AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders released a film critical of Islam on Thursday, setting verses of the Quran against a background of images from terrorist attacks.
The 15-minute film was posted on a website. Shortly afterward by Dutch television channels showed segments of it.
The Dutch government had warned Wilders the film could spark violent protests in Islamic countries, like those two years ago after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Initially, Dutch television refused to broadcast it and Wilders had difficulty finding an Internet platform.
The film showed statements from radical clerics and cited Quranic verses interspersed with images from attacks, beginning with Sept. 11, 2001, assault in the United States, the 2004 attack in Spain, and the murder later in 2004 of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
It began and ended with one of the cartoons portraying Mohammed. Then there came the sound of a page being torn.
Subtitles assured the viewer it was a page from a telephone book, because “it’s not up to me, but the Muslims to tear the hate-sowing pages out of the Quran.”
After the release, Wilders told reporters he made the film, called “Fitna,” because “Islam and the Quran are dangers to the preservation of freedom in the Netherlands in the long term, and I have to warn people of that.”
“It’s five minutes before midnight and this is the last warning as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Initial reaction to the film was muted.
Yusuf Altuntas, of the Contact Group Muslims and Government, said Wilders “is seeking the limits, but not crossing the line. For Mr. Wilders, this is quite subtle.”
The film was not as jarring as anticipated, said Maurits Berger, professor of Islam in the West at Leiden University.
“It’s a series of images and photos, headlines from recent years which we already know,” he said. The film told more about Wilders than the Quran, Berger said. “It represents his fear of Islam.”
The film was released the evening before a Dutch judge was due to hear a petition of a Muslim group seeking an independent review of the film to see whether it violates hate speech laws.
The Dutch Islamic Federation was asking the court to impose a fine of euro50,000 ($79,000) for every day the film is available to the public.
Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, which appealed for calm in January before the film’s release, said he had heard about the film but not yet seen it.
“On the one hand, this is less bad than we thought he was going to do,” he told The Associated Press. But he also gives the impression the Quran justifies violence, “and that is really wrong.”
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has warned Wilders that his film may harm the country’s national interests, and thousands of Dutch demonstrated Saturday in Amsterdam in a protest intended to show that Wilders does not represent the whole country.