Sun, Mar 02, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Dutch movie about Islam threatens nation


Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has warned a maverick lawmaker of the risks to Dutch national interests if he presses ahead with a film criticizing the Koran.

Balkenende's appeal to Geert Wilders on Friday stopped short of demanding that he not release the film, which Wilders said was in the final stages of editing.

"Already we are having to take account of serious threats to Dutch people," Balkenende said in a televised news conference.

"When you see how the reactions have been at home and abroad, what the risks could be of this film, then there's one person who must answer for it, and that is Mr Wilders himself," he said.

Wilders said his short film would portray the Koran as a "fascist book." He does not yet have a broadcaster for it, but says he will release it on the Internet if he fails to find one.

In a statement after Balkenende's news conference, Wilders accused the Cabinet of "bowing to fear of terror and fear of Islam" and rejected calls to scrap the movie.

"Let me make one thing clear: The film will be released," he said.

Last week, the Pakistani government ordered Internet providers to restrict access to YouTube, allegedly to prevent Pakistanis from accessing a clip of Wilders in which he makes derogatory remarks about Islam. The move inadvertently caused a worldwide outage of the video sharing site.

The Dutch development minister called off a visit to Somalia on Friday after he was warned his life would be in danger on the trip.

"This is about the safety of Dutch citizens and businesses abroad, the Dutch military which is on a mission [in Afghanistan], about the broader interest of the Netherlands, the values for which we stand, our reputation internationally," Balkenende said.

In an earlier last week, Wilders said negative reactions to his film "only served to prove the point" that Islam should be criticized.

Wilders said the film would demonstrate how the Koran incites violence and intolerance of women and homosexuals.

Muslim groups in the Netherlands say they will file hate-speech charges against Wilders for previous statements, such as his description of Islam as a "retarded" religion. The Grand Mufti of Syria has warned of "bloodshed" if the film is released.

The Dutch national antiterrorism coordinator has told Wilders he may have to go into hiding abroad once his film is released. He already lives under constant police protection.

Dutch embassies have warned staff to brace for similar violence if the film is broadcast.

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