Fitna is an Arabic word meaning something like “disorder” or “unrest”. It’s often used as a justification for women covering themselves up, by not tempting men into lustful thoughts and the depravity and civil unrest that are sure to follow.
Now, I’ve always found this argument rather insulting: it basically says that men are weak-willed, that the moment we see an exposed elbow, we’ll go into some testosterone-fueled frenzy, unable to think straight, stopping at nothing in our craving for sex.
In other contexts, this is not considered a virtue. If I walk past you with my new iPad 2 or whatever the hot toy du jour is, and you like it so much that you steal it from me, that makes you a thief who needs to learn some self-control.
Now, obviously it’s polite to refrain from drinking in front of an alcoholic, or smoking in front of someone who’s trying to quit, but as a rule, people should be expected to control their antisocial emotions (although there’s an interesting exception, that I keep hoping to write about).
So anyway, the reason I bring this up is because of the bus ads in Arkansas, which you’ve probably heard of by now: in brief, the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason wanted to put some billboards on buses, saying “Are you good without God? Millions are.” The Central Arkansas Transit Authority had a fit, but decided that it couldn’t legally stop them. So instead, they demanded that the CoR pay a $36,000 deposit to insure against vandalism. As a person at the company that handles advertising put it,
“in reality, Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.”
In other words, fitna. The transit authority and its advertising agency are afraid that the good people of Arkansas, once they see an atheist ad, will fly into a fury of vandalism and won’t be able to help themselves from keying the bus or slashing its tires.
Arkansans, is that really how you want to be seen? Unable to control your temper or play nice with others? Because if so, you may want to get a nice, modest gingham burqa to cover up your wimminfolk. I’m sure there’s someone out there who’ll be happy to sell you one.
Update Fri Jun 17 12:50 2011: Fixed broken HTML. HT alert reader Fez.