Arab states lobby against Dutch anti-Islam film


Valletta : Arab states attending the European Union-Arab League meeting in Malta lobbied the Dutch government against a highly controversial anti-Islam film about to be released in the Netherlands.

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The foreign ministers of Syria, Egypt and Morocco spoke against the film with Dutch State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Muslim himself, at the ministerial meeting that ended Tuesday, The Times of Malta reported.

Dutch far right leader Geert Wilders is behind the 15-minute film (“Fitna”), which according to reports denounces the Koran as a fascist book and claims it incites people to murder.

Political leaders worry about another flare-up of cross-cultural conflict similar to the one that erupted in early 2006 after the Danish publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Aboutaleb, who was stepping in for his country’s foreign affairs minister at the conference, told Malta’s main newspaper he had talks about the matter.

“My role in this discussion here is to explain to our Arab friends that we have a constitution in which freedom of speech is guaranteed…which means that there is no need, especially, so far, for the government to intervene,” he said.

“We cannot and do not want to intervene,” he insisted, stressing, however, that the case could still be brought before the courts on the grounds of racial hatred or discrimination.

Aboutaleb insisted that he expected the Muslim communities not to retaliate violently but to fight back using the same weapon of freedom of expression.

The intention of Wilder, who, he insisted, represents a very small minority in the Dutch parliament, is to provoke. “If there is a retaliation, it would be exactly what Wilder wants.”

Nevertheless, the Dutch government is reported to be preparing against a possible international backlash and has already instructed its embassies worldwide on how to act after the film has been released.