Czech Muslim community screen controversial Dutch film

A controversial documentary by Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders, which this year sparked protests across the Muslim world, has been screened for the first time in the Czech Republic. Monday’s screening of the film Fitna in Brno was organized, perhaps surprisingly, by the Czech Muslim community, which is mainly centred in the Moravian capital.

Fitna means Ordeal or Strife in Arabic, and the film shows verses of the Koran interspersed with footage of atrocities such as the 9/11 attacks on the US and the London and Madrid bombings. So why did the Brno Islamic Foundation hold a public screening on Monday night? Munib Hassan Alrawi is the organisation’s head.

“First of all we wanted to show that Muslims are ready to accept criticism and they are open to any kind of discussion. Second, we wanted to point out the film is biased and challenge the arguments presented in the film. We also wanted to make it clear whether we agree with what some the Muslims in the film are saying.”

Around 30 people attended Monday’s screening of Fitna, which was followed by a debate. But the controversial Dutch picture was not the only film presented. The Islamic Foundation also decided to screen another documentary, which was made in response to Fitna:

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “We also screened a film called Schism, which was made in reaction to this film. It was made by a Muslim and it is structured in the same way as Fitna: it takes extracts from the Bible and links them to the killings of Iraqi people by Western soldiers. The author of Schism openly admits at the end of his film that this is not the right thing to do. So we condemn Fitna and we also condemn any kind of links between Christianity and violence.”

A few weeks ago the small far-right group the National Party plastered the city of Brno with posters based on one of the Danish cartoons which led to a storm of controversy when they were published in 2005. The Muslim community in Brno chose not to respond in any way at that time. However, in the case of Fitna they decided to take a different approach:

“There are groups of people in the Czech Republic who would like to use the film in order to present their anti-Muslim views. So we decided to screen it first to prevent any possible conflicts in the future.”

The Czech Muslim community plans to organise further screenings in other cities, such as Prague and Olomouc. Open screenings are also planned by the National Party, which has already made Fitna accessible on its website.