Mr. Geert Wilders will launch very soon a short movie, about which nobody knows anything, where it is said that he is going to unveil the true negative essence of Islam, the unhealthy character of the Prophet, or maybe the Qur’an’s insanities. Whatever is the content, one understands it is a pure provocation! Silence would be our best response!
The noise surrounding this movie’s launch and the public statements of Mr. Geert Wilders are always so extreme that anyone can understand his objective is to provoke a reaction and to get media coverage and attention. For the time being, he seems to be succeeding beyond hope: everybody is speaking about a movie nobody has watched, being afraid of (or hoping for) a scandal. M. Geert Wilders is a populist: having no serious real social policy, he is trying to get voters by feeding and using their fears! This is so clear that the Muslims must pass over: Mr. Geert Wilders is now revealing his true nature and the best response is to ignore him. The worst case scenario he can expect is indeed not reaction . . . silence!
Yet we know that, in these times of tensions, anything could happen. Governments in the Muslim-majority countries, organizations, and politicians can use it for the sake of other political stakes. As it happened with the Danish cartoon crisis, some governments and/or religious organizations (radical or not) instrumentalized the whole story to mobilize the people either to divert them from the true problems in their own countries or to get popular support by attacking “the West” represented as “the enemy.” An uncontrolled over-emotional reaction is always possible, and some can shape it through some inflammatory statements or “protest orchestration” (by some governments or organizations). Thus no one can predict where it is going to end.
People have learned from the cartoon crisis and many will try to calm down the atmosphere, but some other presidents or leaders have other agendas and this kind of crisis is very much an opportunity. Actually it is exactly what Mr. Geert Wilders himself is looking for! One may hope that the fact that Mr. Geert Wilders is known (and that it is clearly a provocation) would help the people to understand it is a trap and they must refuse to be driven into it. This would be the best case scenario.
The Dutch government needs to have a preemptive policy built on a clear discourse that the government is not supporting (or even rejecting or condemning) the film and its content but it does not want to interfere in the name of freedom of expression. If any ambassador or politician from a Muslim-majority country is asking for an audience, she or he should be received and this positioning should be clearly stated. Wilders should not be prevented from speaking or be put in jail (as some have suggested): one should only respond to his argument when there is an argument and simply ignore him when he is acting out of an orchestrated provocation.
Tariq Ramadan: “Islam Is a European Religion”
Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Theology, the University of Oxford. He is also a visiting professor at Erasmus University. He is currently a senior research fellow at St Antony’s College (Oxford), Doshisha University (Kyoto), and the Lokahi Foundation (London). This article appeared in his Web site on 18 January 2008. Click here to read it in French. The United States government, demonstrating that an empire in its twilight years tends to act like a senile human being, banned Prof. Ramadan from the United States, and U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty of the Southern District of New York upheld the ban in December 2007. The American Civil Liberties Union is appealing the ruling: “ACLU Asks Federal Appeals Court to Lift Ban on Renowned Scholar” (23 January 2008).