EU condemns Dutch anti-Islam film

Brussels, Belgium -- The European Union on Friday condemned a new film by a Dutch lawmaker which is critical of Islam and features controversial images of the Prophet Mohammed.

The 15-minute film, titled "Fitna," was posted on a London-based Web site Thursday. It immediately drew criticism from the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who said the film equates Islam with violence.

"We reject this interpretation," Balkenende said in a statement. "The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence. In fact, the victims are often also Muslims."

Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said it supported the Dutch government's position and believes the film does nothing to promote dialogue among religions.

"The European Union and its member states apply the principle of the freedom of speech which is part of our values and traditions. However, it should be exercised in a spirit of respect for religious and other beliefs and convictions," the Slovenian presidency said in a statement.

"Mutual tolerance and respect are universal values we should uphold. We believe that acts, such as the above-mentioned film, serve no other purpose than inflaming hatred."

The U.S. government warned the film could spark protests and riots.

The lawmaker who made the film is Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament from the conservative Party for Freedom. He has been outspoken in his criticism of Islam and his support for immigration restrictions.

Wilders has said Islam and its holy book, the Quran, are a long-term threat to the Netherlands and the world and that his film is a "last warning."

"It's not a provocation, but the harsh reality and a political conclusion," Wilders told reporters Thursday.

Wilders posted the film on the site in both English and Dutch. Its title in Arabic means "strife" or "conflict" of the type that occurs within families or any other homogenous group.

The film opens with a controversial caricature of Islam's prophet, Mohammed -- one of those that prompted demonstrations in early 2006 after newspapers published the images -- followed by translated portions of the Quran.

The passages are followed by graphic images of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States juxtaposed with audio from emergency calls made by the victims trapped inside the World Trade Center in New York.

The video includes disturbing images of other terror attacks; bloodied victims; beheadings of hostages; executions of women in hijab, the traditional full-body attire; and footage, with English subtitles, of Islamic leaders preaching inflammatory sermons against Jews and Christians.

In one sequence, the film includes a series of newspaper headlines suggesting that Europe is under threat from Islamic beliefs and practices hostile to democracy, and that some Muslims want to create Islamic states in Europe.

The film concludes with scrolling messages reading in part: "The government insists that you respect Islam, but Islam has no respect for you" and "In 1945, Nazism was defeated in Europe. In 1989, communism was defeated in Europe. Now the Islamic ideology has to be defeated."

LiveLeak issued a statement Thursday saying there was no legal reason not to allow Wilders to post the film. It said the site's policy is to remain unbiased and allow freedom of speech.

Some in the Muslim community rejected the film as nothing more than dangerous anti-Islamic propaganda.

"This film is a direct attempt to incite violence from Muslims and help fan the flames of Islamophobia," Arsalan Iftikhar, a contributor to Washington-based Islamica Magazine, told CNN on Thursday. "Any reasonable person can see this is meant to spit in the face of Muslims and insult our religion."

Iftikhar said he doubted the film would spark the same type of violence that followed the publication of the caricature of Mohammed, but he called on Muslim leaders to react peacefully.