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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  (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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By robinthakur on 3/25/2008 7:08:50 AM , Rating: 2
Clearly you haven't been to Dubai recently have you? That is a much more relaxed form of Islam (and Turkey too) which while still inherently Muslim, understands that business, enterprise and tourism are better ways to promote the muslim culture instead of suicide bombing and suppression of free speech. Even in Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc. there are limits. Overt homosexuality is illegal (kissing publicly, holding hands etc.) and if you were to criticise the Sheikhs (rulers) or really badly criticise Islam you would probably be thrown in jail or deported. However for a Muslim country, that's actually pretty reserved, and the good points outweigh the bad. There were so many westerners there and it was so full of life I just want to go back now :(

Other more backward (Yes they are backward and still literally interpretting a book written hundreds of years ago, much like some christians) states in the region should take a leaf out of Dubai's book. Listen and learn Saudi Arabia, Iran and others. I think they are just bored personally. It gets really hot out there, and if you're not educated in anything other than religion/don't have a proper job/knowledge of the outside world then I'm not surprised that they get really worked up when someone offends their religion. They've got nothing better to do!

The solution is not self censorship here in any way shape or form, because that takes away more of our hard fought rights. This Dutch politician might represent many Dutch people's beliefs and feelings and many more worldwide. Who is to say that their feelings shouldn't be articulated? They don't live in Saudi Arabia! Stopping people from speaking freely only creates a bottleneck of emotion. From what we see in the media in the west, this violent image is what Muslims create for themselves, it is not simply imagined. Remember the director Theo van Gogh and that he was skewered to the pavement for daring to make a film about Islam. Unfortunately too many people are terrified of what will happen if they criticise Islam in public, its not that they don't want to offend. I respect his fortitude to lay his life on the line for his beliefs if nothing else.

As an ironic aside, America's ignorance, naivette and gung ho attitude in the middle east has hurt its economy far more seriously than 9/11 or Al Q, ever could have hoped to. Maybe that was their plan all along, they do seem pretty smart for people living in caves...

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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