March 31, 2008 / 1:43 AM / 10 years ago

EU condemns Dutch Koran film, upholds free speech

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.

<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>

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.

“Muslims, Christians and people of all convictions and beliefs must live together in peace and mutual respect.”

Iran called the film heinous, blasphemous and anti-Islamic, and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and a former Dutch colony, said it was an “insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said he was satisfied with the support from his EU partners.

Denmark was hit was hit in 2006 by boycotts and international protests over the Prophet cartoons.

“I do not agree with the film because you cannot say 1.3 billion Muslims are potential terrorists,” Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller told reporters on Friday.

Earlier, British-based LiveLeak.com, the first Web site to post the Wilders film, said it had removed the film after threats to its staff “of a very serious nature.”

Editing by Paul Taylor

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