In Afghanistan about 300 legislators have demonstrated outside parliament to protest against a Dutch film, criticizing the Koran. It is believed that the film will be released on the Internet this month.
Afghan protesters against upcoming Dutch film and Danish cartoons
The film ‘Fitna’ was made by a right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders. He claims his film portrays the ‘fascist’ character of Islam’s holy book, the Koran. Several Muslim countries have already condemned the film describing it as anti-Islamic.
They have also expressed fears about a possible backlash from radical Islamist groups. Some have called on the Dutch government to prevent the film from being shown on the internet later this month.
Professor Udo Steinbach, an expert on Islam affairs at the University of Hamburg, says the film is an attempt to stir up trouble: “It is a deliberate provocation. And there are radical people, who are waiting for this kind of provocation.”
Controversy on controversy
The latest protests have come just days after some Danish dailies reprinted a controversial cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohammad after the author had reportedly received a death threat.
The publication of a series of cartoons depicting Mohammad back in 2006 sparked massive protests across the Muslim world. Dozens of people were killed.
The reprinting of the cartoon has also reignited a debate across the world about religious sensitivities and freedom of speech. Opinion is clearly divided. Some have defended the publication of such cartoons as an expression of freedom of speech, while others have seen it as an insult to Islam.
How free should freedom of speech be?
The debate has also raised the question as to whether freedom of speech should be put above religious sensitivities.
Professor Steinbach advocates the middle path: “I think that we have to come to a compromise between both of them.”
“On the one hand, we cannot give up the values of freedom of expression and artistic value. But on the other hand,we are now living together with millions of Muslims here, and we have to respect their feelings as well.”
He also encourages dialogue in order to ensure a better understanding between the West and the Muslim world.
“If we behave in a normal manner, then I think there are many chances to move closer to each other. Basically we need a sort of dialogue. And many people in Europe and in the Muslim world are aware of the fact that there is no way out apart from dialogue.
But the first thing is to omit this kind of provocation that we have seen in Dutch cartoons.”
According to some reports, the Dutch government is considering whether to stop the release of the film. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has expressed fears about possible attacks against the Dutch troops in Afghanistan because of the film.
An estimated 1,600 Dutch soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan as apart of a NATO-led force helping the Afghan government tackle the Taliban insurgency.