I just watched "Fitna," a 17-minute film by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.
Released on the Internet last week, "Fitna" juxtaposes verses from the Koran with images from the world of jihad. Heads cut off, bodies blown apart, gays executed, toddlers taught to denounce Jews as "apes and pigs," protesters holding up signs reading "God Bless Hitler" and "Freedom go to Hell" - these are among the powerful images from "Fitna," Arabic for "strife" or "ordeal."
Predictably, various Muslim governments have condemned the film. Half the Jordanian parliament voted to sever ties with the Netherlands. Egypt's grand imam threatened "severe" consequences if the Dutch didn't ban the film.
Meanwhile, European and U.N. leaders are going through the usual theatrical hand-wringing, heaping anger on Wilders for sowing "hatred."
Me? I keep thinking about Jesus fish.
During a 1991 visit to Istanbul, a buddy and I found ourselves in a small restaurant, drinking, dancing and singing with a bunch of middle-class Turkish businessmen, mostly shop owners. It was a hilariously joyful evening, even though they spoke little English and we spoke considerably less Turkish.
At the end of the night, after imbibing unquantifiable quantities of raki, an ouzo-like Turkish liqueur, one of the men gave me a worn-out business card. On the back, he'd scribbled an image. It was little more than a curlicue, but he seemed intent on showing it to me (and nobody else). It was, I realized, a Jesus fish.
It was an eye-opening moment for me, though obviously trivial compared with the experiences of others. Here in this cosmopolitan and self-styled European city, this fellow felt the need to surreptitiously clue me in that he was a Christian just like me (or so he thought).
Traditionally, the fish pictogram conjures the miracle of the loaves and fishes as well as the Greek word IXOYE, which means fish and also is an acronym for "Jesus Christ God's Son, Savior." Christians persecuted by the Romans used to draw the Jesus fish in the dirt as a way to tip off fellow Christians that they weren't alone.
In America, these fish appear mostly on cars. Recently, however, it seems Jesus fish have become outnumbered by Darwin fish. No doubt you've seen these too. The fish is "updated" with little feet on the bottom, and "IXOYE" or "Jesus" is replaced with either "Darwin" or "Evolve."
I find Darwin fish offensive. First, there's the smugness. The undeniable message: Those Jesus fish people are less evolved, less sophisticated than we Darwin fishers.