Dutch businesses warned yesterday they would consider suing far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders if his anti-Islam film led to a commercial boycott, as police said cars were set ablaze and graffiti called for Wilders to be killed.
"A boycott would hurt Dutch exports. Businesses such as Shell, Philips and Unilever are easily identifiable as Dutch companies. I don't know if Wilders is rich, or well-insured, but in the case of a boycott, we would look to see if we could make him bear responsibility," Bernard Wientjes, the chairman of the Dutch employers' organisation VNO-NCW, told the newspaper Het Financieel Dagblad.
Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohammed called for a boycott on Saturday.
"If Muslims unite, it will be easy to take action. If we boycott Dutch products, they will have to close down their businesses," he told reporters.
"If the world's 1.3 billion Muslims unite and say they won't buy, then it (the boycott) will be effective," he said. The media in Jordan has also called for such a boycott.
Two days after the release of the 17-minute documentary Fitna on the Internet, Muslim nations including Malaysia and Singapore have condemned the film, as has the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Although there were no mass disturbances in the Netherlands, in Utrecht two cars were set ablaze overnight, with a slogan calling for the death of Wilders. Police said they could not say with certainty it was connected to the release of Fitna.
The Dutch prime minister has warned it could be months before the consequences of the film were known.
Late Friday the British website host pulled Fitna from its site citing threats made to staff – although it can still be seen on Youtube and other sites.
Condemnation of the film was led by the UN's Ban, who called it an "offensively anti-Islamic film."
"There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free speech is not at stake here," he said in a statement.
Speaking after a Council of Ministers summit on Friday, Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende warned not to be beguiled by the initially calm reception to the film.
"We are not past it yet... Sometimes it can take months before the true repercussions are felt," he told journalists.
Malaysia's foreign ministry condemned Wilders for producing the film. "Portraying Islam as a religion advocating extremism is not only misleading and erroneous but also blatant disregard and utter disrespect for Islam and the sensitiveness of the Muslim world," it said in a statement.
Neighbouring Singapore also condemned the film Saturday, deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng calling it offensive to Muslims.
"Freedom of expression does not give anyone the licence to insult another's religion or race," he said in a statement, adding he was confident Singaporeans would react to the film rationally.
Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia have also objected to the posting of the film,as well as the head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Wilders has denied any responsibility for the repercussions of his film. The head of the Freedom Party, which has nine seats in the Dutch parliament, he has also called for the banning of the Koran in the Netherlands.
Last Mod: 30 Mart 2008, 17:27