Debate about Geert Wilders and his anti-Koran film Fitna is everywhere in Holland. Newspapers, television shows and private conversations are awash with apprehension.
Since the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, and the hounding into exile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders is the most prominent critic of Islam in Holland. With his shock of blond hair and startlingly frank language, the MP and leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom is instantly recognisable.
But what about Fitna — the movie that no one has seen, but everyone, including the Dutch government, has already condemned for being likely to kick off the next round in the violent confrontation between radical Islam and European liberalism?
A few days before I saw Wilders last week, Holland’s Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, held a press conference calling for the film to be halted. Others have followed suit. ‘The government leaked that the movie was coming,’ says Wilders. ‘Our foreign minister went to Syria and said what they said to every diplomat all over the world… Listen, there is a movie, we are fully against this movie… So they created a huge thing, almost a self-fulfilling prophecy because, thanks to the government, it was now known from Timbuktu to Afghanistan that there will be a movie.’
The government has tried legal threats, financial and moral blackmail — including the claim that the movie will make Dutch troops in Afghanistan a target — to persuade Wilders to pull the movie. For their part, al-Qa’eda has issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims everywhere to try to kill Wilders. Even for a man who has been under 24-hour security protection for three and a half years (‘It’s something that you don’t wish for your worst enemy’) this is a new order of threat.