Published 22 Jan 08
By Abigail R. Esman
World Defense Review columnist
Breaking News: Holland on Alert
Holland is on high alert in anticipation of the upcoming release of yet another anti-Islam film, this one created by far right Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who has been living under high security since the death of Theo van Gogh in 2004 (van Gogh was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a radical Muslim in retaliation for a film that he directed, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Submission"). The government has recommended the evacuation of all its embassies "in sensitive areas," and has been engaging for weeks now in discussions with police officials as to the best way to handle the riots and violence they expect will erupt when the film is aired. And even Hirsi Ali, creator of "Submission," when interviewed in the Dutch press, ironically called the film "too provocative," suggesting that violent responses are indeed likely.
It's a lot of activity for a film that no one has even seen, and for which no release date has yet been set. It is, however, expected that the film will air on Dutch television in late January or early February - and most likely on Friday, January 25th, just days from now. To date, however, Wilders has not been able to find a television station willing to broadcast the project; if he hasn't secured one by Friday, he has said he will air the film on the Internet.
Not that this is without reason. Dutch officials remember the backlash from the Danish cartoon debacle of 2005, when Danish embassies were attacked, Danish products boycotted, and threats issued even to Sweden and Norway. The radical Muslim contingent in the Netherlands is large and, according to ongoing reports from Dutch intelligence officials, growing. Several radical groups have put out calls for action, including Hizb Ut Tahrir, which some weeks ago distributed pamphlets encouraging Muslims to "defend Islam against a film about the Holy Koran," and warning that "to remain silent will be viewed as acceptance. We will not tolerate the defamation of Islam."
The dark-eyed, bleached-blond Wilders has already made a motion to have the Koran banned in the Netherlands, calling it an "Islamic Mein Kampf." (Mein Kampf is already forbidden in Holland.) "Use of the Koran in the homes or in mosques should be punishable by law," he stated in a letter to national daily de Volkskrant last August. If rumors about the film are correct, he will present an alternative option: don't ban the whole thing, just burn the pages that call for violence. What would be left, he suggests, would be a very thin volume, indeed.
And so Holland waits. Pundits blog half-jokingly about the start of World War III. Iran issues a warning to the parliament in the Hague. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, reciting cliches about Holland's tradition of "tolerance and respect" and expressing concern that the film could cause "hurt feelings," has called it "a crisis situation," though insists "there is no reason for panic."
Is he right? Or is it, as some skeptics argue, but a tempest in a teapot? Wilders insists that his film will prove once and for all that the Koran is a fascist book filthy with violence and incitements to kill. In many ways, the outcome of the film, far more than the film itself, will tell us if this is true.
— Abigail R. Esman is an award-winning author-journalist who divides her time between New York and The Netherlands. In addition to her column in World Defense Review, her work has appeared in Foreign Policy, Salon.com, Esquire, Vogue, Glamour, Town & Country, The Christian Science Monitor, The New Republic and many others. She is currently working on a book about Muslim extremism and democracy in the West to be published by Praeger in 2010.
Visit Esman on the web at abigailesman.com.
© 2008 Abigail R. Esman
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