Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday they would charge an Arab-oriented cultural group under hate speech laws for publishing a cartoon that suggests that the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust is a fabrication.
The public prosecutor's office in Utrecht in the Netherlands said the cartoon insults Jews as a group and is therefore an illegal form of discrimination.
The chairman of the Dutch arm of the Arab European League says it published the cartoon on its website to highlight a double standard in freedom of speech rules in which anti-Muslim cartoons are permitted but anti-Jewish cartoons are banned.
AEL spokesmen and creator of the cartoon, Abdoul Mouthalib Bouzerda, called the publication an act of civil disobedience.
The cartoon shows two apparently Jewish men standing near a pile of skeletons with a sign that says Auswitch, presumably representing the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.
One pokes a bone with a stick and says I don't think they're Jews and the other answers, we have to get to the six million somehow.
Spokeswoman Mary Hallebeek said the maximum punishment is a year in jail, but a fine of up to 4,700 ($6,700) is more likely, given that the charges are against the group. The Dutch arm of the Arab European League said it doesn't deny the reality of the Holocaust, but published the cartoon on its Web site as an act of civil disobedience to highlight a double standard.
AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda argued that prosecutors had not pressed charges against Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders for his film that included cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Charges against Wilders, who campaigns on an anti-Islam and anti-immigration platform, were dismissed after prosecutors said his insults were aimed at Muhammad, not all Muslims, and were not systematic.
Bouzerda said anyone should be allowed to publish insulting material in the interest of public debate.
Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel, which filed a complaint against the cartoon, said Jews had nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons, so it didn't make sense for the league to retaliate in this way.
After a strong immigration wave in the 1990s, Muslims make up around 6 percent of the 16.5 million Dutch population.
A popular backlash against immigration has dominated politics here since 2001, and it intensified in 2004, when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical over perceived religious insults.
That further fueled debate over immigrant crime and the need to preserve traditional Dutch value.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now