Dutch Minister Tries to Calm Muslims Over ‘Anti-Koran’ Film

Ria Novosti (Moscow), March 31, 2008

The Dutch prosecutor’s office is preparing to take legal action against the maker of an ‘anti-Koran’ film in an attempt to ease tensions over the film’s release, the Dutch foreign minister said on Monday.

Maxime Verhagen told ambassadors from 26 Muslim that he was happy with the relatively calm reaction he had witnessed since the short film was posted on sites Thursday by Dutch MP Geert Wilders, adding that the film in no way reflected the religious views of the Dutch government.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that “Russia . . . fully condemns the showing of the film and considers it a provocation,” warning of negative consequences similar to those that occurred, following the notorious Danish ‘cartoon’ episode in 2006.

The 16-minute film, entitled ‘Fitna’—an Arabic word meaning ‘strife’ or ‘division among people’—was posted on the U.K.-based video website Liveleak on Thursday evening. It was made by Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who had earlier announced that his film would show that the Koran is “a fascist book” that justifies murder.

The short film begins with an image of the notorious 2006 Danish cartoon portraying the Prophet Mohammed with an explosive device on his head. The cartoon caused riots throughout the world after demonstrators attacked Danish embassies and other buildings with perceived links to the West. More than 100 people died in the violence. There were also protests against the reprinting of the cartoon in 2008.

Both NATO and the EU had earlier expressed concern over the film, with NATO saying it feared that Dutch troops in Afghanistan would now become a target for ‘revenge’ attacks. The Dutch government has also raised its national terrorist warning level in response to the film’s release.

The film contains footage of radical Imams calling for the slaughter of Jews and other disbelievers as well as a Muslim holding a “God bless Hitler” placard. However, although the intention of the film was to ‘discredit’ Islam by showing the links between verses in the Koran and violence, many commentators have suggested that the film resembles nothing more than the clips frequently aired on radical Islamic websites.

Although moderate Islamic groups have said the film is “nothing new” and have made appeals for Muslims to “react calmly and within the law,” the prospect of a backlash in the Islamic world remains a distinct possibility.

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