Algerians join international outrage over "Fitna" film
Achira Mammeri in Algiers contributed to this report – 02/04/08
Algerians have added their voices to a global outcry over "Fitna", a controversial film by extreme-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders which mixes violent images of terrorist attacks and executions in Muslim countries with Suras from the Qur'an. Released on the internet on Thursday (March 27th), the film was soon removed from several websites in response to threats.
The documentary-style production has provoked international outrage. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the film "offensively anti-Islamic".
Algerians expressed their shock and anger over the film's message. Anis Anouar, a statistician, told Magharebia that Fitna "gives a falsified, rigged [and] manipulated image of the Muslim faith".
The short film risks "deepening the rift between Muslims and the West just at the time when we most need to come together and listen to one another," maintained university student Amine Souari. "The risks are huge," he said.
Other observers agree that rather than uniting the international community against terrorism, the film actually widens the cultural divide between Muslims and the West.
"The Dutch MP has fallen right into the trap laid by Islamist extremists, who are going to use this video to convince sceptical young people that the West harbours great hatred for Muslims", said Souhila Iftisen. "Neither the West nor Muslims needed this serious distortion of the facts," she added.
The young Algiers resident emphasised, however, that the Muslim community must respond with prudence. "We’re not going to serve Islam by burning embassies or attacking the West. [Fitna] shows a serious misunderstanding of Islam. Our role as Muslims is to show this religion’s true face through dialogue," Souhila said.
The Algerian press has also entered the debate: "The film gives a picture of Islam which is diametrically opposed to what it really is, "L’Expression editorialised on March 29th. Le Quotidien wrote, "Many Muslims will not know to exercise restraint in the face of what they regard as an unacceptable affront. The ideal would be to ignore Geert Wilders."
During a forum on Algerian television Saturday, Minister for Religious Affairs and Waqfs Bouabdellah Ghlamallah addressed the Fitna controversy, calling the film "a recurrent expression of the fascism which is abhorred by all cultures".
Following the film's release, Muslim leaders in the Netherlands held a press conference to urge Muslims abroad to stay calm. Mohamed Rabbae, the head of the Dutch Moroccan community, said, "We feel offended by the link between violence and Islam [but] we call on [Muslims] to follow our strategy and not react with attacks."
On Tuesday, the Fitna producer came under fire from his fellow Dutch parliamentarians. "A majority of MPs say that Mr Wilders generalises in a negative manner about Muslims," Radio Netherlands reported, adding, "MPs called him a 'troublemaker', 'political arsonist' and a proponent of discrimination."
"The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence. In fact, the victims are often also Muslims," said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. Dutch citizens have also shown support for the country's Muslim community on a busy new website called "Sorry for the Film".
In a joint statement over the weekend, the 27 Foreign Ministers of the European Union said, "The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence".
"Feeling offended is no excuse for aggression or threats," the EU ministers noted.
Meanwhile, Algerian imams have been instructed to address the issue on April 4th by denouncing the film's attack on the Prophet during Friday prayers.
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