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Dutchman’s film on Islam causes controversy

Latest update : 2008-03-27

A short film about Islam by a right-wing Dutch politician is causing a storm of controversy around the world — before it has even been released.

If you go to the site, here’s what you see:
“This site has been suspended while Network Solutions is investigating whether the site's content is in violation of the Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy. Network Solutions has received a number of complaints regarding this site that are under investigation.”
Until this weekend, the site displayed a graphic promoting "Fitna" (Arabic for “civil strife”), a short film about Islam supposedly being made by Geert Wilders, a right-wing member of the Dutch parliament, along with the words “coming soon”. [See screenshot]

But this weekend, Network Solutions, the American company that hosts the site, took down the promo — and in doing so joined a controversy that has been raging for months.

What the film contains is a mystery. No one has yet seen it, and there is even speculation that it doesn’t exist — that the whole thing could be an April Fool’s joke.

In an interview with a Dutch newspaper, Wilders — who has promised to release the 15-minute film before April 1 — called the film a “final warning” to the West about Islam. “Islam is not a 'normal' religion, but a political ideology aiming to dominate the world and the introduction of Islamic Sharia law,” he told De Telegraaf in an interview published March 22.

The film has already created a storm of controversy in Europe and in the Muslim world and has raised fears of a violent reaction. In 2005, thousands of Muslims staged angry, sometimes violent, demonstrations after Danish newspapers published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. And in 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch Muslim of Moroccan descent after he made a 10-minute film called “Submission” that criticized Islam as a misogynist religion. Van Gogh’s killer left a note threatening the film’s screenwriter, Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is living under police protection after receiving death threats.
Wilders - the leader of the Freedom Party, which has nine of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament – has also reportedly received death threats. It is unclear how or where he will release the film. On Sunday Wilders reportedly rejected an offer from a Dutch Muslim TV channel, NMO, to broadcast the film, refusing to let them screen it in advance. AFP has reported that the National Party, one of Holland’s extreme right political parties, has offered to host it on their party’s website, though there is no word yet if Wilders will agree.
Film creating "tense climate"

Wilders’ film — along with other recent developments including messages from al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri – is helping to create “a tense climate,” according to Gilles Kepel, a French scholar and the author of several books on radical Islam. Kepel, who also mentions Pope Benedict XVI’s recent baptism of an Egyptian journalist who was born Muslim, told FRANCE 24: “All of this is obviously going to be linked in Islamist commentators’ minds, and we can expect a cocktail that could be explosive.”
There have already been demonstrations against Wilders’ film in Afghanistan, and protests lodged by officials from several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt and Iran. In February, Pakistani officials ordered a nationwide block on YouTube, because of (false) rumours that a teaser for Wilders’ film had been posted on the video-sharing site. The Pakistani blockage inadvertently led to a global outage on the site.

See more On FRANCE 24's The Observers
In Holland, many citizens are speaking out to the international community. In what appears to be an ad hoc attempt to drown out Wilders’ voice, Dutch users have planted hundreds of short videos on YouTube that show people apologizing for his film, saying that his views do not represent them or their country. A TV producer took out an advertisement in the newspaper Volkskrant, stating that "If Wilders had said the same thing about Jews (and the Old Testament) as he does about Muslims (and the Koran), he would have been ostracised a long time ago and accused of anti-Semitism."

In Europe and the United States, some conservative commentators have questioned Network Solutions’ decision to take down Wilders’ site, accusing the hosting company of pre-emptive censorship (see links at right).

Date created : 2008-03-24