THE HAGUE, Netherlands: A Dutch lawmaker who sparked protests across the Muslim world with a film criticizing the Quran is entitled to express his anti-Islamic views, a court ruled Monday, rejecting a request to muzzle him.
The court ruled that the views expressed by right-wing legislator Geert Wilders did not exceed the legal boundaries against inciting hatred or violence.
The Netherlands Islamic Federation withdrew its petition to ban Wilders film Fitna after it appeared on the Internet March 27, the day before the case was heard in a heavily guarded courtroom. The movie, linking terror attacks by Muslim extremists with texts from Islam s holy book, triggered angry street protests in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, and calls in other countries to boycott Dutch goods.
But the federation still asked the Hague District Court to order Wilders to stop making statements in writing, on film or spoken that are deemeinsulting to Muslims, and to apologize for statements he has made repeatedly in the past. Wilders has called the Quran a fascist book and compared it to Hitler s Mein Kampf.
In a written judgment published Monday, the court said Wilders right to free speech and role as a politician allow him to voice his criticisms of radical Islam and the Quran.
As a lawmaker, Wilders must be able to – sometimes in sharp terms – express his opinions, the judgment said. In this context, it cannot be said that (Wilders ) statements – even though provocative – are an incitement to hate or violence against Muslims. Wilders welcomed the ruling.
I always believed that within the context of political debate … I should be allowed to say what my opinion is, which is that I see the danger and threat of Islam to our country and the West, he told The Associated Press.
As a politician, you have to be able to say what you think, he said.
In his film, Wilders couples verses from the Quran with images of the terror attacks on New York, Madrid and elsewhere, and shows footage of imams saying Islam should dominate the world.
The movie also says it is up to Muslims to tear out the hateful verses from the Quran.
Despite protests in the Muslim world, there was no violent backlash in the Netherlands, where Wilders anti-Islam views are widely known.
Wilders has often warned of what he calls the growing Islamization of the Netherlands, where Muslims make up about 850,000 of the 16 million population.
Wilders slightly modified Fitna after he was threatened with possible legal action for copyright violation for using a cartoon by a Danish artist portraying Islam s prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban.
The film now starts and ends with a different cartoon portraying a bearded man in a turban carrying a globe with a lit fuse on his shoulder