Cabinet Panic over Koran Film
If Dutch companies, citizens and interests abroad are hurt following MP Geert Wilders' film on the Koran, there is only one person responsible, according to Prime Minister Balkenende. "At this moment, a great responsibility is resting on Mr. Wilders".
"Do not broadcast it," said Verhagen to public broadcaster NOS on Thursday night.
Verhagen's Christian democrats (CDA) indicated that there was no question of a slip of the tongue. CDA parliamentary leader Pieter van Geel also made a plea to Wilders, who is leader of the 'anti-Islamisation' Party for Freedom (PVV), to drop the film due to "the seriousness of the possible consequences".
Labour (PvdA) however considered the CDA-Verhagen position was too explicit. In fact, all parties in the Lower House criticised the foreign minister. And so the cabinet, in which CDA and PvdA are the dominant factors, produced a statement on Friday trying to address both Wilders and Islamic countries.
"We condemn all threats, including those directed against Mr. Wilders. And we call on the governments (of Islamic countries) to abide to the principles of international law, such as the duty therein laid down to protect foreign interests, citizens and companies. At the same time, we have the duty to make it clear to all, that the conduct and thoughts of an individual MP do not match those of the government. We defend the core values of freedom and respect. We guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of religion," the CDA premier stated.
Less balanced than the declaration was the premier's response to questions from journalists after he had finished the statement.
"Ask yourself what your responsibility is at this moment," he said about Wilders. "And at this moment, a great responsibility is resting on Mr. Wilders," he added.
The premier summed up examples of "critical signals" he received. "At a festival, a Dutch product was refused; the Taliban announced action towards Dutch soldiers; and stewardesses are afraid to fly to certain destinations. These are only the examples of one day. This is the reality we are in. (...) Mr. Wilders cannot ignore the sentiments that are already being expressed." (...) Economic sanctions, attacks, threats, great consequences. The one carrying the responsibility for that, is the one who is currently providing grounds for that."
Wilders condemned the statement. "Although the cabinet is giving into and capitulating to Islam, I will never'', he stressed. "My film will be released no matter what". Nobody yet knows what it will show.
1) Cabinet Panic over Koran Film