(AFP) – Jan 19, 2008
THE HAGUE (AFP) — The plans by far-right MP Geert Wilders to make a film that he says will show the Koran is "an inspiration for murder" has caused unease in the Netherlands which fears violent repercussions.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said that Wilders' plans and the international attention they are getting is causing the government headaches.
"We have seen other crises but this is a substantial one," he told Dutch public television.
Wilders, the head of the far-right Freedom Party, announced in November that he planned to release a 10-minute film this month that will show his view that Islam's holy book, the Koran, "is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror".
Nobody knows for sure if the film project will ever see the light of day but the government here is bracing for the worst.
Some observers fear Wilders will burn or tear up Islam's holy book in the movie, likely to prompt protests in Muslim countries.
The Hague fears a repeat of the 2005 riots when thousands took to the streets in Muslim countries to protest cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper.
"We are ready to react quickly, it is our role to be prepared for calamities," Balkenende told journalists.
The government is trying to get the message across abroad that while the famed Dutch tolerance guarantees Wilders the freedom of expression, The Hague does not support his opinions.
Wilders, whose party has nine of the parliament's 150 seats, is a remarkable presence in Dutch politics with his bleached blonde bouffant hairdo and his increasingly harsh comments about Islam and established political parties.
He won't comment on what his movie will actually show and refuses to be swayed by the government's concern about the possible effects of his film.
"Now that everybody is already in a state (over the film) I see it as a confirmation that I should go ahead. I would not be worth a button if I were to capitulate now," he told the HP/De Tijd magazine.
It is not sure how the film will be shown: on television, posted on the Internet or in another way.
In November Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen met with Wilders personally "to point out the risks in making such a movie for himself and his entourage, and for the Netherlands and the Dutch interests abroad," Verhagen's spokesman Bart Rijs said
The government is also working to minimise the possible fallout of Wilders' film in the Netherlands itself.
The MP has already received many death threats and he has been under round-the-clock protection since the November 2004 murder of outspoken columnist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim.
Van Gogh was killed in Amsterdam after he directed a controversial film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- a former political ally of Wilders -- which examined the subordination of women in Islamic society.
Inter-ethnic tensions flared in the Netherlands after the murder but calm returned after a few months. Several mosques and some churches were set ablaze but nobody was severely wounded or died in the protests.
To try to defuse tensions here the Dutch police diversity watchdog LECD advised the police force this week to be "flexible" with possible legal complaints about the movie.
Police officers should write up complaints from citizens even if "no obvious criminal offence" is committed in the film. According to the diversity watchdog this will help people "vent their anger".
On Wednesday the Netherlands got a taste of a possible reaction of the Muslim world when the Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that if Wilders burns or tears up the Koran in his film "this will mean he wants war and bloodshed".
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