Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dutch Courage:

Two stories


Wilders' anti-Islam film

Tensions are growing over the expected release of a film by Geert Wilders, leader of the right-wing populist Freedom Party.

At the end of last year Mr Wilders announced he was working on a film about the Koran as "a source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror".

Dutch ministers have apparently been holding secret meetings about the film for some time. They are concerned about its possible repercussions in the Netherlands and abroad.

During a visit to the European Parliament in Strasburg this week, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun said that if the Freedom Party leader tears up or burns a Koran in his film,

"this will simply mean he is inciting wars and bloodshed. And he will be responsible. It is the responsibility of the Dutch people to stop Wilders."

The Muslim cleric's tone is reminiscent of the crisis that followed the publishing of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed two years ago. His words are all the more ominous considering that the most violent protests took place in Syria.

Added on PoliGazette:

After all, he [the mufti] argued, it’s illegal to deny the holocaust because it insults Jews - it should also be illegal to insult Muslims.

It is a very tiresome cliche to hear an equation between denial of the Holocaust (and never mind now whether European Laws forbidding it are proper or not) and speaking disrespectfully of the Islamic scriptures. Denying the Holocaust is denying a historical truth, it is a lie about an event which happened within the span of living memory, whose survivors and witnesses are still alive. Disrespecting the Quran is tantamount to a negative review, a literary criticism which analyses text and myth.

This kind of thing has been repeatedly done about the Bible and the New Testament. Nadia abu el-Haj has written a book claiming that the Bible stories never happened, that the connection of the Jewish people to Israel is a Zionist myth. Books are written which express scepticism about the historicity of Jesus, or add fictionalized tales about his life. Surely these are deeply painful insults to the beliefs of millions of Jews and billions of Christians. Why should Muslims expect any preferential treatment in Western countries where their belief system is just one more belief system alongside many other belief-systems??


Dutch FM speaks out for Israel

Visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told Haaretz yesterday that the singling out of Israel for criticism in international forums was unfair.

"It is not acceptable to focus on Israel time after time, while other countries like Sudan do not receive any reference whatsoever at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly in New York," Verhagen said in an interview. "I would like to set the record straight on Israel."

Interviewed in his suite at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, the Dutch foreign minister said he has pursued "a more internationally balanced approach" to Israel and has conditioned Dutch support for resolutions criticizing Israel upon condemnations for Hamas' actions.

Describing himself as a friend of Israel who feels "a close personal attachment" to its people, Verhagen added he did not always see eye to eye with Jerusalem. "Friends can speak freely about concerns and differences. In my talk with [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni I mentioned the need to observe human rights and dismantle outposts," he said.


Update: Brave words. Pusillanimous deeds...

Canada was the only country to vote against the resolution put forward by Syria and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Fifteen countries, including seven from the EU, abstained. Gabon's representatives absented themselves from the vote.

Well, speaking to an Israeli audience in Israel about acting honourably is one thing. Acting upon the principle of fairness and truth in Geneva - quite another.



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