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'Fitna': Dutch leader's anti-Islam film brings strife

Far-right politician Geert Wilders's latest attempt to air the controversial video has been delayed by US-based website host Network Solutions.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 26, 2008

Protest: Up to 3,000 Dutch rallied Saturday against the film by far-right politician Geert Wilders, who has yet to secure an outlet for it.

Fred Ernst/AP

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The Hague

It's a lurking provocation in Europe's sometimes rocky encounter with its burgeoning Muslim population: For months, a popular, flamboyant far-right Dutch party leader has been preparing an incendiary film about Islam rumored to contain lurid scenes of execution and a flaming Koran. With his flashy dyed platinum hair and his 24-hour security protection, Geert Wilders routinely compares the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf," says almost all terrorists are Muslims, and advocates deporting Islamic clerics.

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So it isn't surprising that the short film – which has yet to secure an outlet that will air it – is being compared to Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that sparked global Muslim riots two years ago. Iran and Pakistan have condemned the video, titled "Fitna" – Arabic for strife. The Taliban has threatened retaliation against Dutch troops in Afghanistan.

"Fitna" has so far been the biggest show never seen, but the buildup has given Mr. Wilders growing publicity, and civic leaders time to respond.

Unlike Denmark, which held to a free speech position on the cartoons, the Dutch government has been telling Muslim nations and Islamic organizations that it doesn't agree with Wilders's views. The main question that has emerged in the debate is whether it is acceptable for an elected official to use free speech to attack the identity of other groups, even if he or she feels they are causing harm to the Netherlands.

"I don't care if someone hates Islam," says Tafiq Ali, a young Muslim from Morocco who works in a construction firm in Amsterdam. "But is it responsible for a leader to use words that can bring hate and negative consequences?"

Since January, Wilders has tried – and failed – to air "Fitna" on Dutch TV and then at The Hague's foreign press center. This week Wilders's backup, a US-based website, was shut down by the hosting service Network Solutions, pending an investigation of its acceptable use policy. Tuesday, the right-wing Czech National Party proposed broadcasting "Fitna," citing the "cowardice" of Dutch and EU politicians. Wilders said he might resort to handing out DVDs in central Amsterdam.

But despite the setbacks, the Sturm und Drang surrounding "Fitna" has been a colossal publicity boon for the controversial politician.