Dutch lawmaker releases anti-Koran film

Reactions to "Fitna," which sets Koran verses against images of terror attacks, thus far mild.

dutch koran film 22488 (photo credit:)
dutch koran film 22488
(photo credit: )
Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders released a film critical of Islam on Thursday, setting verses of the Koran against a background of images from terrorist attacks. The 15-minute film was posted on a Web site. Shortly afterward Dutch television channels rebroadcast segments of it. The Dutch government had warned Wilders the film could spark violent protests in Islamic countries, like those two years ago after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. "The film equates Islam with violence. We reject this," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a televised reaction. "We...regret that Mr. Wilders has released this film. We believe it serves no other purpose than to cause offense." Initially, Dutch television refused to broadcast it and Wilders had difficulty finding an Internet platform. The film showed statements from radical clerics and cited Koranic verses interspersed with images from attacks, beginning with the September 11, 2001, assault in the United States, the 2004 attack in Spain, and the murder later in 2004 of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. It began and ended with one of the cartoons portraying Muhammad. Then there came the sound of a page being torn. Subtitles assured the viewer it was a page from a telephone book, because "it's not up to me, but the Muslims to tear the hate-sowing pages out of the Koran." After the release, Wilders told reporters he made the film, called Fitna, because "Islam and the Koran are dangers to the preservation of freedom in the Netherlands in the long term, and I have to warn people of that." "It's five minutes before midnight and this is the last warning as far as I'm concerned," he said. Early reactions to the film from were muted. Yusuf Altuntas, of the Contact Group Muslims and Government, said Wilders "is seeking the limits, but not crossing the line. For Mr. Wilders, this is quite subtle." The film was not as jarring as anticipated, said Maurits Berger, professor of Islam in the West at Leiden University. "It's a series of images and photos, headlines from recent years which we already know," he said. The film told more about Wilders than the Koran, Berger said. "It represents his fear of Islam." The film was released the evening before a Dutch judge was due to hear a petition of a Muslim group seeking an independent review of the film to see whether it violates hate speech laws. The Dutch Islamic Federation was asking the court to impose a fine of $79,000 for every day the film is available to the public. Muhammad Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, which appealed for calm in January before the film's release, said he had heard about the film but not yet seen it. "On the one hand, this is less bad than we thought he was going to do," he told The Associated Press. But he also gives the impression the Koran justifies violence, "and that is really wrong." Thousands of Dutch demonstrated Saturday in Amsterdam in a protest intended to show that Wilders does not represent the whole country.