Saudi wants Dutch MP apology for Islam offence: paper

RIYADH Sun Feb 18, 2007 12:34pm EST

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia wants an apology from a Dutch politician who said Muslims should "tear out half the Koran" if they wanted to live in his country and has asked the Dutch government to intervene, a Saudi newspaper said on Sunday.

The Dutch government, which said it did not agree with the remarks made by populist anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, confirmed that foreign ministry officials held informal talks last week with the Saudi embassy in The Hague.

"It (the embassy) appealed to the appropriate authorities on the need for Wilders' insulting statements to be withdrawn and an apology given to Muslims," the Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported.

"The embassy has demanded that the Dutch side put an end to such statements and actions."

Wilders said in an interview published last week that Muslims should throw away half their holy book if they wanted to stay in the Netherlands and that he would chase Islam's Prophet Mohammad out of the country if he were alive today.

"Our minister is not happy with Wilders' remarks," a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said.

"It is not the point of view of the Dutch government. Wilders is a parliamentarian, it is his right to express himself," the spokesman added.

Last year Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines, withdrew its ambassador to Copenhagen over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet, which provoked worldwide protests among Muslims.

Wilders, who has lived under heavy guard since 2004 when a Dutch-Moroccan killed filmmaker and Islam critic Theo van Gogh, has campaigned to ban the Muslim burqa veil, wants to freeze immigration and ban new mosques and religious schools.

Wilders, who is seen as an heir to murdered populist Pim Fortuyn and whose new party won nine seats out of 150 in November parliamentary elections, has warned of a "tsunami of Islamisation" in a country that is home to 1 million Muslims out of a population of some 16 million.

"Islam is a violent religion. If Mohammad lived here today I could imagine chasing him out of the country tarred and feathered as an extremist," Wilders said in the interview with the daily De Pers on February 13.

The Dutch news agency ANP quoted Wilders as saying on Sunday he would not retract his remarks. "I would not dream of taking any of it back," Wilders said.

"Have they gone completely mad? It is scandalous that a country which does not have freedom of speech teaches me a lesson. They must learn that when you are a parliamentarian here, you may say what you want."

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