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Terrorism & Security

Europeans see higher terror threat

A new tape by Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri calls for reprisals in Europe, where officials see increasing terrorist activity and anger over provocative depictions of Islam.

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Although Dutch diplomats met with Islamic leaders in the Mideast, who have conveyed the message that the film does not represent the country,the country's threat level, was raised, Reuters reports. And a new report by the head of the Dutch secret service cited more "jihadist activity" in the county, reports Radio Netherlands.

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"As to the question of whether it is still safe in the Netherlands, I would say I still think the Netherlands is still safe. Having said that, I don't mean we aren't constantly on the alert for possible developments that could possibly lead to an attack. There has been both an increase in the actual threat and also an increase in the conceivable threat...."

Dutch officials had anticipated an uproar once the film was released. On the day of the release, however, one police spokesperson said the opposite was true, reported the Los Angeles Times. "In fact, it's quieter than usual here today. Sort of like a holiday."

Still, as Egyptian film critic Samir Farid told the Al-Ahram Weekly, the film highlights the polarized debate in both the Western and Muslim worlds. Mr. Farid sees hope in those who "are beginning to find the blizzard of European anti-Muslim artistic expression tiresome."

"Freedom of expression and secularism were once the hallmark of our own cultural heritage," Samir Farid, one of Egypt's leading film critics, told Al-Ahram Weekly. "In 1935 an Egyptian writer, Ismail Adham, published a book entitled Why I am an Apostate. Nobody called for his trial, let alone his death. Nobody called him an infidel. That was freedom of expression."
Farid laments the way in which, over recent decades, Muslim societies have become prey to the dictates of self-styled religious authorities who are seeking power. "When Westerners watch televised interviews with Osama bin Laden and Ayman El-Zawahri in which they celebrate the attacks of 11 September it should come as no surprise that some of them will go on to produce films, plays and books depicting Islam as a religion that glorifies violence....
"There is a schism over freedom of speech. There is the question of the politics of morality, or the lack of it."

Prior to the film's release, the German online newsmagazine Sign and Sight said Mr. Wilders seemed to have created in an ideal situation for himself – and a double bind for the Dutch government.

Wilders would consider the banning of his film by the Dutch government proof that the Netherlands is giving in to Islam. If the film does air and riots break out, this will prove Wilders' position that Islam is an intolerant religion.

While Europe continues to debate the freedom of expression, the European Union has also taken steps to strengthen its anti-terror rules, making it easier for police to shut down websites that incite violence or recruit for attacks, reports the International Herald Tribune. Still, the EU policing agency:

"Europol said this month that the number of arrests connected with terrorism doubled in the EU in 2007 from the previous year. The overwhelming majority of attacks carried out within the bloc, it said, were linked to separatist movements, rather than militant Islam."

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