THE HAGUE, 19/03/08 – In a joint statement yesterday, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), the Council of Churches in the Netherlands, the Muslims and Government Contact Body (CMO) and the Islam Contact Group (CGI) expressed their “great concern” about the anti-Islam film that Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Wilders wants to bring out.
“Although our freedom of speech allows the publication of this film, we consider such provocation undesirable,” the statement said. It is “reprehensible if the sacred (elements) in our religions are ridiculed and our faith offended. We therefore forcefully reject it if the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed are treated with contempt and slandered.”
MP Wilders represents a view of “a small part of Dutch society, which is certainly not endorsed by the Dutch churches.” The announcement of the film has in the Netherlands “aroused unnecessary conflicts, for which there is no reasonable occasion whatever. Expressions that incite fear for Islam and Muslims work destructively.”
In Nederlands Dagblad yesterday, Arabist Hans Jansen criticised the subservient role he considers the churches and the government are adopting towards Islam. In particular, the Christian democrats (CDA), the biggest government party, are behaving “incomprehensibly” indulgently and naively, he argues. “Don’t they even have an intern in the party who could look up what happened with the church under Islam?”
Others feel differently. Annette Birschel, for example, has called on the Dutch media not to write about MP Geert Wilders any more. The German journalist was President of the Foreign Press Association (BPV) in the Netherlands until last October. Together with NRC Handelsblad journalist Jowi Schmitz, she is calling on all chief editors to ignore Wilders because “no communication with him is possible,” as a result of which “his view is irrelevant,” reports website denieuwereporter.nl.
Perhaps ironically, ordinary Muslims in Iran seem not to care about the Wilders film. TV programme Nova interviewed Teheranis on the streets and reported that many of them admired the Netherlands’ freedom of speech. A rather orthodox-looking elderly woman applauded Wilders’ film plan, saying Iran was “more immoral now” than it was under the Shah.
The organisation Nederland Bekent Kleur (Netherlands Acknowledges Colour) is holding a protest demonstration on Dam Square in Amsterdam on Saturday “against PVV leader Wilders and racism,” according to spokesman Mohammed Rabbae. The former MP for the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) said 50 well-known Dutch people are supporting the demo, including former Labour (PvdA) ministers Ed van Thijn, Hedy d’Ancona and Jan Pronk, former conservative (VVD) leader Ed Nijpels, rap artists and PvdA, GroenLinks and Socialist Party (MPs).
Wilders said yesterday his film will be shown before 1 April, thereby rejecting speculations about an April’s fool scheme. The film is ready, he said, but the website (fitnathemovie.com) where he intends to put it on needs further improvements against hackers and in order to be able to handle extremely high visitor numbers.