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Koran film stirs up controversy

Dutch right-winger could spark crisis

BRUSSELS — Dutch politician Geert Wilders is relishing the controversy sparked by a 10-minute film in which he intends to criticize the Koran.

The leader of the right-wing Freedom Party revealed in November that he would make the film, in which he will seek to demonstrate that the Koran is “a source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror.”

He is hoping to have it broadcast in one of the slots assigned to his party by the end of the month.

Last year, Wilders sought to have the Koran banned in the Netherlands and compared it with Adolf Hilter’s “Mein Kampf.” He said that if Muslims wanted to stay in the country they should tear out half the Koran and throw it away.

The news provoked a hostile reaction at home and the row went global on Friday when Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said that the government has been preparing for the repercussions if the film is broadcast.

Last week, Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun said that if the Freedom Party leader tears up or burns a Koran in his film, “this will simply mean he is inciting wars and bloodshed. And he will be responsible. It is the responsibility of the Dutch people to stop Wilders.”

Writing Wednesday in De Volkskrant, Wilders complains that the “panic” over the film, which reached new heights over the weekend, would not have happened if he had criticized the Bible. He concludes that this demonstrates the Dutch government’s obsession with Islamic sensibilities. “In this way the Koran film has already proved its usefulness.”

He also claims that the government’s anti-terrorism chief warned him last week that he might have to leave the country if the film is shown.

Wilders told De Volkskrant that he needs another two weeks to finish editing the film.

If Dutch broadcasters agree to air the program, it may provoke a crisis similar to the one that followed the publication of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed two years ago.

The Netherlands has been the focus of extremist violence on a number of occasion before, including the November 2004 murder of outspoken columnist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim.

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