- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

BRUSSELS — Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders’ highly anticipated anti-Islam film “Fitna” was released last night. The 16-minute-30-second film, which sparked so much furor well ahead of its release, did not make the grand entry that many anticipated.

It was released on the British Web site www.liveleak.com and more than 2 million viewers, who experienced long uploading times, watched the Dutch and English versions in the first few hours after its release.

The film opens with one of the infamous prophet Muhammad cartoons, followed by footage of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and the 2004 Madrid bombings. The footage is interspersed with purported translations from the Koran. The film relies on provocative anti-Western speeches by extremist imams. The entire film is underscored at times by the Arabian Dance from the Nutcracker ballet.

One passage is laden with anti-Semitic quotes. Mr. Wilders has close ties to Israel, which he claims to have visited at least 40 times. Many of his political opponents have accused him of defending Israel’s interests in the Dutch parliament, a claim he has always rebuffed.

Yet the film, which contains more footage of terrorism, was not as shocking as expected. “It’s a series of images and photos, headlines from recent years which we already know,” Maurits Berger, a professor of Islam in the West at Leiden University told the Associated Press.

The expected shot of a page being torn out of the Koran — a strictly forbidden act in the Muslim world — was omitted, though implied by a simulated ripping noise over a black screen followed by the text: “The sound you heard was a page being ripped from the phone book. For it is not up to me, but Muslims themselves to tear out the hateful pages from the Quran.”

The film was originally supposed to be released today on Mr. Wilders’ Web site, www.fit nathemovie.com. But the release appeared to have been delayed after Network Solutions, the American host of the Web site, took it down Monday.

Mr. Wilders then said on his blog: “It will definitely be aired by April 1, and, no, it’s not an April fool’s joke.”

Network Solutions reportedly wanted to see the film before posting it. Mr. Wilders previously turned down a similar request from Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

Meanwhile, a right-wing party in the Czech Republic had offered to host the film on its Web site, a newspaper reported this week. The National Party said its National Guard subsidiary also would protect Mr. Wilders while in the Czech Republic, the Prague Daily Monitor reported.

Following his inability to afford the $600,000 fee demanded by the Nieuwspoort press center in The Hague to screen his film to journalists, Mr. Wilders posted a message Wednesday on his personal Web site hinting that Fitna might have left him broke.

“I’m battling the Islamization of the Netherlands and the mass-immigration. … There is hope for the future,” the appeal read. “But for the moment I’m facing enormous costs. The little film and its aftershocks are costing a lot of money. The Party for Freedom doesn’t accept subsidy and is thus completely reliant on freedom-loving citizens such as yourself.

“I need your help urgently. May I ask for your support?” it concluded.

“Freedom isn’t free,” read a message in English appealing to “our international friends,” adding that his party is the only one in the Netherlands that refuses government funding.

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