Muslim nations, the European Union and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday expressed outrage at an anti-Islam film posted on the Internet by a far-right Dutch lawmaker.
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon called Geert Wilders’ film “offensively anti-Islamic” while Iran and Bangladesh warned the film could cause grave consequences and Pakistan protested to the Dutch ambassador.
The Danish cartoonist whose caricature of the Prophet Mohammed outraged Muslims said he would press copyright charges against Wilders for reproducing his work in the “Fitna” video, which also features violent imagery of terrorist attacks in New York and Madrid intertwined with Koranic texts.
The film was posted on the Internet on Thursday, sparking immediate anger.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the airing of Geert Wilders’ offensively anti-Islamic film,” the UN chief said in a statement. “There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free speech is not at stake here.”
Morocco’s Communications Minister Khalid Naciri said Wilders was “mentally retarded”.
Iran said the 17-minute film showed Westerners were waging a “vendetta” against Islam, and warned of repercussions. A Jordanian media coalition said they would take Wilders to court and launch a campaign to boycott Dutch products.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, about 40 supporters of the hardline Islamist party Jamaat-i-Islami staged a protest, chanting “Death to the filmmaker”.
In an interview with AFP Friday Wilders rejected any responsibility for retaliation against Dutch nationals or interests abroad.
“I hope it doesn’t happen but even if it does the people who commit such acts are responsible, not me,” he said.
Wilders added that he was very happy with the relatively positive reactions in the Netherlands “and the fact that we had a quiet night”.
EU: Only purpose is to inflame hatred
Fearing a repeat of the violent clashes in 2006 that followed the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in Danish newspapers, the Dutch government has distanced itself from Wilders’ film.
“The film equates Islam with violence. We reject that interpretation,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.
The European Union’s Slovenian presidency said the film served “no other purpose than inflaming hatred.”
But Islamic leaders in The Netherlands called on Muslims in other countries not to overreact.
“We call on them to follow our strategy and not react with attacks on Dutch embassies or tourists,” the head of the Dutch Moroccan community, Mohamed Rabbae, said. “An attack on the Netherlands is an attack on us.”
There were an estimated 850,000 Muslims in the Netherlands in 2006, five percent of the overall population. About 38% of Dutch Muslims are of Turkish descent and Moroccans make up 31%.
An opinion poll published Friday showed that almost a third of all Dutch people had seen the film or parts of the film.
However, after seeing the film, the Dutch are less scared of the possible fallout. The number of respondents who believed the film would harm relations with Arab countries dropped from 81% one month ago to 57% Friday, the TNS Nipo polling institute reported.
Balkenende however warned that people shouldn’t draw conclusions too quickly. “We are not past it yet … Sometimes it can take months before the true repercussions are felt,” he told journalists.
The public prosecutor’s office in the Netherlands is scrutinizing the film to see if it breaks Dutch law. Wilders claims the film is legal.
But Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has also been infuriated by the film.
Westergaard, whose cartoon was among those that sparked an international outcry in 2005, said he was bringing a damages claim against Wilders over an image in the video which shows the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb, its fuse burning, protruding from his turban.
“You can’t just steal other people’s works. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech, it’s all about copyright,” Westergaard told AFP.
Westergaard has been in hiding since Danish police in February said they had foiled an assassination attempt against him.