EU condemns Dutch Koran film, upholds free speech

Sat Mar 29, 2008 1:51pm EDT
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By Marcin Grajewski

BRDO, Slovenia (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers condemned on Saturday a Dutch film that accuses the Koran of inciting violence, but said its author had a right to make it under the bloc's free speech principles.

Geert Wilders, a Dutch parliamentarian and leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, launched his short video on the Internet on Thursday, prompting an al Qaeda-linked website to call for his death and attacks on Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan.

The film "Fitna" -- an Arabic term sometimes translated as "strife" -- intersperses images of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and Islamist bombings with quotations from the Koran, Islam's holy book.

"The film equates Islam with violence and this view is sharply rejected," the 27 ministers said in a statement after a two-day meeting in the Slovenian country resort of Brdo.

"The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence," they said, expressing support for the Dutch government, which has dismissed the film's view on Islam.

The film, which urges Muslims to tear out "hate-filled" verses from the Koran, has outraged Muslim nations in a similar way to a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

But the ministers said the film fell within the scope of the EU principle of freedom of expression and those offended by it should refrain from violence or threats.

"Feeling offended is no excuse for aggression or threats," the ministers said.   Continued...

<p>A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against Dutch politician and anti-Islam film-maker Geert Wilders at Dam square in Amsterdam March 22, 2008. REUTERS/Ade Johnson</p>