Muslims in Islamic countries reacted in anger to a Dutch lawmaker's anti-Koran film, but Dutch Muslims appealed for calm and said the film was less inflammatory than they had feared.
The 15-minute film by Geert Wilders, posted on a Web site late Thursday, sets verses of the Koran against a montage of images from terrorist attacks and rhetoric from Muslim clergymen urging "jihad," or holy war. Shortly afterward Dutch television channels rebroadcast segments of it.
Mohamed Rabbae, leader of a group representing members of the Netherlands' large Moroccan immigrant community, said the film was "less bad" than expected, and another prominent Muslim dismissed it as an attempt by Wilders to gain votes by trying to make people fearful of Islam.
The film recycled film clips from terrorist attacks in the U.S., Spain and the Netherlands, and began and ended with one of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by European newspapers that provoked violent protests in Islamic countries two years ago.
The Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, called the film "political propaganda" and said, "I won't accept my cartoon being taken out of its original context and used in a completely different one."
In Pakistan, dozens of Islamic extremists staged a protest outside a mosque in the port city of Karachi, organized by the largest Muslim party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Some demonstrators demanded Pakistan sever diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, condemned the film. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo called it "misleading and full of racism," and said producing the film was irresponsible act "done under the blanket of freedom of the press."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini described the film as "anti-Islamic and insulting," the state-run IRNA news agency said. "Such a dirty act .... reveals continued enmity and deep hostility of such Western nationals against Islam and Muslims," he said, according to IRNA.
After the release, Wilders told reporters he made the film because "Islam and the Koran are dangers to the preservation of freedom in the Netherlands in the long term, and I have to warn people of that."
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the film equates Islam with violence, and "we reject this."
"We ... regret that Mr. Wilders has released this film. We believe it serves no other purpose than to cause offense," Balkenende said on television.
The European Union supported the Dutch government's position. It said all of the 27-nation bloc apply the principle of freedom of speech, "however, it should be exercised in a spirit of respect for religious and other beliefs and convictions."
A court in Rotterdam said it would deliver its decision on April 7 on a petition by the Dutch Islamic Federation seeking to gag Wilders and order him to publicize an apology.
"My clients are not attacking freedom of speech. This is about ending the unjustified insulting of Islam," said lawyer Ejder Kose. Outside the courtroom, a pro-Wilders demonstrator shouted far-right slogans until police bundled him into a car.
Wilders' lawyer Serge Vlaar countered that the federation "wants to ban a point of view. This is not what you are here for," he told the judge.
Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, urged Muslims around the world to refrain from targeting Dutch interests in response to the film. "We Muslims living in the Netherlands are best placed to handle Wilders," he said, adding that they would appeal for friendship.
Wilders is head of a reactionary political party that holds nine seats in the 150-member Dutch parliament. His main campaign issues have been halting immigration and preventing what he calls the "Islamization" of Dutch culture.
Thousands of Dutch demonstrated Saturday in Amsterdam to show that Wilders does not represent the whole country.
Ahmed Aboutaleb, the social affairs minister, said Friday that Wilders' main aim seemed to be trying to make people afraid of Islam so they will vote for him.
He said the lawmaker could have chosen other verses from the Koran — such as one rejecting murder — "but that's a citation that doesn't serve his purposes so he doesn't use it."