Dutch movie 'Fitna' roundly accused of offending Muslims


Sun, Mar 30, 2008 - Page 6

A Dutch legislator's film that portrays Islam as a ticking time bomb aimed at Western democracy prompted denunciations from Muslim capitals and street protests in Pakistan, but a restrained reaction from Dutch Muslims who had expected worse.

The 15-minute film, titled Fitna, an Arabic word meaning "ordeal," by anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders was posted on a Web site late on Thursday.

On Friday, the Web site LiveLeak.com removed the film, citing threats to its staff "of a very serious nature," but it has since been widely dispersed on file-sharing sites.

Employing elements and symbols calculated to offend Muslims, Fitna draws on well-worn footage of terrorist attacks and anti-Western, anti-Jewish rhetoric that was meant to alarm the native Dutch.

Hundreds of Muslims demonstrated in Pakistan. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch ambassador to deliver an official complaint against what it called a "defamatory film which deeply offended the sentiments of Muslims all over the world."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the movie.

"There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here," he said in a statement in New York.

"The real fault line is not between Muslim and Western societies, as some would have us believe, but between small minorities of extremists, on different sides, with a vested interest in stirring hostility and conflict," he said.

Condemnations also came from the government of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, Iran and Jordan.

"It is not Islam that should be stopped, it is fear-mongers like Geert Wilders who should be stopped from spreading their hatred," said Zakaria al-Sheik of the Rassoul Allah Yajmana, a Jordanian group formed to protect the image of Islam.

The Council of Europe said the film was a "distasteful manipulation" that exploits fear. The World Council of Churches said it failed to distinguish extremism from the more mainstream Islam.

"Extremism is a problem for most religions and needs to be countered through inter-religious dialogue," the Reverend Shanta Premawardhana said.

Dutch Muslims said the film misrepresented Islam, but that Wilders had largely stayed within the bounds of acceptable political discourse -- winning praise from Wilders himself for their civil reaction.

Wilders argues in the film that Islam's objective is to rule the world and impose an Islamic order without Western freedoms, where gays would be persecuted and women discriminated against.

The film employed elements and symbols calculated to offend Muslims. It reproduced pages of the Koran with the voice of an imam intoning the text.

Alongside appears translations in Dutch or English of passages calling on followers to defend the faith and slay their enemies.