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Geert Wilders’ Fitna: Islamophobia on film

This article is over 16 years, 3 months old
Behind a film from Dutch politician Geert Wilders lies a system that has let racism into the mainstream, writes Maina van der Zwan
Issue 2096
 (Pic:» Tim Sanders )
(Pic: » Tim Sanders)

The far right Dutch politician Geert Wilders made international headlines last week with the release of his anti-Muslim film Fitna.

He says the film aims to expose Islam as intrinsically violent and a threat to ‘Western civilisation’. Wilders also argues that the Koran is a ‘fascist’ book that should be banned.

The resulting film is a disgusting piece of racist propaganda which resembles Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), a film Nazis used in 1940 to ‘expose’ the Jews of Europe.

The first half of Fitna consists of gruesome images of terrorist attacks, alternated with selected verses from the Koran. That is followed by pictures of Dutch Muslims and images of gays being hanged with the subtitle ‘The future of the Netherlands?’.

A woman wearing a hijab and pushing a baby buggy forms the background for population statistics for Muslims in the Netherlands – 54 in 1909, 458,000 in 1960 and 944,000 in 2004.

The warning is clear – the terrorist, gay-bashing, women-oppressing Muslims will take over the world if they’re not stopped by brave Western politicians like Wilders.

Wilders heads the Party For Freedom (PVV), a single-issue organisation dedicated to sowing hatred against Islam and Muslims.

He specialises in racist provocations, making statements such as ‘Dutch culture is a thousand times better than Islamic culture.’

The sad thing is that the Dutch political establishment has accommodated to his politics of hate.

The debate going on in the Dutch parliament at the moment accepts Wilders’ basic premise that Islam and Muslims are a threat to ‘Western values’. He is only criticised for ‘generalising too much’ or ‘failing to offer practical solutions’. This illustrates the extent to which Islamophobia has moved into the mainstream in the Netherlands in the past few years.

Two developments have laid the foundation for this. First, there is the ‘war on terror’ in which the Dutch state has been a loyal ally of George Bush, supplying troops for Iraq and now in Afghanistan. Dutch politicians have built on a legacy of Islamophobia to justify this.

Second, there is the crisis faced by all the mainstream parties in the Netherlands. The referendum in 2005 that rejected the European Union (EU) constitution laid bare an enormous gap between the political establishment and public opinion.

The unpopularity of the political centre and its neoliberal policies have driven right wing parties into ever harder rhetoric over issues such as crime, immigration and Muslims.

Wilders himself is an example of this shift. He used to be a member of the Dutch Tories but broke away because he refused to follow the party line in favour of Turkey’s EU membership.

Despite the fact that all the mainstream parties have proved themselves incapable of combating the rise of Wilders, there is a strong degree of popular sentiment against him.

All kinds of ‘counter-movies’ to Fitna have been launched on the internet and there has been a host of local initiatives to celebrate and defend multiculturalism.

Harry de Winter, a well known Jewish TV producer, bought front page advertisements in the Dutch equivalent of the Guardian to warn against Wilders.

The International Socialists, sister organisation of the Socialist Workers Party, has been centrally involved in organising street protests against Wilders for months now.

These protests provoked a national debate when demonstrators were arrested on several occasions for ‘insulting a parliamentarian’. It seemed that the much vaunted notion of ‘freedom of speech’ doesn’t apply for critics of racism.

Outraged by these double standards, more than 1,500 people bought our satirical ‘Wilders: Extremist’ poster. Some were prominently displayed in the windows of homes and shops. This public backing helped turn around the media war, and after a week the public prosecutor withdrew all charges against the demonstrators.

In the wake of this small victory a demonstration against racism took place last month in Amsterdam.

The multicultural make-up and defiant mood of this demonstration showed the potential for a real alternative to the rightwards drift towards racism and bigotry that dominates the established political landscape.

Maina van der Zwan is a member of the International Socialists in the Netherlands. For more information (in Dutch) go to »

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