Is another “West-versus-Islam” clash on the horizon?

Two Dutch politicians seem to be doing their best to stir up a controversy with Muslims. The far-right MP Geert Wilders says he wants to make a film for television about the Koran. Ehsan Jami, an Iranian-born local councillor who launched a Committee of Ex-Muslims in September, plans a film called “The Life of Mohammad.” Both are due to be ready early next year.

The body of murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh, 2 Nov. 2004Shades of the bloody protests over the Danish Prophet Mohammad cartoons and Theo van Gogh‘s murder for his film “Submission”…

Are we in for another “free-speech-versus-blasphemy” (or, to put it more bluntly, “West-versus-Islam”) clash?

Geert WildersWilders, who has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and called for it to be banned, says he only wants to express his opinions. “It is not my intention to offend people. I just want to illustrate my opinions, which I have expressed as a member of parliament,” he said. “If people do feel offended, that is a shame, but it is not my problem.” The Dutch justice and foreign ministers have met him to discuss the risks to himself and Dutch interests abroad if he makes the film. Jami says his film will “stir up more dust than the Danish Mohammad cartoons,” according to an Ehsan Jamiinterview with him in the Amsterdam daily De Telegraaf. “I show how violent and tyrannical Mohammad was. This man murdered three Jewish tribes, killed people who left the faith and married a 6-year-old girl, with whom he had sex when she was 9 … I will give 50,000 euros to anyone who can refute these facts.”

Is this a train crash just waiting to happen? Has anybody learned anything from the Dutch and Danish cases? Should anybody take precautions to prevent a clash — and if so, who should take which ones?

Thai Buddhists seek blasphemy law to punish offences against their faith

A Thai Buddhist monk rides an elephant to a protest in Bangkok, April 25, 2007The leading role monks played in the September protests against Myanmar’s military rulers has put the spotlight on the politically active side of Buddhism.

Next door in Thailand, this activism takes a quite different form. Buddhist groups there tried in vain earlier this year to have Buddhism declared the country’s official religion in its new post-coup constitution.

In April, they converged on parliament in Bangkok — some riding into the city on elephants — to highlight their demand.