When telling unpleasant truths is “inciting hatred”: Dutch politician Geert Wilders is set to be prosecuted for comments made in speeches and in his anti-Islam film “Fitna”

The charges stem partly from a 15-minute film Wilders released online last March, “Fitna,” which features disturbing images of terrorist acts superimposed over verses from the Quran to paint Islam as a threat to Western society.

The movie drew complaints from the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as concern from the United States, which warned it could spark riots.

The film opens with a controversial caricature of the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, followed by translated portions of Islam’s holy book, the Quran. The passages are interspersed with graphic images of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States juxtaposed with audio from 9-1-1 calls made by the victims trapped inside the World Trade Center in New York.

The video includes images of other terror attacks; bloodied victims; beheadings of hostages; executions of women in hijab, the traditional full-body covering; and footage, with subtitles, of Islamic leaders preaching inflammatory sermons against Jews and Christians.

The film concludes with scrolling messages reading in part: “The government insists that you respect Islam, but Islam has no respect for you” and “In 1945, Nazism was defeated in Europe. In 1989, communism was defeated in Europe. Now the Islamic ideology has to be defeated.”

Wilders has been outspoken in his criticism of Islam and called the religion a threat to the world.

“It’s not a provocation, but the harsh reality and a political conclusion,” Wilders said of the film when it was released last year.

Wilders’ 16-minute film “Fitna” can be viewed on Google Video, and is also posted on Hot Air. Have a look and see for yourself. And think about it in the context of the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh over “Submission”, a film criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. Van Gogh’s associate Ayaan Hirsi Ali has had to take refuge in the United States following threats on her own life.

Should the kind of speech contained in “Fitna”, which largely presents the West’s Jihadist enemies in their own words and actions, really be repressed because it might upset some people? If so, why the apparent double standard when it comes to insistence on expressive freedom in the Western art world, which has been unrelenting in its criticism of Western and particularly U.S. actions, yet from which we’ve heard nary a peep regarding radical Islam’s deeply anti-liberal, anti-feminist, anti-semitic, anti-civilizational bent? (As Glenn Reynolds aptly put it: “They do this because they know we won’t behead them. Such is the bravery of artists.”)

Eugene Volokh posted a brief review of “Fitna” when the film first appeared last March (hat tip: Instapundit):

This is of course a rhetorical work, not an academic inquiry, and it’s trying to stir people emotionally. But I didn’t see much of hyperbole or gratuitious insults. Wilders is arguing against an important and dangerous ideological movement; my sense is that his approach is well within bounds of legitimate criticism.

So I think this is a significant contribution to the ideological debate, and it seems to me that we — and especially Wilders’ fellow Dutch, to whom he is speaking most specifically — should take it seriously, naturally together with whatever responses might come out.

Fore more background on Wilders, see this fine WSJ article.

More posts about “Fitna” from last March:

Update: Robert Spencer has a post about Wilders’ prosecution at JihadWatch.