March 7, 2008 / 4:55 AM / 10 years ago

Dutch fear terrorism ahead of new Koran film

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands is to raise its national risk level of a terrorist attack to “substantial,” partly due to a new film made by a politician that is expected to be critical of the Koran, media reported on Thursday.

The justice minister is expected to send parliament an updated threat assessment later in the day, also citing a heightened terrorism threat level around the world, unnamed cabinet sources told ANP news agency.

The level had been at “substantial” before as religious and racial tensions simmered after an Islamic militant killed director Theo Van Gogh in 2004 over a separate film he made accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.

The Dutch counter-terrorism agency was not immediately available to comment on the ANP report.

The Dutch government has warned the latest film, expected to be released this month by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, might spark unrest and economic sanctions similar to the reaction seen after Danish newspapers published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2006.

Wilders has given few details about the film he is calling “Fitna,” an Arabic term used in the Koran and sometimes translated as “strife.” He has called the Koran a “fascist” book that incites violence and said it should be banned.

FOUR-STAGE SYSTEM

The Netherlands has a four-stage risk classification system -- the lowest is “minimal,” the highest is “critical.”

The counter-terrorism agency cut the threat level to the second-lowest “limited” last April, citing little fresh activity by militant networks in the country and growing resistance to radicalization among the one million Muslims in the Netherlands.

No Dutch broadcaster wants to show the new film, the Volkskrant newspaper reported on Thursday, meaning Wilders will probably launch it on the Internet and at a news conference in The Hague, tentatively scheduled for March 28, ANP reported.

A majority of Dutch people want the film to be broadcast even though they fear it will stoke tension with Muslims and harm relations with Arab nations, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen met ambassadors from Muslim countries on Wednesday to discuss the film and stress that the government did not share Wilders’ views. He asked them to make sure that Dutch citizens and buildings abroad are protected.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry accused the Dutch politician of “propagating the politics of hate and promoting xenophobia.”

Around 5,000 people protested on Wednesday in the provincial capital of Logar province in Afghanistan about the reprinting of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Danish newspapers and Wilders’ plan for the Koran film.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said last week the country risked economic sanctions and attacks on its troops in Afghanistan because of the film.

Reuters

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