'Fitna" has arrived.That's it. If you take the side of these Muslim loons on the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend basis then you're not only a Moral Idiot but a coward and cultural traitor, as well.
Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders put the 15-minute movie about the Quran on the Internet Thursday night. But for weeks before anyone saw it, the Dutch flag was burned around the Islamic world. Iran's undemocratically-elected parliament endorsed a boycott of the Netherlands, and Web sites linked to al Qaeda called for terrorist attacks.
Americans may be accustomed to images of angry bearded men setting their flag alight. The Dutch aren't. In response, the government raised the national terrorist threat level to "substantial" while Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende distanced himself from the movie. Until the last moment, he urged Mr. Wilders not to show the film.
The message of "Fitna" is that the Quran is the living inspiration for jihadists. Without the Quran's violent passages, the film suggests, Islamic terrorism would not exist. Mr. Wilders shows verses from the Quran alongside hate speeches by imams and graphic images of Islamic terrorism -- from 9/11 to the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London attack a year later. He uses footage from the video-taped beheading of a hostage by Islamic terrorists. He also shows the most famous of the Danish cartoons (the one with a bomb on Muhammad's head) that triggered demonstrations across the Muslim world two years ago.
The Western world long ago learned to criticize, even mock, religion. Think of such movies as "The Life of Brian" and "The Da Vinci Code" or more serious texts on Christianity by Nietzsche, whose famous phrase "God is Dead" is part of popular culture. Competition of ideas is fundamental to the Western way of life. The Islamic world isn't accustomed to such discussions.
As in other countries, the terrible attacks of 9/11 raised existential questions in the Netherlands that remain the subject of heated debate to this day. They paved the way for the political rise of Pim Fortuyn, a flamboyant, openly gay former university professor and writer. Fortuyn fulminated against the dark sides of political Islam -- terrorism, the subjugation of women and homosexuals, and anti-Semitism. His murder in 2002 by an extreme leftist was seen as an assault on Holland's democratic order.
That shock was compounded in 2004 when in Amsterdam, the capital of freedom and tolerance, a Dutch Muslim of Moroccan descent shot and nearly decapitated filmmaker Theo van Gogh. The murderer declared that Islam demanded of him to kill Van Gogh, who had made a short movie that criticized the mistreatment of women in Islam. After the murder, the filmmaker's collaborator, Somali-born parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was put under 24-hour police protection.
When Ms. Hirsi Ali went to live in the U.S. in 2006, Geert Wilders picked up the baton. He takes a hard stance on Islamic terrorism and calls for a stop to immigration, at least until Dutch Muslims are better integrated. Some of his arguments are pure polemic. For instance, he says the Quran is a "fascist" book. Since it is illegal in the Netherlands to publish Hitler's "Mein Kampf," he argues, so it should be illegal to publish the Quran. One can have a debate about the Quran, but to ban the book altogether is ridiculous, and he knows it.
Yet his outrageous remarks have stirred a constructive discussion about the Quran and Islam in the Netherlands that is more vigorous than in any Western or, for that matter, Muslim country. And uncomfortable as they may be for Dutch Muslims, they help them view their religion in a more critical light. Notwithstanding the growing appeal of radical Islam, the political participation of moderate Muslims is on the rise, a positive sign of integration. For the first time in Dutch history, two Muslims are in the cabinet.
Dutch Muslims have so far reacted calmly to "Fitna." There have not been any demonstrations, peaceful or violent, in the Netherlands. Perhaps this is further evidence that the hard debate has helped Dutch Muslims to understand Western values.
The issue isn't really Mr. Wilders's movie, or whether it incites hatred, which I doubt. It's whether we are capable of defending our values against the intolerance of radical Muslims. Some people wanted "Fitna" banned before seeing it. That's disconcerting. Dutch law prohibits a priori censorship.
A strand in Western society -- a combination of European nihilism, self-loathing and timidity -- favors appeasement. It is not the strength of our enemies but our weakness that might be our ruin.
Should "Fitna" lead to violence and protests against the Dutch, Europe will hopefully show more solidarity than it did with the Danes during the cartoon crisis. Any weakness in the resolve to defend our democratic legal order should be seen for what it is: Betrayal and cowardice.
Unfortunately, there are far too many on the Left who are prepared to betray their culture.