U.S. Worried Anti-Muslim Film Could Trigger Violence Abroad

Richard Esposito and Christine Brouwer, ABC News, January 24, 2008

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI Wednesday circulated a report on the expected release of a 10-minute anti-Islam film by Dutch far-right Party for Freedom Founder and Chairman Geert Wilders, which is expected to spark global protests and raises the possibility of violence in Europe.

The DHS/FBI report was published in anticipation of a Friday release of the film; however, Wilders himself told a Dutch newspaper yesterday that he needs at least two more weeks to finish the film. So far, no one has seen even as single pre-release frame of the film.

The DHS/FBI report follows weeks of speculation on the reactions to the film that continues to gain momentum in overseas media and online outlets. The DHS/FBI report states clearly in its headline and key findings section that “the film is unlikely to incite violence in the United States but may provoke protests overseas.”

The film, however, reportedly will show a Quran being destroyed, which the report states is “tantamount to heresy” in Islam. In the past, Wilders has stated that the Quran should be banned like Adolph Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

A spokesperson for Wilder’s political party said he would not be available for comment, and they would neither confirm nor deny whether the Quran will be depicted as destroyed in the film.

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And Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports: “Dutch people living abroad are worried about the effects of right-wing politician Geert Wilders’ anti-Qu’ran film. In recent weeks Dutch embassies have been busy making emergency plans, a move which many people have judged as an over-reaction. However, Dutch expats in Islamic countries in particular say that they are already having problems as a result of comments made by Wilders and that they are beginning to fear for their personal safety.”

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Wilders, a self-professed anti-Islam politician is rumored to argue in the film that the Quran encourages violence against non-Muslims, the report states.

A Dutch news agency recently published excerpts from a letter by the minister of domestic affairs to all Dutch mayors warning them to be “extra cautious” about cultural tensions and violence that could arise in their cities after the release of the film. According to the article, police departments in Amsterdam and Rotterdam are already preparing for possible problems after the film comes out. Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende has spoken publicly of a “crisis” situation.

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In the United States there were only peaceful protests at consulates, embassies and at colleges. The report states, “U.S. media refrained from widely re-printing the controversial cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, which probably helped ease Muslim tensions in the Homeland. . . .Regardless of media reaction, the film likely will be shown and discussed on Internet forums.”

Overseas, some Muslim governments and religious leaders have warned the Dutch government against releasing the film and the Syrian Grand Mufti has asked for an open dialogue with Wilders but is unwilling to meet with him if the Quran is indeed destroyed in the film. An Iranian lawmaker threatened a “review” of Tehran’s relationship with the Netherlands if the film is shown.

[Editor’s Note: See also yesterday’s ARNews story on this film here.]

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