Ramadan wants Muslims to ignore far-right Dutch film on Koran
As the premiere of the long-awaited Koran film by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders nears, it’s not uncommon to hear Muslims call for some way to censor what they expect to be a blistering condemnation of their faith.
But not all see the film — now expected to be broadcast by the end of this month — as an opportunity to revive the polarisation of the Prophet Mohammad cartoons clash in 2006, when freedom of expression and respect for faith were presented as implacable opposites.
Tariq Ramadan, one of Europe’s most prominent Muslim intellectuals, has never shied from confronting the critics of his faith. But his approach to the Wilders film aims to avoid a repeat of the cartoons controversy. At a recent conference in Sweden, he told Reuters that people could not be prevented from publishing material like the Wilders film and the Danish newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that triggered protests across the Muslim world.
“My position is they have the right to do it and we don’t need new laws to prevent them from doing it,” Ramadan said. “But not everything which is legal is intelligent. Sometimes you have to think about a sense of decency and to live together.”
Ramadan went on: “My advice (to Muslims) is take an intellectual critical distance towards this. Say ‘we don’t like it’ but go ahead and just ignore it.”
Ramadan is optimistic that lessons learned from the Danish cartoons affair will help the Dutch authorities avert a similar crisis over the Wilders film, expected to be released on or around March 28.
His upbeat view was shared by Dutch security experts addressing the conference. One of them, Bob de Graaff of Leiden University, said the affair had fuelled interest in Islam among the Dutch population at large, with more visits to mosques by non-Muslims and a higher quality of media debate.
A newspaper poll this week showed a surprisingly high level of public knowledge about Islam, said de Graaff. He ventured to suggest many of his countrymen knew more about Islam than Christianity. “An intellectual middle class of Muslims in the Netherlands has established itself…They are causing some Dutchmen to retreat from the easy arguments of populism which they preferred for a while,” the academic said.
Other European experts praised the Dutch for taking pre-emptive steps to defuse hostile Muslim reaction to the film. The authorities have worked hard in recent months to reach out to the Muslim community, for example through imams and youth workers. They are also working through diplomatic channels with Islamic nations.
For a Reuters story on how the Dutch are trying to apply the lessons of the Mohammad cartoons crisis, click here.