AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government is looking into whether it can stop a politician from releasing an anti-Koran film, fearing attacks on its citizens and businesses, a newspaper reported on Monday.
Government lawyers are looking into whether there are legal grounds to ban the film by anti-immigration lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has likened the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the Telegraaf reported, citing sources close to the cabinet.
No comment from the government was immediately available.
The newspaper said the coalition government was divided on the film with the Christian Democrats more in favor of a ban while Labour was pushing freedom of expression and calling on Muslim countries to prevent violence against the Netherlands.
About 1,000 Afghans protested on Sunday against the republication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish newspapers and Wilders’ plan to air the film.
The protesters, mostly religious clerics in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, marched and demanded the withdrawal of Danish and Dutch troops from Afghanistan.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende warned last week that the Netherlands risked economic sanctions and attacks against its troops because of the film, although he stopped short of saying that the film should not be broadcast.
Wilders is calling the film “Fitna”, an Arabic term used in the Koran and sometimes translated as “strife”.
In 2006 demonstrations and rioting erupted in many Muslim countries after Danish cartoons, one showing the Prophet with a turban resembling a bomb, appeared in a Danish newspaper. At least 50 people were killed and three Danish embassies attacked.
Balkenende said the Dutch government does not share Wilders’ views and said the cabinet was obliged to point out the risks of transmitting the film.
Wilders, who is the target of death treats on Islamic militant Web sites, said he had completed the film and was in negotiations with TV stations for its broadcast, slated for March or April.
Wilders’ party has nine of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, and has gained support in recent opinion polls. He has warned of a “tsunami of Islamisation” in a country that is home to nearly one million Muslims.
In 2004 the Netherlands was plunged into turmoil when an Islamic militant killed director Theo Van Gogh over a film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.
Reporting by Reed Stevenson; Editing by Stephen Weeks