On March 27 Geert Wilders posted on Britain-based Web site Liveleak.com his 15-minute film in which he links the Koran, the sacred book of Muslims, to violence and extremism.
Joerg Ziercke, head of Germany's Federal Criminal Office, a day later told German news channel N24 his agency was concerned that the movie may incite "fanatic perpetrators" to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe, adding that such films are "always seen as increasing the threat."
In the Netherlands, where Wilders' Freedom Party holds nine of the 150 seats in Parliament, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende hurriedly called for a news conference to soothe troubled waters.
"The film equates Islam with violence. We reject this interpretation,'' he said in The Hague. "We regret that Mr. Wilders has released this film. We believe it serves no purpose other than to cause offense, but feeling offended must never be used as an excuse for aggression and threats."
The film, which is called "Fitna," depicts images of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as of the Madrid and London bombings, interspersed with quotes from the Koran. It also shows a beheading, Imams inciting Muslims to kill Jews and Westerners, and images of genital mutilation.
The European Union has also condemned the film, while pointing to the importance of freedom of expression. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon labeled the film "offensively anti-Islamic."
Reactions so far have been moderate, with a few dozen people protesting outside the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
However, plans for the film's release fueled ethnic tensions in the Netherlands and sparked anger in Muslim countries including Iran and Pakistan. And Balkenende still remembers the effects of the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad, which only several months after their publication resulted in worldwide protests that killed dozens of people. "It can sometimes take months for all the reactions to be felt," he warned.
The ambassadors of 26 Islamic countries have since called on the Hague to investigate a possible ban of the film, which Germany's Berliner Zeitung newspaper calls a "populist, cheap pamphlet that glues together -- without coherence and sourcing -- video clips with which it wants to stoke fears of 'Islamization.'"
Wilders, in an interview with Fox News, said earlier this year it was not his aim to offend people, but to highlight the danger of a growing Islamization in Europe. If Fitna would indeed offend people, he said, "then what the hell, it's their problem, not my problem."
"I have big problems with this ideology, this religion, but I am not saying that all the people who call themselves Muslims are wrong," he said, adding that he was against "the radical and extremist stance" many Muslims are taking.
"Unfortunately, it is not a handful, it is a growing minority who find the inspiration for that in this Islam," he said. "We should get rid of this terrible book," he said of the Koran.
Wilders' security is in danger -- Muslims have threatened to kill him, which reminds observers of the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, who was shot in 2004 by a Dutch-born Muslim of Moroccan descent offended by an anti-Islam film van Gogh had made. Wilders is protected by several bodyguards 24/7, a fact that he hates, he told Fox News.
Wilders' Freedom Party, however, is benefiting from the film, according to a poll that said it would have 12 seats, instead of the current nine, if parliamentary elections had been held in late March.
While Muslim leaders have said they are worried about growing Islamophobia in Europe, Wilders' populist success is pretty isolated: In traditionally conservative Austria, lawmaker Susanne Winter in January failed with a similar campaign that included condemnations of the Koran and warnings of a dooming Islamization, and in Germany, the popularity ratings of Hesse's State Premier Roland Koch plummeted after he campaigned for tougher sentences for young immigrant criminals.
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