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Islam: Dutch Anti-Koran Film Appears On Internet

  • Gulnoza Saidazimova

Wilders'film has captured world headlines and caused heated debates (TV screen shot) The overnight posting of an anti-Islamic film by a right-wing Dutch politician has sparked widespread condemnation and fears of a backlash.

The 15-minute film by far-right Dutch legislator Geert Wilders was posted on the maverick video-sharing website liveleak.com late on March 27 after Dutch television stations refused to air it.

The film is called "Fitna," a Koranic term sometimes translated as "strife" or "conspiracy." It begins and ends with one of the controversial Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad wearing a ticking bomb on his head.

It splices verses from the Koran with images and audio of recent attacks by Islamic terrorists: pictures of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks; the beheading of a man by masked gunmen; and an Afghan woman draped in a blue burqa being shot in the head are all interspersed with videos of Muslim clerics' calls for jihad and anti-Semitic tirades.

Wilders said his film demonstrates why the Koran is a "fascist" book that incites people to commit violence.

Wilders, who is also known for his critical stance on Dutch immigration policies, said at a press conference at The Hague on March 27 that his film is "not a provocation but sheer reality and a political conclusion. I am a politician. Islam is a danger to freedom in the Netherlands. And I must warn against it."

The film alleges that the rising number of Muslims in the Netherlands and Europe threatens the survival of democratic societies.

It ends with calls to "Stop Islamization of Europe" and to "Defend Our Freedoms." It says Islam has to be defeated like fascism and communism were defeated in Europe before.

Dutch authorities and the country's religious officials spent weeks trying to prevent the film's release in hope of averting the kind of Muslim backlash that Denmark suffered in 2006 over published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende on March 27 in The Hague rejected the interpretation of Islam that the new film makes.

"The film equates Islam with violence. We reject this interpretation," he said. "The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence. In fact, the victims are often also Muslims. We therefore regret that Mr. Wilders has released this film."

Fears Of Muslim Backlash

In recent months, the Dutch government has carried out a public-relations campaign around the film, distancing itself from it while at the same time reminding people that Wilders lives in a country that guarantees freedom of speech.

In recent weeks, news that the film would soon be released set off violent protests in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other predominantly Muslim countries.

Balkenende said the film "serves no purpose other than to offend," but cautioned against a violent reaction, saying that feeling offended must not be an excuse for "aggression and threats." "You can, of course, have a lot of criticism [of] the film, and you can even say my feelings are really hurt by this film, but that's not an excuse for violent action," he said.

Liveleak.com is a British-based website that is popular with U.S. soldiers who commonly upload videos of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it includes footage of crimes and other "reality" videos from around the world. The site received so many hits within the first hour of the posting of the film that the video temporarily froze.

The film's own website (http://www.fitnathemovie.com) was suspended, and the warning said the network hosting it is investigating whether the site's content violates its policies.

Wilders said he made a "very decent film" that was "within the boundaries of the law." He added that the film was a call for debate.

The government has assigned bodyguards to protect Wilders because of death threats against him. In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was killed on the street in Amsterdam after he released a short film criticizing Islam's treatment of women.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on March 27 deploring the use of the media to "incite acts of violence, xenophobia, or related intolerance and discrimination towards Islam" or other religions.

A Dutch court is scheduled to hear a petition by the Dutch Islamic Federation seeking a review of whether Wilders' film violates hate-speech laws.
The Cartoon Controversy

Islamabad residents protesting against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons on February 15 (epa)


An Unfolding Conflict

19 February 2006: A full-page apology by "Jyllands-Posten," dated 5 February, appears in papers in Saudi Arabia. Churches in Libya, Nigeria, and Pakistan are attacked, as too is the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia.

18 February: Forty-five die in Nigeria as churches, hotels, and shops are torched in a predominantly Muslim northern state. Roberto Calderoli resigns from the Italian cabinet after being blamed for riots in Libya that ended with the destruction of the Italian Embassy and the loss of 10 lives. The Libyan interior minister and local police chiefs are sacked for using disproportionate force to quell the riots.

17 February: Ten Libyan protestors are killed during a demonstration that culminates with the burning of the Italian Embassy in Tripoli. Protestors link the demonstrations to the decision of an Italian minister to wear T-shirts showing the cartoons.

16 February: The Russian media watchdog pledges to take a tough line against any organization accused of "insulting religious feelings."

15 February: The Danish government says the Iraqi government wants Danish troops to remain. A far-right Italian minister, Roberto Calderoli, says he plans to wear T-shirts emblazoned with some of the "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons. In Pakistan, three more protestors are killed, one in Lahore and two in Peshawar, as tens of thousands demonstrate.

14 February: Pakistani police shoot dead two protesters in Lahore. In Iran, crowds attack the British and German embassies. Political leaders in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah call for Danish troops to leave the country. In Israel, a cartoonist launches a competition for the best anti-Semitic cartoons by Jews themselves. In Europe, the Portugese president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, promises support for Denmark and the democratic system in a dispute that reminds him of his country's dictatorial past.

13 February: A leading Iranian newspaper, "Hamshahri," invites cartoons about the Holocaust in a competition aimed at testing the limits of free speech in the West.

12 February: Intelligence reports suggest Danes in Indonesia are under threat. Denmark urges its nationals to leave the country. It had previously made similar appeals to Danes in many Muslim countries.

10 February: Thousands of Malayans protest, as Western and Muslim political, cultural, and religious leaders gather to discuss differences between the Western and Muslim worlds.

9 February: The Swedish government forces offline a website that asked readers to submit their own cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

8 February: Security forces open fire on protestors in the Afghan city of Qalat, killing four, on a day of angry and sometimes violent scenes around the world. Washington accuses the Syrian and Iranian governments of inciting violence.

7 February: Iran's largest newspaper invites cartoons of the Holocaust, saying it wants to test the limits of Western freedom of expression.

6 February: Widespread unrest over the cartoons reported in Afghanistan. One person was reported killed and four wounded in Laghman Province.

6 February: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expresses "distress" over the publication of the cartoons, but condemns the violent reactions in the Muslim world.

5 February: The Danish Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, is torched.

4 February: Mobs burn the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Chilean embassies in Syria. Protests in Denmark turn violent.

1 February: Papers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain run reprints of the cartoons in a show of solidarity.

30 January: The EU says it will take World Trade Organization (WTO) action if the boycott persists. Several Islamic groups, including Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, call for a worldwide boycott of Danish products. Masked gunmen in storm EU office in Gaza. The Danish paper apologizes.

29 January: "Jyllands-Posten" prints a statement in Arabic saying the drawings were published in line with freedom of expression and not a campaign against Islam. Palestinians burn Danish flags and Libya announces it will close its embassy in Denmark.

28 January: The Danish company Arla places advertisements in Middle Eastern newspapers to try to stop boycott of its products.

27 January: Thousands denounce the cartoons during Friday prayers in Iraq.

26 January: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador to Denmark and initiates a boycott of Danish goods.

10 January 2006: The cartoons are reprinted by the Norwegian newspaper "Magazinet."

14 November: Jamaat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based group, protests in Islamabad.

20 October: Ambassadors of 10 Muslim countries complain to Danish Prime Minister. "Jyllands-Posten" reports that illustrators have received death threats.

30 September 2005: The Danish newspaper "Jyllands-Posten" publishes 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

(compiled by RFE/RL)

See also:

Calming The Storm

Former Jailed Iranian Cartoonist Discusses Muhammad Caricatures

Western, Eastern Media View Cartoon Crisis As Test Of Values

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