Dutch prime minister warns of Islam film "crisis"

Other News Materials 29 February 2008 23:57 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - An Islam film by Dutch legislator Geert Wilders may cause a situation "even worse than a crisis", Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende warned Friday.

Freedom Party leader Wilders, an outspoken critics of Islam, said this week his film criticizing the Koran would appear on the Internet "in the coming days" on www.fitnathemovie.com.

The statement climaxes months of speculation and media hype about the film's contents, making it highly controversial before anyone has even seen it.

Speaking at his weekly press conference and later on a current affairs television programme, Balkenende refrained from explicitly calling on Wilders not to air his film, unlike Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen the previous day.

But Balkenende made a strong appeal to Wilders to "take responsibility" and acknowledge the "far-reaching consequences" the film might have.

Asked whether government pressure on Wilders did not mean the Dutch giving in to demands from precisely the terrorists and fundamentalists who threatened open democratic societies in the West, Balkenende said this was not the case.

"Freedom of expression comes with taking personal responsibility," he said. "My concern is not only the personal safety of Wilders, for whom we provide personal security guards around the clock, but also that of Dutch nationals abroad - people who, unlike Wilders, do not have such personal body guards. That is something Wilders needs to consider when he releases his film."

Asked whether he placed responsibility for possible terrorist acts following the release of the film on Wilders, Balkenende said: "Only those who commit terrorist acts are responsible for them. But we should not provide these people with an excuse to legitimize terrorist activities."

Balkende repeated remarks made by Verhagen Thursday that Dutch businesses in Muslim countries might be jeopardized. " Egypt has already refused a Dutch children's movie," Balkenende said.

Wilders himself has not been seen in public in the last two days, but told media that Foreign Minister Verhagen could "get lost".

Opposition MPs of the Liberal, Green and Socialist Parties have called government pressure on Wilders inappropriate, as it was "not compliant with freedom of expression" and "premature", particularly because the film's contents remain unknown.