Iran wants European law to squelch anti-Koran film

February 16, 2008

European Court of Human RightsIran has urged the Netherlands to block a planned anti-Koran film, citing Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as the legal basis for doing so. This is the latest twist in the saga surrounding the controversial film by far-right leader Geert Wilders (we’ve blogged on this before). In the letter, Iran’s Justice Minister Gholamhossein Elham asked his Dutch counterpart Ernst Hirsch Ballin to use European human rights law to stop a European from exercising one of those most basic rights. Freedom of expression has been the rallying cry of those who defended the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten for publishing the Mohammad cartoons — and republishing the most controversial one (the turban bomb) this week after a death threat against the artist who drew it.

Protesters set fire to Danish consulate in Beirut, 5 Feb. 2006/Mohamed AzakirThis also raises the question of whether any protest against purported blasphemy against Islam this time might not turn out to be on the streets, as after the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, but in the courts. European Muslim organisations brought court suits against the cartoons in Denmark and in France but lost their cases — thanks to the principle of freedom of expression. Will the Iranian letter inspire any to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Nota bene — Danish imams preached calm at Friday prayers, in contrast to the imams who went to the Middle East to rally opposition to the cartoons when they first came out.

On Friday, Iran’s news agency IRNA reported on the letter, which the Dutch government told NRC Handelsblad it had not yet received. IRNA wrote the following (quotes from Elham in italics):

You can stop the process of this satanic and highly intriguing move resorting to articles in European Convention on Human Rights … We, too, know and respect the freedom of expression, but insulting the sanctities and ethical values on that pretext is totally unacceptable.”

Elham reminded Balin of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, where it states, “…On this basis, observing freedom of expression, keeping in mind the responsibilities thereof, can be restricted in order to avoid the occurrence of chaotic social conditions, commuting crimes, safeguarding ethical values, or the others’ rights.”

Iran’s Justice Minister at the end of his letter to his Dutch counterpart considers the movie insulting against the most sacred sanctity Fitna, by Gilles Kepelof the world Muslims, a satanic move that can intrigue social unrest, and violating the rights of the entire world Muslims, asking for immediate halting of the blasphemous film’s production.

BTW Wilders has announced that his film will be called “Fitna.” That sounds like it was lifted from the book Fitna by French Islam scholar Gilles Kepel , who translates the Arabic term as “a war in the heart of Islam that threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and ruin.”

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