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Forbes/AFX News Limited: Dutch govt plays down worries over political fallout from anti-Islam film

01.18.08, 9:32 AM ET
(Update adds academic’s comments)

THE HAGUE (Thomson Financial) – The Dutch government has played down reports it is growing increasingly concerned about possible political and social fallout from a planned anti-Islamic film.

According to media reports, the government held crisis talks over the film by far-right MP Geert Wilders, which is sharply critical of Islam and of the Koran. The film is due to be released this month.

Authorities have also prepared for a possible evacuation of Dutch embassies and citizens from the Middle East in the event of the film’s planned release going ahead, De Volkskrant newspaper and RTL-news said.

But a foreign ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse that there are no special emergency measures in place for Wilders’ film.

‘We always have scenarios for possible calamities … abroad. They are regularly updated. There is no reason to believe the Dutch government is now implementing an emergency scenario and there is no reason now to evacuate anybody.’ he said.

Wilders heads the Freedom Party, which holds nine of the 150 seats in parliament. He has received a number of death threats and has been under round-the-clock protection since 2004.

Amsterdam University economics professor Arnaud Boot said it is a wise response from the Dutch government to at least prepare for a possible negative fallout from the film.

‘But I don’t think it (the fallout) will have a material impact on the Dutch financial markets or the aggregate economy. It could have an impact on individual companies in sensitive industries, however,’ he said.

Boot said companies such as Royal Dutch Shell (nyse: RDSA – news – people ) or financial institutions might be affected.

He added that there is a risk that public or government-backed boycotts of individual Dutch companies or products will be launched in response to the film, warning also that terrorist or fundamentalist responses cannot be ruled out either.

In terms of the domestic response, Boot said the focus now is on the Dutch government’s efforts in recent years to enter into dialogue with various ethnic groups.

‘The question now is whether it is enough to have prepared and to obtain from these groups a more moderate and isolated response rather than widespread unrest,’ the professor said.

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