By Gary Bauer,

Looking to take in a movie this weekend? Here�s one that�s not for the faint of heart.

The film �Fitna�–�ordeal� in Arabic — was released recently on the Internet by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. �Fitna� juxtaposes scenes of violence and terrorism committed by devout Muslims with some of the Quran�s many verses that have been interpreted as justifying such violence and terrorism. The 17-minute movie makes the straightforward case that the jihadists who attack free societies are not distorting Islamic teachings but following them.

Muslims are less than pleased with the film. Islamic websites called for Wilders to be killed, as did a group of about 40 demonstrators in front of the Dutch Embassy in Indonesia. Many Islamic governments condemned the film, and demonstrators in a number of countries have demanded that western nations pass laws forbidding such criticism of Islam.

Why all the fuss? After all, the film�s main point — that Islam incites violence — is precisely the message many Muslim clerics spend much of their time trying to convince their followers to believe. A recent study sponsored by the Center for Security Policy found that of 100 American mosques and Islamic centers and schools it examined across the country, �75 should be on the watch list� for inciting insurrection and jihad through sermons and anti-western literature.

Evidence abounds that Muslim terrorism is very often a �faith-based initiative.� In one recent example, a report posted on Islam Watch, a site run by Muslims who oppose intolerant teachings and hatred of non-Muslims, exposes a prominent Islamic cleric and lawyer who supports extreme punishment for non-Muslims — including rape and murder. A question-and-answer session with Imam Abdul Makin in an East London mosque asks why Allah would tell Muslims to kill and rape innocent non-Muslims, including their wives and daughters. �Because non-Muslims are never innocent, they are guilty of denying Allah and his prophet,� the Imam says.

Western politicians and pundits often misidentify the source of Muslim outrage. Radicals calling for Wilders� head don�t take issue with Fitna�s claim that Islam calls followers to murder millions of innocent people for the sake of Allah. The protesters� outrage stems instead from the implied criticisms of such acts. Protestors are calling for Wilders� death not because he misquoted the Quran�s incitements to violence but because he argues that the book should be outlawed.

There is a pattern here. In 2004, another Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gough, was murdered by a jihadist in Amsterdam for releasing a film about the mistreatment of women in Islamic societies. Van Gough was killed not because his film highlighted passages of the Quran that have been used to justify abuse and rape of women, but rather because the film criticized the abuse and rape. The same pattern has been seen in many of the violent reactions to even slight critiques of Islam, such as in the deadly riots that followed Pope Benedict�s remarks on faith and violence in Regensburg, Germany.

Predictably, many western leaders were quick to condemn Fitna. Australia�s foreign minister called the film �highly offensive.� Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende distanced himself from the movie, and on Monday, Dutch Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen met with ambassadors from Islamic countries to assure them the film �in no way reflects the opinion of the Dutch government.� United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the film, insisting that �incitement� against a religious faith should never be allowed.

It is difficult to take the secretary general seriously. Everyday in the Palestinian territories — on T.V., in movies and in music — there is a steady diet of incitements against Jews, who are routinely compared to apes and monkeys. Palestinian students are taught that Jews use the blood of kidnapped Muslim children in Jewish religious ceremonies. Where are the condemnations from Europe or the U.N. for this incitement? The reaction of European politicians to Wilders� film is proof that radical Islam has already cowed too many Western leaders into silence.

But even some who acknowledge a causal relationship between Islam and violence are often quick to contend that faith-based violence is confined to a few extremists and is opposed by the vast majority of Muslims. But a recent survey estimates that a quarter of America�s 2.4 million Muslims consider suicide bombing in the name of Islam acceptable in some circumstances. And various polls have found that a majority of Muslims in the Middle East and over one-third of Muslims in Europe are sympathetic to jihad and terrorism against the west.

Which is cause for concern given the Vatican�s announcement this week that Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world�s single largest religious denomination. According to the Vatican, Muslims have soared to nearly 20 percent of the world�s population, while Catholics comprise 17.4 percent. Although Christianity — with 2 billion adherents, 33 percent of the population — is still the world�s most popular religion, Islam is arguably its fastest growing, and it is certainly the fastest growing in Europe.

As the number of Muslims increases, and as evidence mounts that a significant minority supports violence, the threat to western democracies built on free inquiry and debate is real.

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