Geert Wilders doesn’t do things by halves. The anti-Koran film that this far-right politician has been working on in recent months will be finished very soon. He doesn’t know if any Dutch broadcaster will touch it because of the controversy it has already stirred up. So he has arranged to have “Fitna” put out as a webcast as well. That should ensure that the film can be seen all around the world and not just in the Netherlands.
Karen Armstrong, the best-selling British writer and lecturer on religion, has given a long interview to Reuters in Islamabad after addressing a conference in the Pakistani capital. A former Catholic nun who now describes herself as a “freelance monotheist,” she has written 21 books on the main world religions, religious fundamentalism in these faiths and religious leaders such as Mohammad and Buddha. Her latest book is The Bible: A Biography. The short version of what she said is in the Reuters story linked here. We don’t publish the Q&A text of our interviews on our news wire, but we can do it here on the blog.
The far-right politician Geert Wilders, whose planned anti-Koran film has the Netherlands holding its breath, has revealed that his long-awaited opus will be delayed by two months. There had been speculation he might show it in his party’s broadcasting slot on Dutch television on Friday evening. Viewers instead got shots of Wilders walking along a beach repeating his complaints about Muslims (shown a few minutes into this Dutch TV interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali). For more on his views, he’s here and here spelling them out in English.
Concern is mounting in the Netherlands as the country prepares for a film about the Koran by a far-right populist known for his hostility to Islam. It reached the point last Friday that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende publicly appealed for restraint. A former Malaysian ambassador in The Hague has said the reaction could make the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy look like “a picnic.”
“Now’s the moment to say special prayers, for your family or anyone else you want to pray for,” said my Lebanese companion Ahmed. As he spoke, we caught a first glimpse of the black cloth cover of the Kaaba through the arches of the King Abdul Aziz Gate into the Grand Mosque in Mecca. I tried to remember all the people who had asked for prayers and mentally checked off their names, just in case. We picked our way through the crowds, some in the plain white cloth worn by pilgrims, others in ordinary street wear, according to their status under the complicated rules of the haj pilgrimage.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an op-ed piece in the New York Times called “Islam’s Silent Moderates” today asking why moderate Muslims have not protested loudly against the “teddy bear case” in Khartoum and the Qatif rape case in Saudi Arabia. She makes some good points, especially asking why the Organisation of the Islamic Conference has not said anything. The OIC is quick to defend Islam and Muslim countries when the criticism comes from the outside, including from her.
Two Dutch politicians seem to be doing their best to stir up a controversy with Muslims. The far-right MP Geert Wilders says he wants to make a film for television about the Koran. Ehsan Jami, an Iranian-born local councillor who launched a Committee of Ex-Muslims in September, plans a film called “The Life of Mohammad.” Both are due to be ready early next year.
The cautious Vatican reaction to the dialogue appeal from 138 Muslim scholars has prompted one of the signatories to question whether the top Catholic official for relations with Muslims understands Islam. More specifically, Aref Ali Nayed has asked how Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran can say that a serious theological dialogue with Muslims is not possible because they will not discuss the Koran in depth. This debate (discussed in an earlier post here) is dense and highly specialised. But it may be at this level that this unprecedented dialogue could take off or fail to ignite.
An unprecedented call from 138 Muslim scholars for better Christian-Muslim understanding had a Warholesque 15-minutes-of- fame in most media last week. Their letter to world Christian leaders got covered widely in English-speaking media (including by Reuters) and much less so in many European countries, possibly because the news conferences presenting it were in London and Washington. Some reactions from Christian leaders were included in the reporting that day. The following day, the reaction from the Vatican — the main addressee of the letter that represents more than half of Christianity — made for another story (here is our report and the original Vatican Radio report in Italian).