DAMASCUS, Syria, (AP) – Islamic and Arab leaders denounced a Dutch film Saturday that portrays Islam as a ticking time bomb aimed at the West, demanding international laws to prevent insults to religions.
The 15-minute film entitled “Fitna,” or “ordeal” in Arabic, by Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders brought condemnations from Muslim capitals and street protests in Pakistan after it was posted on a Web site Thursday.
The film came on the heels of the republishing in Danish papers of a cartoon of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that Muslims view as insulting.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir called on Muslims at an Arab summit in Damascus to “challenge those who insult” the prophet and proposed “a binding international charter” calling for the respect of religious beliefs.
“The offenses against our Arab and Islamic nations under the banner of freedom of expression are derogatory and defamatory and go against all human values,” al-Bashir said.
In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit called Wilders’ film “a humiliation” to Islam.
Wilders said he made the film because “Islam and the Quran are dangers to the preservation of freedom in the Netherlands in the long term, and I have to warn people of that.” It shows statements from radical clerics and cites Quranic verses interspersed with images from Sept. 11, 2001, and other terror attacks.
The European Union’s 27 foreign ministers said they too objected to the film’s depiction of Islam.
“This view is sharply rejected,” they said in a joint statement released at the end of a two-day meeting in Slovenia. “The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence.”
But unlike the Arab leaders, the European ministers defended the right to freedom of speech and called on Muslims to react peacefully. “Feeling offended is no excuse for aggression or threats,” they said.
The Jeddah-based Organization of the Islamic Conference said the film was intended to fuel hatred of Islam and “incite disturbances, conflicts and to threaten the security and stability of the world.”
The organization’s secretary-general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said at the Damascus summit that the cartoons and the film only increase anti-Islamic sentiments in the West at a critical time. However, he praised the Dutch government for distancing itself from the movie.
Predominantly Muslim Malaysia has urged the Dutch government to censure Wilders, calling the film irresponsible and disrespectful to Muslims worldwide.
In a statement late Saturday, Malaysia’s foreign ministry issued a statement to “strongly condemn” the movie.
“Portraying Islam as a religion advocating extremism is not only misleading and erroneous but also blatant disregard and utter disrespect for Islam and the sensitiveness of the Muslim world,” Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said in the statement.
Hundreds of Muslims have demonstrated in Pakistan over the film and the country’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch ambassador to deliver an official complaint against what it called a “defamatory film which deeply offended the sentiments of Muslims all over the world.”