Unrest in the Netherlands: Dutch prepare for Wilders’ film about Koran
The upcoming release of a film about the Koran by Islam critic and Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders is causing unrest in the Netherlands. Rachel Levy reports.
The government has met several times in recent weeks to prepare itself for possible strong negative reactions to the film among Muslims in the Netherlands and abroad.
Wilders, 44, is the most outspoken Islam critic of the Dutch political scene, and runs on a political platform that advocates a total halt to Muslim immigration.
In August, he publicly called for a total ban on the Koran, calling the Muslim ‘holy scripture’ a "fascist book that incites people to commit violence." He also refers to Islam as a "backward culture."
Wilders has been living under continuous personal security surveillance since the assassination of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh in 2004 by a Muslim fundamentalist.
Van Gogh was killed following the production of "Submission", a film criticizing the position of women in Islam.
Minister of Interior Affairs Guusje Ter Horst (Labour) has requested all Dutch mayors to remain "on high alert" and maintain an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the local Muslim community in the run-up to the film's release.
In November the Dutch government formally warned Wilders for the potential security risk he may run with his film. The legislator said he refused to let himself be "intimidated" and insisted he would not call off his plans.
On Thursday last week Wilders criticized Gerrit Braks, mayor of Eindhoven in the southern Netherlands, calling him the "mufti of Eindhoven."
Earlier Braks had officially distanced himself from Wilders, the Freedom party and Wilders' upcoming Koran film.
"The film has not even been released," Wilders said, "No one knows what may happen."
Wilders accused Braks of "incitement" and said his behaviour was "irresponsible."
In contrast, Wilders praised Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, who said he would not speak about the film until after it had been released.
Meanwhile Dutch journalists have decided to coordinate their reporting about the film, saying they want to prevent hype, but also do not want to trigger a social crisis.
Carel Kuyl, editor of Dutch late-night current affairs programme Nova referred to the Danish cartoon crisis of 2005, when Muslims worldwide responded with indignation to the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by a Danish daily newspaper.
The Arab European League (AEL) has meanwhile announced it will produce a "counter-film" to be released simultaneously with Wilders' Koran production.
Dutch AEL representative Abdou Bouzerda said he would "start a counter-offensive" against the Dutch government "if the Dutch will pretend nothing is going on in the Netherlands."
"We absolutely support the personal security of Dutch nationals abroad. But if the government continues to portray the Netherlands abroad as a tolerant country, that has no problems with its Muslim community, then we will disturb that message."
Moroccan-born Ahmed Aboutaleb, deputy minister of Social Affairs (Labour), said he was prepared to speak to Arab media, in Arabic, to comment on Wilders' film and particularly to explain why Dutch law allows its broadcast.
Speaking in the European parliament on Tuesday, Syria's chief mufti Ahmad Badr Al-Din Al-Hassoun said Geert Wilders would be "solely responsible for any violence and bloodshed" that might follow after the release of his film.
He called upon the Dutch to stop the release of Wilders' work.
Wilders later called the Syrian mufti "a major lunatic."
21 January 2008
[Copyright dpa 2008]