The furore that has greeted the Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ failed attempt to gain entry to the UK in order to show his anti-Islam film, Fitna, has been remarkable.
Not because of the heated reaction from ministers, not because of the wall of barrage of anger that has come from Muslim groups, but because so few of the people who denounced with it such vehemence had actually seen it.
After Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, banned Wilders from the UK on the grounds that his “presence in the UK would pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society”, Labour ministers were quick to jump on the bandwagon.
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, described Fitna as “a hate-filled film designed to stir up religious and racial hatred and is contrary to our laws”. He then had to admit he hadn’t seen it.
Similarly, when Keith Vaz, Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs committee, spoke in support of the ban on Newsnight he openly admitted he hadn’t seen the film and then, incredibly, went on to say that he didn’t need to.
More incredible than the sheer arrogance of this comment, which is hardly incredible at all, is the fact that if any of them had actually taken the time to watch the film they would have seen that it is nothing more than puerile, badly-produced trash.
Wilders intersperses verses from the Koran with images of terrorist attacks and various (mainly Saudi) Imams preaching hatred to the West and images of baying mobs, veiled women and children taking part in the Ashoura, a Muslim religious festival.
Yes, it incites racial and religious hatred. Yes, it calls the Koran “fascist” and compares Muslims to Nazis. And yes, it uses the Koran in the most irresponsible, selective manner to do this (exactly what it accuses the Imams of doing).
But the idea that it could pose any serious threat bar providing fuel for existing bigots and racists is nothing more than an insult to the intelligence to the British public.
As Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the anti-extremist think tank the Quilliam Foundation, puts it:
Banning Geert Wilders from the UK is not the solution. Just as the ideas of non-violent Islamist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir should be tackled through debate and argument, so should those of Wilders and others.
Freedom of speech should be protected – so long as people do not use this freedom to call for violence against others.
Well I won’t fall into the same trap. Instead, you can decide for yourself. To see the English version, click the link here.