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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Faiths to Condemn Fitna

Faiths Join to Condemn Fitna
11 Arrested for protesting

Moderator: When the movie Passion of the Christ was released in India a few years ago, the Muslims and Christians joined together to protest against the depiction of Jesus in the movie. Now, this one. Several articles have been written on the subject, they are listed at the bottom of this article.

Hindus, Muslims, Christians protest against film 'Fitna'
Rashtriya Sahara, Urdu Daily, Mumbai
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Front Page News

An extraordinary demonstration of national harmony, 11 persons arrested in first public protest of its kind against anti-Quran film made in Holland, 2 women, 4 Hindus and 1 Christian are among arrested.

Mumbai March 14: (SNB) Today Hindus, Christians and Muslims jointly took to the street against anti-Islam documentary film 'Fitna' which is produced by a Holland director (and likely to be released on March 28). They burnt the pictures of film producer Geert Wilders. Police handed over a notice yesterday to the organizer of the protest informing that the article 144 is imposed in Jogeshwari (west) therefore permission to stage protest will not be given. In spite of Oshiwara Police Station's refusal hundreds of secular activists staged protest after Juma (Friday) prayer against Anti-Islam film 'Fitna' under the banner of Satyavadi Yuva Sangh (SYS) today. Protesters demanded to take action against the impolite film producer globally.

Oshiwara police arrested 11 persons who took part in the protest under the article Bombay Act 68-69. These people were arrested: S.M. Khan, A. R. Ansari, Kumar Karade, Rafique Khan, David Narne, Pradeep Pujari, Jafar Saeed, Raju Bhai Pant, Shahnaz Momin, and Madhuri Rai. Thus it was the first time when Hindus, Muslims and Christians protested against the disgrace of Holy Qur'an jointly in Mumbai and they offered their arrests too. Two women; one Muslim and one Hindu were among those arrested. In last, all detainees were sent to Oshiwara Police Station where they were released on personal bond.

Early Warning System for Xenophobia
by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Learning from the Danish cartoon crisis of 2006 and the Sudanese teddy bear debacle of 2007, the Dutch are preparing to preempt a Geert Wilders-inflicted pandemic of 2008. This preemptive approach seems to be paying off; reversing what looked like an inevitable widening of rifts between the West and the Muslim World. The Netherlands now know that outbreaks of xenophobia must be treated as any other pandemic threatening a population. In preparation for the outbreak, an early warning system must be established and at onset, one must quickly quarantine the ideological disease before it spreads further. With Wilders, the need for preparedness was great.

Geert Wilders, leader of the right-wing, anti-Muslim Freedom Party, of which there are only nine members in the 150-seat Dutch lower house, had long threatened to release a film exhibiting, in his words, "the violent and fascist elements of the Muslim faith". This saber-rattling was not new. On previous occasions, Wilders equated the Qur'an with Mein Kampf and called for both books to be banned (a proposal roundly rejected by parliament). Additionally, Wilders' suggestion that the 1 million Muslims living in the Netherlands renounce aspects of their faith or leave country was also dispelled as nonsensical. This new film, however, was going to trump polemical precedent and the Muslim world was readying for the worst.

This is where the Dutch did right, by discernibly developing mechanisms to dampen down disease spread. With other European Union countries quickly diversifying religiously and ethnically, they too will no doubt trip up on similar potential points of ideological contention. Thus, this model deserves dutiful review and, ultimately, duplication. If the saying "an ounce of prevention equals a pound cure" holds true, the Danish cartoon crisis should shock anyone into an early-warning convert. The potential social, political and financial costs are simply too great to ignore. And the Dutch, as we will see below, understood that.

At the highest levels of government, the preemptive media response was palpable and powerful. The Dutch Foreign Minister stood by the right to free speech while putting reasonable parameters on the proviso, saying "freedom of expression doesn't mean the right to offend". The Dutch Interior Minister warned media companies against broadcast, noting the repercussions globally, saying "a broadcast on a public channel could imply that the government supported the project". Even the Dutch Embassy in Washington D.C. categorically condemned the content. But most impressive, was the showing by Amsterdam's mayor Job Cohen, who is Jewish, saying flatly that Wilders was "dehumanizing Muslims".

Undergirding these official utterances, the government readied the security sector with a series of cabinet-level ministerial meetings to coordinate counter-terrorism services and conceptualize security plans. Furthermore, Dutch nationals abroad were notified of the need to register with state embassies while local Dutch mayors queued on standby.

Services in the non-governmental sector were also summoned. Mindful of the buzz building in the Arab press and keen to concoct a global media strategy to counteract a crisis, the Dutch appealed to international organizations like ours [Cordoba Initiative] to proactively engage Muslims in prevention-oriented activities. Mobilizing Dutch Muslim civil society, in close consultation and coordination with our Dutch Muslim legal liaisons on the ground, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Locally, Muslims showered Wilders with kindness, sending flowers and emailing virtual hugs. This coincided with a coordinated campaign involving educational radio and TV programs, talks, flyers, T-shirts, and peace-promoting online petitions - all with the purpose to prevent political furore. Internationally, young Muslim leaders, from Europe to the United States to the United Nations, rallied to support local Dutch efforts and while focusing on similar inoculation efforts in their own countries. In sum, grassroots engagement was rigorous, respectful and well-regimented - exactly the kind of early warning system that is needed at a local level to immunize a population from a threat.

No doubt the threat still exists, as the world still waits for Wilders' cinematic debut. Nor is the Netherlands now impervious to potentially violent polemics in response to Wilders' film. But at least now, unlike in Denmark or Sudan, the early warning system has been activated and the quarantining mechanisms queued. People stand ready this time.

Immunizing a country against the pandemic of xenophobia and outright dehumanization is serious business. Thankfully, the Dutch got started on this early. Given the diverse and ever-shifting hues of the EU's social and religious orientation, Netherlands' neighbors would do well to nod in this direction.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, an international multi-faith organization, and author of What's Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West.

Posted by Feisal Abdul Rauf on March 5, 2008 3:36 PM

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