Dutch Muslims appeal for calm after lawmaker’s anti-Quran film; hundreds protest in Pakistan

By ToSterling

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Hundreds staged angry protests across Pakistan on Friday in response to a Dutch lawmaker’s anti-Quran film, but Dutch Muslims appealed for calm and said it was less inflammatory than they had feared.

The 15-minute film by Geert Wilders, posted on a Web site late Thursday, sets verses of the Quran against a montage of images from terrorist attacks and rhetoric from Muslim clergymen urging “jihad,” or holy war. Shortly afterward Dutch television channels rebroadcast segments of it.

The leader of a group representing members of the Netherlands’ large Moroccan immigrant community said the film was “less bad” than expected, and another prominent Muslim dismissed it as an attempt by Wilders to gain votes by trying to make people fearful of Islam.

The film recycles clips from terrorist attacks in the U.S., Spain and the Netherlands, and begins and ends with one of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by European newspapers that provoked violent protests in Islamic countries two years ago.

The Danish Union of Journalists said it will sue Wilders for copyright infringement for using the cartoon. It said the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, did not give Wilders permission to use the image in his film, which it called “political propaganda.”

In Pakistan, dozens staged an angry protest outside a mosque in the port city of Karachi, organized by the largest Muslim party, Jamaat-e-Islami. In the southwestern city of Quetta, about 100 protesters rallied in the main mosque, then paraded through the streets calling on Pakistan’s government to expel the Dutch ambassador.

Banners at another demonstration in Lahore read, “We hate the uncivilized West.”

In the capital Islamabad, Pakistan’s government summoned the Dutch ambassador to lodge a protest, according to a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

“The government of Pakistan strongly condemned the release of the defamatory film, which deeply offended the sentiments of Muslims all over the world,” the statement said.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, condemned the film. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo called it “misleading and full of racism.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini slammed the anti-Quran movie and described it as “anti-Islamic and insulting,” the state-run IRNA news agency said. “Such a dirty act … reveals continued enmity and deep hostility of such Western nationals against Islam and Muslims,” he said, according to IRNA.

After the release, Wilders told reporters he made the film 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.”

In a televised reaction, Prime Minister Jan Peter said: “We … regret that Mr. Wilders has released this film. We believe it serves no other purpose than to cause offense.”

A court in Rotterdam said it would deliver its decision on April 7 on a petition by the Dutch Islamic Federation seeking to gag Wilders and order him to publicize an apology.

“My clients are not attacking freedom of speech. This is about ending the unjustified insulting of Islam,” said lawyer Ejder Kose. Outside the courtroom, police bundled a pro-Wilders demonstrator into a police car shouting far-right slogans.

Wilders’ lawyer Serge Vlaar countered that the federation “wants to ban a point of view. This is not what you are here for,” he told the judge.

Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, said the film was “less bad” than expected, but said Wilders was mistaken in asserting the Quran justifies violence.

Rabbae urged Muslims around the world to refrain from targeting Dutch interests in response to the film. “We Muslims living in the Netherlands are best placed to handle Wilders,” he said, adding that their response would be to appeal for friendship.

Wilders is head of a reactionary political party that holds nine seats in the 150-member Dutch parliament. His main campaign issues have been halting immigration and preventing the “Islamization” of Dutch culture.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, the social affairs minister, said Friday that Wilders’ main aim seemed to be trying to make people afraid of Islam so they will vote for him.

Thousands of Dutch demonstrated Saturday in Amsterdam in a protest intended to show that Wilders does not represent the whole country.

Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan in Karachi, Pakistan, and Mike Corder in Rotterdam contributed to this report.