“He is certainly doing a lot damage and hurting many, but I still believe it would be wrong to censor him,” Özdemir, a member of Germany’s environmentalist Green party, told public broadcastor ZDF.
Özdemir urged Muslims to react moderately to the film, which means “strife” in Arabic. “I hope we won’t see similar pictures to the ones we saw during the caricature crisis,” he said. “We secular Muslims in Europe advocate free speech, and that also means that we have to refrain from such behavior.”
Wilders has said he wants his film to “deepen existing fronts,” rather than inform and enlighten. His target group is “those who believe that Islam presents a great danger.” Wilders obviously wants to encourage these sentiments, Özdemir said.
The debate that Islam really needs, Özdemir said, is within the religion itself, “where young people question certain things, and women question certain things.”
On Thursday evening, right-wing populist Wilders launched his film at the online platform Liveleak, spurring fierce debate that reaches far beyond the Netherlands. The Dutch government immediately distanced itself from the film, which argues there are similarities between Islam and Nazism. Many fear a backlash from the Muslim world similar to the violence that occurred after a Dutch newspaper published an offensive caricature of Mohammad in September 2005.
Not long after the launch, Wilders announced he hoped the film wouldn’t inspire such a backlash, saying that any violence would be the responsibility of the perpetrators. Wilders has been under permanent police protection for some time.