Controversial Anti-Muslim Film Sparks Worldwide Condemnation

Controversial Anti-Muslim Film Sparks Worldwide Condemnation

Monday, March 31, 2008

(PHOTO: A screen capture from the film 'Fitna' shows a verse from the Koran and the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.)

If a Dutch lawmaker wanted to create a firestorm by producing an anti-Islamic film designed “to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamicization,” it appears he achieved his goal.

Geert Wilders' 15-minute film, “Fitna,” hit the Internet by storm after it was posted online Friday but yanked from the UK-based site,, a day later due to security concerns. As of Monday, the film has been put back up on the site.

“Fitna” “Ordeal” in Arabic features footage of terror strikes such as 9/11, the Madrid train bombings and the murder of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh, mixed with verses from the Koran. It was up long enough for other file-sharing sites to distribute the film to anyone with an Internet connection. Wilders turned to the Internet to release his film after he failed to find a television distributor.

Click here to view 'Fitna' from Sweetness & (Warning: Graphic).

The film's release has caused a ripple effect of negative responses.

On Sunday, Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith called it “highly offensive.”

“It is an obvious attempt to generate discord between faith communities,” Smith said. “I strongly reject the ideas contained in the film and deplore its release.”

The European Union issued a statement Saturday saying the film serves no other purpose than to inflame hatred.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the film saying there is no justification for hate speech or the incitement of violence.

In the Middle East, Iran has summoned the Dutch ambassador to Tehran to discuss the film, Reuters reported. A senior diplomat from Slovenia, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, was also called to the ministry in Tehran over Wilders' film.

Jordanian lawmakers are taking more severe diplomatic measures and demanded their government cut ties with the Netherlands. Fifty-three lawmakers in the 110-seat parliament have also called for the government to dismiss the Dutch envoy.

Pakistan's foreign ministry on Friday summoned the ambassador of the Netherlands in Islamabad and lodged a “strong protest”, according to AFP. It has stepped up the security of the Dutch consulate and businesses in Karachi fearing protests over the the release of the film.

And in Asia, hundreds of Indonesian students took to the streets Sunday, according to AFP, after a minister called for protests. The students carried posters demanding that authorities shut down websites carrying Wilders' film.

Some observers, however, supported the release of the film. “If Western institutions are not willing to take risks, then our lives as free societies are coming to an end,” said Robert Spencer, the director of, a website critical of radical Islam.

Wilders, who told in December that he believes Western culture is “better than the retarded Islamic cultures,” contends that 99 percent of the world's intolerance is rooted in the Islamic religion and the Koran.

“People who watch the movie will see that the Koran is very much alive today, leading to the destruction of everything we in the Western world stand for, which is respect and tolerance,” Wilders, the 41-year-old leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom.

But many say the film manipulates elements and symbols of Islam and is a calculated attempt to offend Muslims.

“It's a hatchet job,” said Yvonne Haddad, a professor of Muslim-Christian relations at Georgetown University. “In the Koran there are verses that are very accomodating, very open, very pluralistic to other religions. . . . It was not a balanced representation,” she said.

Wilders, raised Catholic but long an atheist, said he worked with professors who are experts on the Koran and Islamic culture, professional filmmakers and scriptwriters to complete his film.

Despite their condemnation, the European leaders defended the right to freedom of speech. An EU statement stressed that freedom of speech was “part of our values and traditions,” and called on Muslims to react peacefully. Some Muslim leaders have also called for restraint.

Not all were reassured by the affirmation of free speech, and were instead troubled when LiveLeak initially pulled “Fitna” in response to threats. “If the price [for free speech] is ever too high, then thats the epitaph for freedom in the West,” said Spencer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.