 biography of Muhammad elucidates this point:
Ibn Ishaq's biography (the earliest and most authoritative) chronicles the evolution of Muhammad's teaching and behaviors which accompanied the hijra, or migration to Medina from Mecca, in 622. Initially,
Then after being "wronged" and "badly treated" Muhammad and his followers were enjoined to fight in self-defense:
Robert Spencer emphasizes that the phrase, "When they are in the ascendant" refers to the establishment of a ruling Islamic community or state wherein Muslims will perform regularly prescribed prayer, pay the zakat ("poor tax"), and institute the Shari'a (Islamic Law).
But the revelation process continues -- Ibn Ishaq tellingly quotes Qur'an 2:193 sanctioning aggressive warfare -- a doctrine which was ultimately elaborated into the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad.
Molla Khosrew (d. 1480) was a celebrated writer and jurist, who was appointed the Ottoman Shaykh-al-Islam (i.e., penultimate cleric) by Sultan Mehmed II in 1469. One of Molla Khosrew's authoritative, widely cited legal works, reiterated these classical views on jihad which confirm the important evolution outlined centuries earlier by Ibn Isaq, and embodied by that timeless example for all Muslims, Muhammad himself:
Indeed, as suggested above, the Koranic text itself charts Muhammad's bellicose evolution. But how, exactly? The Koran's "verses of peace", frequently cited by both Muslim and non-Muslim apologists, most notably verse 2:256, "There is no compulsion in religion", were all abrogated by the so-called verses of the sword. These abrogating verses of the sword recommend beheading or otherwise murdering and mutilating non-Muslims, and Muslim apostates. According to classical Muslim Koranic commentators verse 9:5 (perhaps the most infamous verse of the sword), "Slay the idolators wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush...", for example, cancels 124 verses that promote patience and toleration.
The sacralized Islamic sources indicate that as the Muslim prophet Muhammad accrued political and military power, he evolved from a proselytizer and persuader, to a warrior (i.e., a prototype jihadist; see: The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model), and dictatorial legislator. Thus the sword and other similar Koranic verses-as per the linkage between Muhammad's biography and the Koranic narrative-capture the Muslim prophet at his most dogmatic, belligerent, and intolerant. Muslims are enjoined to fight and murder nonbelievers-woe unto those who shirk these campaigns-but those who are killed fighting for the one true religion, i.e., Islam, will be rewarded amply in the afterlife. A sampling of such verses, which established these eternal injunctions, are included below:
As the scholar Ibn Warraq-now a Muslim freethinker -- but born and raised a madrassa-attending Muslim in Pakistan -- notes, aptly (p.69):
And this doctrine of abrogation, necessitated by the many contradictions which abound in the Koran, originates as putatively taught by Muhammad, himself, at verse 2:106: "Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?". This verse, in combination with verses* 16:101, 22:52, and 87:6, was elaborated into a formal system of abrogation (naskh in Arabic) by the greatest classical Muslim Koranic scholars and jurists, which entailed (p.72),
But it is only when viewed in the larger context of the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war-which derives substantively from the abrogating Koranic sword verses-that Moran's naïve equation to Christianity or Judaism (or so-called "similar" verses from the Old Testament, etc.) becomes entirely fatuous. From the bellicose verses in the Koran, expounded upon in the hadith (the words and deeds of Muhammad as recorded by pious Muslim transmitters), Muslim jurists and theologians formulated the Islamic institution of permanent jihad war against non-Muslims to bring the world under Islamic rule (Shari'a law).
Since its earliest inception, through the present, jihad has been central to the thought and writings of prominent Muslim theologians and jurists. The precepts and regulations elucidated in the 7th through 9th centuries are immutable in the Muslim theological-juridical system, and they have remained essentially unchallenged by the majority of contemporary Muslims. The jihad is intrinsic to the sacred Muslim texts, including the divine Koranic revelation-"the uncreated word of Allah". The Old Testament sanctions the Israelites conquest of Canaan-a limited domain-it does not sanction a permanent war to submit all the nations of humanity to a uniform code of religious law. Similarly, the tactics of warfare are described in the Old Testament, unlike the Koran, in very circumscribed and specific contexts. Moreover, while the Old Testament clearly condemns certain inhumane practices of paganism, it never invoked an eternal war against all of the world's pagan peoples.
Uninformed ecumenical zeal in search of a fantasy Islam yet to be created, does not excuse making intellectual, let alone moral equivalences, between the severely limited and contextualized war proclamations of the Old Testament, and the permanent proto-jihad war injunctions of the Koran. Staking out the presumptive "higher" moral ground by attacking a courageous Dutch politician ultimately seeking profound, not cosmetic (and meaningless) changes in how Muslims adapt to their Western host countries, is unsavory and destructive, regardless of Moran's misguided motivations.
(* 16: 101: "And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say: You are only a forger. Nay, most of them do not know."; 22:52: "And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet, but when he desired, the Shaitan made a suggestion respecting his desire; but Allah annuls that which the Shaitan casts, then does Allah establish His communications, and Allah is Knowing, Wise"; 87:6: "By degrees shall We teach thee to declare (the Message), so thou shalt not forget")