Is the Wilders movie ‘Fitna’ a distortion of Islam? (updated with response)

By Andrew Bostom and Alyssa A. Lappen
American Thinker | Jan. 22, 2009

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.

As Dutch Prosecutor Otto Van Der Bijl told CNN, a paltry total of nine persons filed complaints with the Court of Appeal, which is now drafting an indictment that charges Parliamentarian Geert Wilders with “incitement of hatred,” based upon the contents of his short documentary film Fitna, and Wilders’ discussion of the film. Fitna merely demonstrates how various Koranic verses – based upon orthodox, mainstream Islamic interpretations of these verses – are used by Muslim clerics and political leaders to incite Muslim populations to violence. It is beyond Orwellian to prosecute Wilders – who simply holds up a mirror to Islamic societies – for being in any way responsible for the Koranic incitement and Muslim violence his documentary faithfully records, and he appropriately condemns.

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:

However, Wilders basically makes the same mistake Osama Bin Laden et al. make.

What do I mean by that? Well, simple. Wilders and OBL do exactly the same thing: they read 10% of the Koran, and use it to ‘prove’ that the Koran can be used to excuse terrorism, and conveniently ignore the other 90% of Islam’s Holy Book. For instance, Wilders quotes verses from a particular Sura that says that Muslims should kill the unbelievers, who are the enemies of Islam / the Muslims.

That’s violent alright.

But he conveniently forgets to quote the verses before these violent verses. These verses before it say:

[8.56] Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment).

[8.57] Therefore if you overtake them in fighting, then scatter by (making an example of) them those who are in their rear, that they may be mindful.
[8.58] And if you fear treachery on the part of a people, then throw back to them on terms of equality; surely Allah does not love the treacherous.

And then come the verses right after Sura 8 verse 60:

[8.61] But if the enemy incline towards peace, do you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is the One that hears and knows (all things).

In other words: live in peace with non-Muslims, but when they attack you, fight back. Sure, that’s not quite the same as “turn the other cheek,” but it’s quite different than “kill infidels!” as well. In fact I dare say that this message is one we can all believe in: live in peace with everyone else, but when they attack you or your society, fight back. Isn’t that what we all do, and isn’t that what the war on terrorism is all about?

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:

…it is less important to know what really happened in Muhammad’s life than what Muslims have generally accepted as having happened, for the latter still forms the foundation of Muslim belief, practice, and law.

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,

The apostle had not been given permission to fight, or allowed to shed blood…He had simply been ordered to call men to God and endure insult and forgive the ignorant. The Quraysh had persecuted his followers, seducing some from their religion, and exiling others from their country. They had to choose whether to give up their religion, be maltreated at home, or to flee the country, some to Abyssinia [Ethiopia], others to Medina.

Then after being “wronged” and “badly treated” Muhammad and his followers were enjoined to fight in self-defense:

When Quraysh became insolent toward God and rejected his gracious purpose, accused his Prophet of lying, and ill-treated and exiled those who served Him and proclaimed His unity, believed in his prophet, and held fast to His religion, He gave permission to His apostle to fight and to protect himself against those who wronged them and treated them badly. The first verse which was sent down on this subject from what I have heard from ‘Urwa b. al-Zubayr and other learned persons was: [Qur’an 22:39-41] “Permission is given to those who fight because they have been wronged. God is well able to help them,-those who have been driven out of their houses without right only because they said God is our Lord. Had not God used some men to keep back others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques wherein the name of God is constantly mentioned would have been destroyed. Assuredly God will help those who help Him. God is Almighty. Those who if we make them strong in the land will establish prayer, pay the poor tax, enjoin kindness, and forbid iniquity. To God belongs the end of matters”. The meaning is: “I have allowed them to fight only because they have been unjustly treated while their sole offense against men has been that they worship God. When they are in the ascendant they will establish prayer, pay the poor tax, enjoin kindness, and forbid iniquity, i.e., the prophet and his companions, all of them”.

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.

Then God sent down to him: “Fight them so that there be no more seduction [i.e., to idolatry; modern translations state “persecution”, or “oppression”], i.e., until no believer is seduced from his religion. “And the religion is God’s. i.e., until God alone is worshipped.

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:

…jihad is a fard al-kifaya, that is, that one must begin the fight against the enemy, even when he [the enemy] may not have taken the initiative to fight, because the Prophet…early on…allowed believers to defend themselves, later, however, he ordered them to take the initiative at certain times of the year, that is, at the end of the haram months, saying, “Kill the idolaters wherever you find them…” (Q9:5). He finally ordered fighting without limitations, at all times and in all places, saying, “Fight those who do not believe in God, and in the Last Day…”(Q9:29); there are also other [similar] verses on the subject. This shows that it is a fard al-kifaya

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:

47:4: “Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds”

9:29: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.”

4:76: “Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak.”

8:12: “When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

8:38-39: “Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.”

9:39: “If you do not go forth, He will chastise you with a painful chastisement and bring in your place a people other than you, and you will do Him no harm; and Allah has power over all things.”

4:74: “Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.”

9:111: “Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah’s way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.”

As the scholar Ibn Warraq-now a Muslim freethinker — but born and raised a madrassa-attending Muslim in Pakistan — notes, aptly (p.69):

…”tolerance” has been abrogated by “intolerance”

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),

…the suppression of a ruling without the suppression of the wording. That is to say, the earlier ruling is still to be found in the Koran, and is still to this day recited in worship, but it no longer has any legal force.

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”)

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Alyssa A. Lappen is a U.S.-based investigative journalist. She is the former Managing Editor at the Leeb Group (2012-2017); a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy (2005-2008); and a former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor (1993-1999), Working Woman (1991-1993) and Corporate Finance (1991). She served six of her 12 years at Forbes (1978-1990) as an Associate Editor. Ms. Lappen was also a staff reporter at The New Haven Register (1975-1977). During a decade as a freelance, her work appeared in Big Peace, Pajamas Media, Front Page Magazine, American Thinker, Right Side News, Family Security Matters, the Washington Times and many other Internet and print journals. Ms. Lappen also contributed to the Terror Finance Blog, among others. She supports the right of journalists worldwide to write without fear or restriction on politics, governments, international affairs, terrorism, terror financing and religious support for terrorism, among other subjects. Ms. Lappen is also an accomplished poet. Her first full-length collection, The Minstrel's Song, was published by Cross-Cultural Communications in April 2015. Her poems have been published in the 2nd 2007 edition of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and both 2007 issues of Wales' award-winning Seventh Quarry: Swansea Poetry Magazine. Dozens of her poems have appeared in print and online literary journals and books. She won the 2000 annual Ruah: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry chapbook award and has received a Harvard Summer Poetry Prize and several honorable mentions.

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