Zainal Abd Halim/REUTERS Members of Parti Islam se-Malaysia shout slogans and carry posters outside the Netherlands Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on April 4, 2008, to condemn the production and the broadcast of the anti-Islam film …
Canadian security officials closely monitored last year’s release of a Dutch film about Islam, fearing it could spark violent protests, documents released under the Access to Information Act show.
The National Post has obtained copies of seven intelligence reports, circulated by Ottawa last year, that warn of a possible backlash against the documentary Fitna and Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
“There are concerns that reprinting of the cartoons and the release of the movie could provoke the kind of violent reaction which occurred within some Muslim communities overseas when the cartoons were originally published,” one of the reports says.
The Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, the federal agency that wrote the reports, typically tracks terrorist threats, but the documents show that during four months in 2008 its focus turned to cartoons and movies and whether they would incite Muslims to violence.
More than 100 died in 2006 during worldwide protests by Muslims angry about the Muhammad cartoons. The issue has resurfaced after Yale University Press said it would not include the images in a forthcoming book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, due to fears of violence.
Canada did not experience the anti-cartoon violence that shook Europe and the Muslim world in 2006. Canadian newspapers did not reprint the Danish images at that time and protests in Halifax, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto were peaceful.
But last year, when the cartoons were again reprinted and right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders released his controversial film Fitna on the Internet, ITAC produced a flurry of reports anticipating potential violence.
The first threat assessment report was distributed on Feb. 13, the day Danish newspapers reprinted the Muhammad cartoons. Four more threat reports were circulated in March, when Fitna was released.
The intelligence reports said the film reportedly contained “disparaging remarks and images about Islam and the Koran.” ITAC wrote that its release was “expected to raise tensions and possibly lead to violent protests.”
Additional intelligence reports followed in May and June but no violence ever occurred. “Overall, the Canadian reaction to these publications has been limited,” said a “Secret” report dated May 14.
Canadian Muslims “feel that although the cartoons and films like Fitna are undesirable and inappropriate, ongoing dialogue and peaceful demonstration is preferable to violent protest,” it added.
Yesterday, the Dutch prosecution service said it would not lay charges against Mr. Wilders for republishing the cartoons on his website since the images were not offensive to Muslims and did not incite hatred.