Dutch concern over new anti-Muslim film

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AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- Dutch Justice Minister, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, has urged local politician and ex-Muslim Ehsan Jami not to proceed with a new anti-Muslim film that could increase tensions in the Muslim community in the Netherlands.

Jami, a former member of the socialist party PvdA, is working on an animated film, called "The Life of Mohammed" that is believed to mock the prophet Mohammed. In one leaked scene, Jami shows the prophet with an erection while he takes his nine-year-old bride to a mosque.

"A film like this will definitely split the Dutch society," said Hirsch Ballin on Dutch radio.

Ehsan Jami, born in Iran but a Dutch citizen, is a local, independent politician from Voorburg (near The Hague). He is also the founder of the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims.

Like Geert Wilders, director of the controversial short "Fitna," Jami is also living under police protection from the Dutch government. He became known in Holland for statements in which he compared Islam with Nazism.

Jami plans to release his film on April 20, although further details were not available. Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Hans van den Broek, called the project "political pyromania."

Meanwhile Geert Wilders announced on Monday that he will make some adjustments to his "Fitna" short. The Dutch politician has replaced the picture of a rapper Salah Edin, who he mistook for the murderer of Theo van Gogh. Also the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, used without permission from Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, have been removed from the film, which was re-instated on the liveleak.com website, after security measures were taken to protect the staff of its British provider.

Wilders' controversial film berating Islam as a bloodthirsty, anti-Western religion has been roundly condemned by European institutions. "The film equates Islam with violence and this view is sharply rejected," the European Union's 27 foreign ministers said in a statement after a two-day meeting in the Slovenian resort of Brdo. However, the ministers defended the right of Wilders, head of the Party for Freedom, to make the movie. "Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental values which we will not compromise on," they said. "Feeling offended is no excuse for aggression or threats."

Earlier, European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering said the content of the film was, "designed to offend the religious sensitivities of Muslims in the Netherlands, Europe and elsewhere." He said he would "totally reject its interpretation that Islam is a violent religion." Within the Parliament, Joseph Daul, chairman of the center-right EPP-ED Group said the film "can only cause hurt to Muslims everywhere and damage relations between Europe and the Arab and Muslim world." The leader of the Socialist Group, Martin Schulz, said it was "part of a systematic campaign to denigrate Muslims."

The Council of Europe, the 47-country human rights body, described it as political propaganda that played into the hands of extremists. Secretary General Terry Davis said it was a "distasteful manipulation which exploits ignorance, prejudice and fear," adding that, "it is a sad day for European democracy when the most fundamental principles on which it has been built are used to promulgate intolerant and deeply offensive stereotypes."

Leo Cendrowicz in Brussels contributed to this story
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