Islamic World Calls for Boycott of Dutch Products to Protest Wilders' Film
Sarah Abdullah, Arab News
JEDDAH, 14 April 2008 — Following the release of the 15-minute film "Fitna," which was launched via the Internet on March 27, created by Dutch MP Geert Wilders', Muslim leaders and Islamic scholars have called for the immediate boycott of Dutch products worldwide.
In the movie, Wilders links terrorism with verses of the Qur'an and described Islam's holy book as, "fascist literature, which calls on Muslims to perpetrate acts of violence." The movie also begins and ends with the infamous cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that was originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten in 2005 and later in other dailies in other countries.
The Jeddah-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed his concerns on the dangerous implications of "Islamophobic actions," such as the film and the cartoons.
He called such forms of expression a "widespread insult to the sentiment of Muslims of the world," adding that the movie was "a reprehensible act of incitement and intolerance against peaceful inter-religious and inter-communal cohabitation that challenges the global agenda for peace and development."
Angered reactions did not only come from within Saudi Arabia but also other Islamic countries, including Jordan, which has recently began a national campaign to push for taking Wilders to court.
Furthermore, just last week, Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed urged Malaysia and the Muslim world to launch a boycott of Dutch products, saying that the impact of such consumer actions by the world's 1.3 billion Muslims would lead to the Netherlands having to "close shop" and added that a boycott would be a productive way of putting pressure on the Dutch government to ban the screening of the film altogether.
Arab News tried for several days to speak to Ambassador Nicholaas Beets at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Riyadh to get an official reaction on the film and to inquire about the course of action that would be taken if Saudi Arabia decides to go ahead with a boycott but was met with no comment.
However a reliable source from within the embassy spoke to Arab News saying, "The ambassador has been attending meetings with top embassy officials to come to an agreement and a course of action before releasing a formal statement," the source said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leads the world's largest Muslim country, which also allows freedom of religion, said he had forbidden the entry of the anti-Islamic film into his country because the film would destroy the harmonious relations among people of different backgrounds. "I have banned the entry and distribution of the film and have asked the Dutch prime minister to withdraw the film from all distribution channels," Yudhoyono told thousands attending a service to mark the Prophet's birthday. He also said Wilders would be banned from entering Indonesia.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Hadded Adel was quoted by Iranian press TV as saying that the Muslim world should boycott trade with any country that allows insults to Islam and that sacrilege of Islamic sanctities is the worst kind of cultural onslaught and violation of human rights.
Last week, Iran also summoned Dutch Ambassador Radinck van Vollenhoven to protest at the film which, for his part voiced sorrow over the film's release stating that it had been condemned by the Dutch government.
Still others expressing outrage over the film include the Muslim nations of Syria, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as well as top officials such as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who said that the film was "offensively anti-Islamic" while adding that there is "no justification for hateful speech or incitement to violence."
But what do the Dutch really think about the film despite the government's efforts to distance themselves from Wilders? According to a poll of 1,200 persons, conducted in the Netherlands by well-known pollster Maurice de Hond, one-third of the Dutch population had seen the film in its entirety or in part a day after the film was posted on the Internet.
The poll found that 20 percent thought it was good that Wilders made and released the film while 25 percent said they thought it would have been better that Wilders did not make and release the film. The same poll found 48 percent of the Dutch were indifferent regarding the subject.
Bernard Wientjes, head of the Netherlands Employer's Organization, has suggested that Dutch businessmen sue Wilders for financial damages should the film result in monetary losses due to any boycotting. The BBC also reported that Kurt Westergaard, the artist who painted the controversial cartoon, is suing Wilders for copyright infringement.
In an interview with Wilders published in the UK Observer in February, the freedom Party leader as saying he's got nothing against Muslims, he just hates Islam.
"I have a problem with Islamic traditions, culture, ideology, not with Muslim people," he reportedly said.
"Islam is something we can't afford anymore in the Netherlands," he continued, adding that he wants the Qur'an banned, no more mosques, Islamic schools or Imams in Holland. "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims," concluded Wilders, who for the past three years has been living under constant police guard due to his "honest" views, according to the same article.