The speaker of the European parliament has strongly condemned the recent anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. But he in his turn has been roundly criticised for giving in to extremists. The film continues to provoke fierce reactions in the Western as well as the Arab world.
“I condemn strongly not only the content but also the distribution of such a movie, which is humiliating the feelings of a lot of people all over the world,” said a press statement issued yesterday by Martin Schulz, the speaker of the European parliament, in reaction to the amateur video that has led to sometimes violent protests throughout the Islamic world.
Dutch Euro-parliamentarian Hans van Baalen is unimpressed: “Schulz should be standing up for the freedom of expression”, the centre-right MEP told a Dutch radio station.
“This denunciation puts him on the wrong side of the argument. He’d have been better off saying that while he personally might find it a bad film, it must be possible to make and distribute it”.
According to van Baalen, someone who is on the right side is the Moroccan-Dutch Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Abu Taleb. “He spoke out for freedom of expression and advised Muslims to ignore the film”. Van Baalen emphasised that Abu Taleb is himself a Muslim.
Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders was also quick to condemn Schulz’s statement. Via Twitter, Wilders called him a ‘coward’ who had ‘sentenced freedom of speech to death’.
Wilders ‘not wanted’
Meanwhile, Wilders himself has become the focus of heated discussion on the other side of the world. In Australia, the anti-Islam Q-Society is complaining that the government is trying to prevent a planned visit. The group has invited Wilders to give a series of lectures, but while visas were issued immediately to the people who would accompany him to Australia, the politician himself is still waiting, three weeks after applying. “We don´t want to see Geert Wilders in this country”, said one Australian politician. “This country has a great story when it comes to multiculturalism. It is something we should all be proud of. And here we have a man who is the antithesis of multiculturalism.” The minister responsible says a final decision has not yet been made but the government may be concerned that Wilders’ presence could stir up trouble in the current tense climate. A recent demonstration in Sydney against the anti-Islam film ended in riots.
In the US, a suit has been brought against Nakoula Bassily Nakoula the man believed to be the director of Innocence of Muslims. One of the actors in the video, Cindy Lee Garcia, told American website TMZ that Nakoula had duped her into a “hateful” film. She claims she had no idea the film would be about Islam and was led to believe it was a desert adventure movie. According to Garcia, the dialogue was changed during post-production to suggest she made insulting remarks about the prophet Mohammed. Garcia has now gone into hiding, saying she has received death threats since the film was released.
France is also in an uproar after satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo it was the right moment to show solidarity with freedom of expression by publishing cartoons ridiculing Mohammed. The magazine’s Editor in Chief said the drawings “will shock those who want to be shocked.” Muslims both within and outside France have called on the French government to take action but Foreign Minister Manuel Valls argues that the French law guarantees freedom of expression. France is braced for protest and has closed its embassies, consulates and schools in Muslim countries as a precaution.