Dutch Jews Louder Than Muslims in Condemning 'Fitna' Film

Reaction of the Muslim community in the Netherlands has been described by local media as 'calm'.

THE HAGUE - Ironically, Dutch Jews are more outspoken than local Muslims in their criticism of the newly released anti-Islam film by rightist legislator Geert Wilders, says Dr. Ronny Naftaniel, head of the pro-Zionist Center for Information and Documentation (CIDI).

Last Friday, hours after the film's online release, CJO, the Jewish community central board of which CIDI is a member, condemned the footage as generalizing and counterproductive to the fight against extremism. The board described parts of the film as unacceptable, adding it had crossed the line of legitimate criticism.

By contrast, Yusuf Altuntas of CMO, a body that facilitates contact between Muslims and the government, said that by releasing the film - which is entitled "Fitna" (Arabic for "strife") - "Wilders is testing the limits of acceptability, but hasn't gone beyond them."

The Muslim community's response - which the Dutch media described as "calm" - was to say the film is not religiously insulting to Islam, and that they had anticipated more offensive content. The government's fears of rioting never materialized.

"They [the Muslim community] are afraid. They have been told by the Dutch government to keep quiet and be wise about this issue, and that's what they want to do," Naftaniel told Haaretz on Monday in CIDI's four-story headquarters near the American embassy.

"I was surprised by the silence of the local Muslim leaders," Naftaniel added. "If I were a Muslim, I would speak out and I would blame Wilders for this film. I wouldn't stop shouting about it. I don't understand their silence, I really don't. I think they are scared."

A spokesman for CMO told Haaretz that although the Muslim community had not taken to protesting the film in the streets, the umbrella group for Dutch Muslims does condemn it.

The 15-minute film, which drew millions of viewers since its release Thursday, contains footage of Muslim clerics and protesters calling for the slaying of Jews, verses from the Koran, videos from scenes of suicide bombings and executions, illustrations of the demographic increase in the number of European Muslims and archive material from the Dutch media about Islamic terrorism-related incidents.

Naftaniel says that even though he feels the Dutch Jewish community is more at liberty to criticize "Fitna" than the Muslim community, "the only thing which may prevent many Jews from criticizing this film is that they consider Wilders very pro-Israeli and that they don't want to annoy him."

After the Jewish community condemned the film, CIDI received several angry calls from members who objected to the criticism. "Some even wanted to leave our organization, but I really think that what he did was wrong," he said.

Naftaniel stressed that it's not the criticism of Islam that prompted him to condemn the film, but the linking of that criticism of Koran-inspired violence with the demographics. Naftaniel said that is tantamount to suggesting all Muslims are terrorists.

CIDI's founder says he was particularly offended by angry reactions to the Jewish condemnation of "Fitna." These reactions, which came mainly as reader responses to online articles about the condemnation, accused the Jewish community of trying to appease the Holland's Muslims.

"We are never afraid to speak out in the harshest of terms against what we think is wrong, be it against Muslim extremism here in the Netherlands, or the Dutch or Israeli governments," he said. "But this movie portrays all Muslims as The Enemy. And this is just not true."