COPENHAGEN, Denmark – A Danish press freedom group said Sunday it has invited a Dutch lawmaker to talk about an anti-Koran film he made that sparked angry street protests in Muslim countries earlier this year.
Geert Wilders will appear in Copenhagen on June 1 to talk about the movie and share his thoughts on free speech, said The Free Press Society of 2004.
Lars Hedegaard, president of the society, said the invitation to Wilders should not be viewed as a provocation against the Muslim world, but rather as a way to address the debate on the right to speak freely.
"He has been badmouthed and persecuted by almost everyone in Europe," Hedegaard said of the right-wing lawmaker. "He has not committed a crime as far as I know. He has simply voiced his opinion."
Denmark found itself at the center of a similar controversy after a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that ignited protests by Muslims around the globe in 2006.
That episode was also seized upon by free-speech advocates. Danish newspapers republished the drawings, saying they wanted to demonstrate their support for free speech after police revealed a plot to kill one of the artists.
"The more threats we receive, the greater our duty to continue to speak freely," Hedegaard said.
Wilders' film "Fitna," which appeared on the Internet on March 27, linked terror attacks by Muslim extremists to texts from the Koran, Islam's holy book.
The Netherlands responded to security concerns after the film's release by closing its embassy's offices in Afghanistan's capital and moving embassy personnel in Pakistan. The film set off protests in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia and led to calls in other countries for a boycott of Dutch goods.
The Dutch government has said it disagrees with the tone of the film, but says Wilders has a constitutional right to air his views. The U.N. secretary-general and U.N. agencies have condemned the film. EU foreign ministers have also rejected Wilders' views.