Mar 29, 2008

Anti-Islam film fails to provoke Dutch Muslims

Amsterdam - The release of a controversial anti-Islam film by a Dutch legislator had been expected to cause turmoil among Muslims in the Netherlands and abroad.

But on Friday, a day after the 16-minute film entitled Fitna, which criticizes the Koran and warns of the 'Islamization' of the European country, Muslims in the migrant neighbourhood of Lombok in Utrecht did not appear shaken.

There was virtually no reaction throughout the Netherlands to Geert Wilders' much-anticipated film, that was watched by more than 2 million people within the first two hours of its release on the internet.

The vast majority of Dutch viewers, Muslims and non-Muslims alike appear not to have found the film particularly provocative towards Muslims.

In Eindhoven, several Muslim organizations distributed special forms in the city's seven mosques enabling everyone to file a complaint of discrimination against Wilders with the Dutch police.

But in the crowded shopping streets of Lombok in the fourth largest Dutch city, Muslims appeared much less motivated to take action against Wilders. Friday's shopping continued as usual.

'No, we are not talking about Fitna,' a man standing among a large group of Muslims standing outside a local mosque after prayers on Friday, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

'We are talking about my new car. That's really more important than some film by a Dutch legislator about the Koran.'

Another man, who identified himself as Ahmed, 27, added, 'Of course we watched the movie. But the truth is Wilders showed nothing new in his film. What does he think, that I agree to the horrific executions he showed in his film?'

In a local grocery store, a woman wearing a black burka responded confused when approached by dpa. She said she cannot talk to the media. Asked whether she had seen Wilders' movie, she apologized and walked away.

Another Muslim woman, wearing a headscarf had apparently witnessed the encounter, and approached dpa on her own initiative.

'It is a pity she did not talk to you,' said Fatima, a 32-year-old mother of two. 'Her refusal to talk to Western media confirms the ideas of people like Wilders.'

'The truth is that the vast majority of us, Dutch Muslims, do not identify with terrorist and fundamentalist ideas such as those expressed in the movie.'

'We just want to live our lives,' she said, 'but it's people like Wilders who polarize society and make us feel estranged. He says he sees a lot of integration problems in the Netherlands. The sad truth is that he himself contributes to them too.'

The umbrella organization of the Jewish community in the Netherlands, CJO, released a statement on Friday expressing a similar view.

'The film is counterproductive,' the CJO statement said. 'The expressions about Jews originating from the Koran, and referred to in the movie, demonstrate that some Muslims have horrific ideas about Jews and also indoctrinate children with such ideas. However, the way Fitna portrays reality polarizes society.'

Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was 'proud' of Dutch Muslims and praised their calm reactions following the film.

The Dutch parliament is due to discuss the film on Tuesday.


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