The Fitna anticlimax?

Dutch officials sighed with relief after Fitna hit the Internet yesterday. Expecting massive demonstrations for the sharp criticism of the Koran and the linkage to Muslim extremism, the night passed without incident in the Netherlands. They credit the actions of the Dutch government in disowning Wilders and the film:

The Netherlands breathed a sigh of relief on Friday after Dutch Muslims reacted with restraint to the release of a film by a Dutch lawmaker that accuses the Koran of inciting violence.

Dutch authorities reported a calm night after Islam critic Geert Wilders launched his movie on Thursday evening, in contrast to unrest that swept the country following the murder by a militant Islamist in 2004 of film director Theo van Gogh.

The Dutch government worked for months before the film appeared to defuse Muslim anger over its theme. In a statement broadcast live on television on Thursday in both Dutch and English, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he rejected Wilders’ views.

What I find fascinating is the Dutch government’s haste to appease Muslim anger over a film, while it says next to nothing about the death threats Wilders has received for making his previous film with Theo van Gogh. Those death threats came at the same time as the murder of van Gogh by a radical Muslim, which indicates that they’re not empty threats but an indication of real danger. The Dutch government rejects Wilders’ views, but say nothing about the threats that have created the need for the government to hide Wilders from assassins.

One can disagree with Wilders’ point of view, but the actions of the Dutch government seem rather out of balance here, at the least. Wilders made a 17-minute film that criticizes the Koran and the radicalism that it generates, while the radicals have already assassinated van Gogh and threaten to do the same to Wilders. Which threat did the Netherlands see as the one they had to publicly denounce?

Balkenende announced that freedom and respect go hand in hand. That sounds great, but it’s essentially an oxymoron. Freedom includes the ability to engage in criticism, and without the fear of getting murdered for it. Should the Netherlands “respect” Naziism as part of “freedom”? Of course not. In a certain sense, freedom means abandoning an expectation of “respect”, of non-offense, because that demand leads directly to a curtailing of free speech, which is the root of liberty.

The Dutch government has its priorities severely out of joint in this instance. The ony reason for this choice is because of the real threat of violence from Muslims in and out of the Netherlands, unless Balkenende makes a habit of distancing the Netherlands from criticisms of Christianity and Buddhism as well. That’s nothing less than appeasement, which reinforces the efficacy of violence and encourages more of the same from radical Muslims. Balkenende should have just kept his mouth shut.

Update: Balkenende’s actions reminds me of this South Park clip:

In the episode, Family Guy was supposed to be showing a depiction of Mohammed, and the town wanted to show that they wanted Muslims to know that they wouldn’t defend free speech. Sounds familiar, no?