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In search for a pseudonym... I stumble upon Wilders' Fitna.

Fitna. 
Is an Arabic word that is most commonly translated as ‘strife.’  It could also mean 'enchantment' and even 'sin.'  In its essence, it means: To make something appear differently than its nature.  In the Quran, we are told that Moses ‘fatan’ the ropes and so they appeared as snakes.

Wikipedia does a good job at dissecting the word linguistically, so why recreate the wheel.  I would however like to point here to the original meaning of the verb ‘fatana’ and that is: to burn.  Adding to Wiki that it could thus be seen as an alchemical word… the burning of metal to distinguish the gold.  Seeing through falsehood and finding the truth. 
 
Fitna is one of the many words that has been hijacked by the modern language.  If words were to rebel, Fitna would stand in the frontlines.
But in spite of the negative association of the word – or perhaps as a result of – Fitna is also a woman’s name (amongst certain groups like the Bedouins.)  In that instance, it means that the woman is so beautiful that she leads one to fitna - sin.

Between the ambiguity of the word and its alchemical significance, it is no surprise that I would consider it as a pen name.  But then… I did a search. 

First hit on Google (naturally lands me on Wikipedia)
Fitna (Film).  “Fitna (Arabic: فِتْنَة‎‎) is a 2008 short film by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders The film attempts to demonstrate that the Qur'an motivates its followers to hate all who violate Islamic teachings. The movie shows selected excerpts from Suras of the Qur'an, interspersed with media clips and newspaper cuttings showing or describing acts of violence and/or hatred by Muslims.”

Four years ago, I had no idea who Wilders was and I did not speak Dutch. I had been to Holland several times, mainly to festivals and conferences.  I stayed in the Randstad and did not know that anything existed south of Rotterdam.  My interactions were with artists, theaters-makers and international people.  I experienced the Netherlands as a Utopia, as one of the most tolerant places in the world and as one of the least racist. The illusion of the tourist however is shattered by becoming a burger – a citizen.

During my first year in Limburg, I understood the feeling of an alochtoon.  (Alochtoon being a word that means outsiders, from somewhere else or something of the sort.  The word has been crossed out – banned - this year as a word that is too discriminatory.  I do however continue to use it.  As an alochtoon myself, I can call myself names without offending anyone, I think.)

“Waar komt u vandaan?”
“Jordanie.” 
“Bent u Muslima?”
"Eh... een ingewikkeld vraag!"

Upon answering the questions with yes, the asker’s eyes would glaze over.  The Dutch opinion of (us) is not exactly positive.  They see only Moroccan young men who hang around on the street, live-off social security, engage in criminal activity and harass girls passing by.  Naturally, not all Moroccans are like that … but sadly, the prejudices are affirmed by what the Dutch see around them.  I see it too (in another rant I'll get into that topic...)

Thus said, as a Middle Easterner, I cannot complain, for I do not look like who I am.  I am often mistaken for a Dutch speaking Frenchwoman, a Nicaraguan, a Greek or even an Israeli.
But the fact remains that I am an Arab Muslim woman.
I had no choice about any of these labels.  No one asked me what I believed in, whether I believed, whether I as-such identified.
I could claim I’m 'something' else, but if my nose does not betray me, then my last name does.  I assume it could have been worse – I could have been a giant Muslim male named Mohammad with too much facial hair.

Fitna: I clicked on the link to the film.  I packed myself a cup of tea and stood to watch (yes, I work standing).  I was ready to get angry, to scream out: Lies and discrimination.  But I did not.

Nothing in the film was a lie.  (It’s just not the whole truth, and that makes it false.)

I grew up in the Middle East, I have heard Imams spread hate.  But, not all of them did.  I have also heard imams preach love, of everyone and everything.   
I have studied the Quran.  The Jihad suras quoted in the film indeed exist, but that’s not all that is there.  Furthermore, and as my father too often told me – the suras have to be read in context.  But do they exist in the book?  Yes. They do. 
Should there be some form of reform, editing, cutting out? 
At risk of getting in trouble, I’ll leave you to answer that question…
But I'll say that Islam is no different in its idiosyncrasies than other religions or systems. 
The bibles were not exactly the friendliest to strangers, women or gays… look at the old literature and the witch hunts.  Even in the so called scientific books like the DSM, was ‘homosexuality’ once considered a psychopathology.  That does not mean however that we should throw the whole book in the trash. Recycle it … maybe. 

But in spite of the 'negative' messages in holy books, I believe that the beautiful and good should be our starting point.  For example:

“Bissm allah alrahmaan al Raheem.”

This sentence is uttered before every aya or sura, also before giving a speech.  It puts everything into context, reminding us of the overarching concept.  
The statement means: In the name of god (Allah being no more than the Arabic word for god and thus should be translated as god, and not as Allah, as if Allah is something different.) 
In the name of god, the merciful, the compassionate. "

Raheem and Rahman come from the root rahm: which means mercy and also means womb.  Take a moment to think about that.
There is a sura in the Quran titled ‘Al-rahmaan.’  Take the time to read it – or its translation.  It is one of the most beautiful in the Quran, and to me – it gives the essence of what the religion should and could be.

However, in films like Fitna and in anti-Islam debates, nothing is said about such suras.  Nothing is said about the suras that forbid killing, the suras that preach loving Christians and Jews as brothers and sisters, or about the duty of giving alms to the poor and so on.

Half-truths are lies. 
The problem with Fitna the film is that it only shows the dark side of the story.  And thus, to the ignorant viewers (given the state of the world, that group forms the majority - look at the most recent USA elections), the film is enough to make them decide that Islam is evil and Muslims are barbaric.

On “Pauw,” a talk show on Vara – Nederlands, sat a group of PVV sympathizers around a table (November, 2016.)  The PVV (The Party for Freedom) is a nationalist right-wing populist party founded by wilders himself (2006.) 
Without getting into the party’s agenda, it is enough to say that Wilders is the Trump of the Netherlands. He is thus not the first choice for leftists, people of colour,  Muslims...etc (though he might be ok with Gays.)

The PVV sympathisers on PAUW talked about: THE muslims, THE refugees, THE islam … as if there is only one THE.  No one talks about The Jews, or The Christians, or The gays in the same way.  Of course, only the ignorant make such sweeping generalisations – but as earlier established – most of (them/us) are ignorant.


So what do (we) do about this… (us) the so-called left wing progressive folk?

We point fingers at PVV supporters, make Wilders into a cartoon, call him and his views stupid and idiotic.  A waste of time. 
What we really need to do it to talk with him and the people who vote for him.

I would much rather sit with Wilders or Trump in a conversation rather with Clinton or Obama.  Not that I don’t like the latter, but rather because of that fact.    

There is no denying that the whole world is becoming more conservative. We cannot – as green parties, socialist parties, or labor parties close the door and only talk to ‘our own people.’  Our people will not be the ones running the show (at least officially) - not for a few years.  Sorry, but look around and you’ll see the signs. 
I do not expect that we will see a green revolution before a strong red eruption takes place.  The separatists and nationalists and conservatives are getting to power.  We could close the door on them and sit together, bitch about the situation and give each other standing ovations, but it’s useless.

There would be no Trump or Wilders if they did not exist within every one of us.  We demonise them like they demonise us.  We have to stop pointing fingers.  We have to stop seeing the other as the enemy, as the demon.  We are so good in that, we make people into idols and devils, and as easily flip them around.  Not until we stop separating ourselves from each other can we move forward.
No, it's not easy... but neither is child birth.  And that's our next evolutionary step... to birth a new (Green) paradigm.... 
It has never existed... we have to imagine it.  












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De Paardenbloemkamer

My first dutch language publication is out!
Mijn eerste Nederlandse-talige publikate.  De eerst van een serie fabels.
"De Paardenbloemkamer"
A short children's story in the book
"4321....Lees: Verdwalen in Verhalen" 
The book is the fruit of a wonderful project by the Lionsclub Venlo, aimed at encouraging children to read and write... and most importantly, to imagine.
Children from 27 schools in Venlo were asked for story ideas. 43 ideas were chosen. Those were given to writers to inspire them to make a story,  and then to artists to make an illustration.
The result, a wonderful book full of imagination. Venlo might be a little city, but it it's een stedje with big ideas.



Photo from the book launch in Domani, Venlo on 23 November, 2016 with Tristan Thijsen (our idea-maker) and Floor Kurstjens (illustrator)


De Paardenbloemkamer: is a story about dreaming, facing one's fears, and growing up.  The title means: The dandelion Room.  It's all in one word, because one c…