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A defaced image of the website promoting the film, which was removed by ISP Network Solutions.  (Source: Klein Verzet)

The current notice appears when visiting fitnathemovie.com.  (Source: DailyTech)

The video and the site sparked a large protest Saturday in Amsterdam.  (Source: Fred Ernst / AP)
Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders faced with possible removal by his ISP may seek possible alternate distribution means for his radical film

The Netherlands is becoming the surprising center of conflict over the extent of free speech, religion and allegations of racism.  The debate centers around an upcoming film by a local politician, which expresses strong criticism against Islam faith. 

Several Islamic government have sought to ban materials criticizing Islam.  The most recent example of this was when Pakistan blocked the website YouTube for promoting non-Islamic or anti-Islamic materials, inadvertently crippled the country's internet traffic.

Nearby Denmark found itself in the center of a similar controversy when a Danish newspaper aired cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the most important Islamic historic religious figure, in an embarrassing light.  The cartoon led to protests worldwide outside Dutch embassies, death threats and at least one murder.

Now Holland is back in the limelight.  Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, head of a reactionary party which controls 9 seats in the 150-seat Dutch Parliament, promoted his new film which portrays Islam in an extremely critical light, only to find his website taken down amid a storm of criticism.  The film was promoted on the site which formerly had a simple title image, the words "Fitna" ("Coming Soon"), and an image of a gilded Qu'ran. 

The website has since been taken down, and a note is posted stating that Network Solutions, the U.S. based service provider, is investigating whether the site violates its terms of service.  The note about Wilder's site states, "Network Solutions has received a number of complaints regarding this site that are under investigation."

Network Solutions hosts the website of Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based organization labeled by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. 

While the company could not be reached for comment, its terms of service do include a broad provision banning, "objectionable material of any kind or nature."  While the former website gave scant details about the upcoming 15-minute film, to be released on March 31st, it is certain to be found objectionable by some.  Filmmaker Wilders says the film will underscore his belief that the Islamic holy book is "fascist."

Wilders prepared to distribute the video over the internet after being met with refusal from television stations unwilling to grant it airtime.  Wilders, who lives under police protection due to death threats, refuses to be deterred, and was quoted Dutch news agency ANP on Saturday stating, "How many ways are there left for me to be worked against?  If necessary, I'll go hand out DVDs personally on the Dam." The Dam is a colloquial name for Amsterdam's central square.

On Saturday protesters crowded the Dam to voice their distaste for Wilders.  Amid sleet and heavy wind, between 2,000 and 3,000 protesters of mixed ethnicities assembled "Netherlands Shows Its Colors" in an advanced reaction against the film.  Protesters carried signs such as "Standing Together Against the Right-Wing Populist Witch-Hunt." 

One protester, Elisa Trepp, said, "I'm very much against Geert Wilders and racism in general.  I think it's really important to show not only Holland but the rest of the world that there's a lot of people who do not agree with his ideas."

Hassan Iaeti, another demonstrator, traveled for hours to make it.  He states, "The government could really do something. That's in the interest of the country - stop him, just stop him."

Dutch officials fear that the film may spark violent protests worldwide.  Free speech in the U.S. is currently solely limited against making statements that would incite imminent lawless action (riots) as defined by the case Brandeburg v. Ohio.  Similar limits to free speech exist throughout much of Europe, much to the chagrin of free speech advocates.  As the video may spark worldwide lawlessness, the government may see it fit to block the video. 

However the government remains relatively apathetic to the situation by all indications.  No prominent politicians showed up at the protest.  Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said previously that he did not agree with Wilders views, but supported his right to free speech.  Balkenende did add that the video could threaten Dutch interests worldwide.

In Afghanistan protesters burned effigies of Wilders and demanded the withdraw of NATO-deployed Dutch troops from the country.  A Dutch court will hear complaints against the film lodged by Muslim groups, on March 28th, however Wilders can elect to release the film before then. 


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RE: A dangerous precedent
By almared on 3/24/2008 12:35:28 PM , Rating: -1
Free speech?
So if I insult you or any member of your family then you should do nothing according to your free speech. You can't insult other people's religion and call it free speech!!! Religion for Muslims is as important as their families.

And these "particular group of people" that you are taking about make up more than 2 billion of the total population. That's about one third of the whole population.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By wien on 3/24/2008 12:44:25 PM , Rating: 5
Insult is all in the head of the "insultee". There is no firm definition of that is insulting. As long as your statements are factually true you can say more or less anything you like, criticism of religion most definitely included.

The fact that people get insulted shouldn't have any bearing on the issue. In fact, as soon as we start to limit free speech to prevent people from getting insulted, we're going down a very dangerous road. Where the hell do you stop? That train of though is so naive it scares me shitless.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By Manch on 3/24/2008 5:24:49 PM , Rating: 2
insult: to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt

also : to affect offensively or damagingly

Yup doesn't give specifics on what's insulting.

One point though. Your statements don't have to be factual. Of course that can make you libel. Still you can say it at your own detriment!


RE: A dangerous precedent
By geeg on 3/24/2008 9:21:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
As long as your statements are factually true

There are matters where the words fact, factual, true have no meaning. For example:
1. There is God.
2. There is no God.
Can you tell me which one is factually true? One of them must be, right?
So that is why we invented the word "taboo". There are some matters you do not talk like you talk about daily matters.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By boogle on 3/24/2008 12:46:13 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
So if I insult you or any member of your family then you should do nothing according to your free speech. You can't insult other people's religion and call it free speech!!! Religion for Muslims is as important as their families.


Free speech means exactly that, you can insult any one or any thing. You can say ANYTHING you like. That is free speech!

Free speech has two sides, you can say anything you want about anything. You can insult other people. On the other side, people can do the same, and insult you.

In my humble opinion, if you can't take criticism of your beliefs, then maybe you're not very strong in your faith? If someone criticised what I believed I would be happy to explain/elaborate or even just ignore the jab. But I certainly wouldn't murder you or try to have you censored. That would be fascism.

Heh, I guess you could put free speech down as 'I disagree with what you say, but I'll die defending your right to say it'. I agree with that whole-heartedly.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By mmntech on 3/24/2008 1:17:31 PM , Rating: 3
This post deserves a 6. Very well said. In my opinion, free speech is an inalienable right. One of two, the other being the right to life. As far as I know, there is no provision in any bill of rights that states that people are guaranteed freedom from criticism. What happens when you start placing limits is what we have in North America (both Canada and the US) right now. People are afraid to seriously debate "sensitive" issues. It's no wonder there is such division.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By abzillah on 3/24/2008 2:07:25 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you on free speech, but there is a difference between the general population's free speech and that of a government official.
This is a congressmen who has made a video saying that all Muslims are terrorist because terrorism is part of Islam, while at the same time governing over a large population of Muslims.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By glennpratt on 3/24/2008 3:04:35 PM , Rating: 2
This is only a difference for the people who elected him and his fellow politicians, certainly not Network Solutions.

A politician shouldn't revoke their right to free speech, only accept that there is increased responsibility and risk when invoking the right.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By fic2 on 3/24/2008 3:47:17 PM , Rating: 3
Interesting that you know what the film is all about and yet it hasn't been released.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By abzillah on 3/24/2008 5:23:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, maybe you should read more.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7268618.stm


RE: A dangerous precedent
By clovell on 3/24/2008 5:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
I may be mincing words here, but you've got it wrong. Protected free speech in the USA does not allow you to simply insult other people at will. Factual claims that happen to be insulting are another matter.

I'm not sure if that's what you were saying, but too many people take that viewpoint, and it's not what was intended at all.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By Rob Pintwala on 3/24/2008 12:46:29 PM , Rating: 3
The issue at hand is, the movie is critical of - not insulting (though, we'll see to what extent). Nothing is above criticism - not government, not religion, not even God himself.

I understand that the Islamic religion is as important as family, but it is an ideal; a concept, and it can't be offended or upset. Unless you can hurt Islam's feelings, I don't see a reason why criticism of it should be restricted.

Oh, and, by that "particular group of people" he was talking about, he meant the Muslims in the world who would be offended, as not all Muslims will be outraged. In fact, I spoke with several of my Islamic friends, and none of them said they found this insulting or offensive. Their imams (I believe is the correct term) encourage them to criticize Islam, because through criticism and free through they can strengthen their own beliefs.


RE: A dangerous precedent
By Grast on 3/24/2008 4:20:40 PM , Rating: 2
Rob,

I believe everyone understands that no all muslims are terrorists. In fact, the frields that you have which are muslim would be hanged and beheaded with us non-muslims if the extreamist had any say in the matter.


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