Friday March 28, 2008
Iran, Indonesia angry over Dutch Koran film
By Niclas Mika
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Iran and Indonesia on Friday condemned a film by a Dutch lawmaker that accuses the Koran of inciting violence, while Dutch Muslim leaders urged restraint.
Islam critic Geert Wilders launched his movie on Thursday evening. Titled "Fitna", an Arabic term sometimes translated as "strife", it intersperses images of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and other Islamist bombings with quotations from the Koran.
The film urges Muslims to tear out "hate-filled" verses from the Koran and starts and finishes with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban, originally published in Danish newspapers, accompanied by the sound of ticking.
The image ignited violent protests around the world and a boycott of Danish products in 2006. Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.
Iran called the film heinous, blasphemous and anti-Islamic and called on European governments to block any further showing.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation and a former Dutch colony, also condemned the film.
"We are of the view that the film has a racist flavour and is an insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression," a foreign ministry spokesman said. "We call on Indonesian people not to be incited."
Dutch Muslim leaders appealed for calm and called on Muslims worldwide not to target Dutch interests. The Netherlands is home to around 1 million Muslims out of a population of 16 million.
"Our call to Muslims abroad is follow our strategy and don't frustrate it with any violent incidents," Mohammed Rabbae, a senior Dutch Muslim leader, told a news conference in a mosque in an Amsterdam suburb that is home to many Muslims.
"Looking for conflict there is looking for conflict with us," he added before an imam made a similar appeal in Arabic.
Dutch authorities reported a calm night in contrast to the unrest that swept the country after the murder by a militant Islamist in 2004 of Dutch director Theo van Gogh, who made a film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.
Earlier this month, Dutch security officials raised the national risk level to "substantial" because of the forthcoming Wilders film and perceptions of an increased al Qaeda threat.
Wilders, who has been under heavy guard because of Islamist death threats since the murder of director Van Gogh, has seen support for his anti-immigration Freedom Party rise in anticipation of the film to about 10 percent of the vote.
The Dutch government has worked for months to distance itself from Wilders and try to prevent the kind of backlash Denmark suffered over the Prophet cartoons.
In a statement on live television on Thursday evening in both Dutch and English, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he rejected Wilders' views and was pleased by the initial restrained reactions of Dutch Muslim organisations.
The European Union supports the Dutch government's approach and believes the film serves no purpose other than "inflaming hatred", the Slovenian EU presidency said in a statement:
"The European Union and its member states apply the principle of the freedom of speech which is part of our values and traditions. However, it should be exercised in a spirit of respect for religious and other beliefs and convictions."
NATO has expressed concern the film could worsen security for foreign forces in Afghanistan, including 1,650 Dutch troops.
Before the film's release, demonstrators had already taken to the streets from Afghanistan to Indonesia to burn Dutch and Danish flags, enraged after newspapers reprinted the Prophet cartoons in solidarity with the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, after three men were arrested on suspicion of plans to kill him.
Westergaard said he plans legal action on Friday to get the cartoon removed from the film as it was taken out of context.
A Dutch court was also hearing an injunction against Wilders on Friday brought by the Dutch Islamic Federation.
Dutch exporters have expressed fears of a possible boycott in the Muslim world, though trade with such states is small. There is also concern about 25,000 Dutch citizens living in Muslim countries.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Pathoni and Telly Nathalia in Jakarta, Hashem Kalantari in Tehran, David Brunnstrom in Brussels)
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