This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← Geert Wilders Goes on Trial

Styrer-'s Avatar Jump to comment 190 by Styrer-

75. Comment #453475 by Richard Dawkins on January 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I have just watched Fitna. I don't know whether it is the original version, but it is the one linked by Jerry Coyne. Maybe Geert Wilders has done or said other things that justify epithets such as 'disgusting', or 'racist'. But as far as this film is concerned, I can see nothing in it to substantiate such extreme vilification. There is much that is disgusting in the film, but it is all contained in the quotations, which I presume to be accurate, from the Koran and from various Muslim preachers and orators, and the clips of atrocities such as beheadings and public executions. At least as far as Fitna is concerned, to call Wilders 'disgusting' is surely no more sensible than shooting the messenger. If it is complained that these disgusting Koranic verses, or these disgusting Muslim speeches, or the more than disgusting Muslim executions, are 'taken out of context', I should like to be told what the proper context would look like, and how it could possibly make any difference.

To repeat, Wilders may have said and done other things of which I am unaware, which deserve condemnation, but I can see nothing reprehensible in his making of Fitna, and certainly nothing for which he should go on trial. Like the film of Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, the style of Fitna is restrained, the music, by Tchaikowski and Grieg, is excellently chosen and contributes to the restrained atmosphere of the film. The horrendous execution scenes are faded out before the coup-de-grace; all the stridency, and almost the only expressions of opinion, come from Muslims, not from Wilders.

Why is this man on trial, unless it is, yet again, pandering to the ludicrous convention that religious opinion must not be 'offended'? Geert Wilders, if it should turn out that you are a racist or a gratuitous stirrer and provocateur I withdraw my respect, but on the strength of Fitna alone I salute you as a man of courage, who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy.


In defence of cowardice
If I had been the Editor of Jyllands-Posten, I would not have published the cartoons, on grounds of simple cowardice. Or, more accurately, prudence. I think he was brave, but one could argue that there are better things to be brave about, given that his life was at stake. The point I want make here is that, of all the reasons one might think of for not publishing pictures of Mohammed, prudence (or physical cowardice if you wish) is far preferable to the moral and intellectual cowardice of any of the following:
1. You shouldn't publish those cartoons because they hurt people's feelings.
2. You shouldn't publish those cartoons because that shows disrespect for religion.
3. Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom to insult.

No, those three, and others like them, are bad reasons to refrain from publishing something, and they are often hypocritical as well, since they are often used as camouflage for honest, physical cowardice. The following, it seems to me, is a perfectly valid reason why he might have decided not to publish the cartoons:

4. I won't publish those cartoons because I don't want to be beheaded, I don't want the offices of Jyllands-Posten to be blown up, don't want the cartoonists or their families to be endangered, etc. But let me add that, while I may fear you if you threaten me and my editorial staff and my cartoonists with physical violence, this does not mean I respect you or your ridiculous religion. Quite the reverse. A religion that has to resort to the threat of physical violence has clearly lost what little entitlement to respect it ever had. I may fear you but, more importantly, I DESPISE you and hold you in utter contempt.


'I would not have published the cartoons, on grounds of simple cowardice.' Richard Dawkins

'I salute you as a man of courage, who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy.' Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins. What an enigma. What a guy.

Sean Tyrer

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 21:34:00 UTC | #435181