(CNSNews.com) - It wasn't an April Fool's joke after all: Dutch politician Geert Wilders has posted his short film on the Qur'an online, as promised, before the end of March. Within hours, millions of people had accessed it.
The film juxtaposes graphic images of Islamist terrorism -- including bombings and beheadings -- with verses from the Qur'an, footage of Muslim clerics endorsing violence, and newspaper headlines dealing with various aspects of radical Islam.
In recent months reports on the planned film, entitled Fitna (an Arabic word in the Qur'an translated as "strife" or "ordeal"), have prompted reactions in the Islamic world ranging from allegations of blasphemy and diplomatic maneuvers to angry street demonstrations.
European authorities warned of more violence to come, and the Dutch government urged Wilders to drop the plan. Dutch television channels declined to broadcast his film.
Wilders' earlier attempts to post the movie on a Web site he registered for that purpose ran into trouble when the U.S.-based hosting company suspended it, citing complaints, even though the site was merely a holding page with no accessible content.
The right-wing lawmaker subsequently succeeded in getting the film posted on the British video sharing site, LiveLeak. Despite a few hitches overnight, as of early Friday morning (U.S. eastern daylight time) the English version had been viewed more than 2.5 million times and the Dutch one 2.7 million times, according to figures on the site.
LiveLeak said in a statement it did not endorse the views expressed in the film, and that many of those involved with the site found some of the material offensive. But, it added, "our being offended is no reason to deny Mr. Wilders the right to have his film seen. Pre-emptive censorship or a discriminatory policy towards freedom of speech are both things we oppose here."
Earlier, weeks of delays in the film's expected release sparked some speculation that the whole thing was an experiment or elaborate hoax, with Wilders using the threat of the film to draw out reactions -- from Muslims and European governments alike -- and so prove his contention that Islam brooks no criticism, and that Western governments will bend over backwards to appease radical Muslims.
Fueling the hoax theory was a Web site set up with a similar URL to Wilders' -- and since taken down -- where a message read in part: "It should be fairly obvious by now that there is no 'Fitna' movie ... we all know the month of April starts with the 1st April and that day is famous for (practical) jokes ... if you are here to find the Famous Fitna movie I guess you have been had. On the other hand, if you are worried about how much unrest the rumor of a 15 minute movie about Islam can create, maybe it is time to identify and deal with the issues at hand."
But Wilders last week assured supporters and detractors that it was not an April Fool's joke, and on Thursday the film was finally available for people to view and judge for themselves.
'Tear out the hateful verses'
Running at just over 16 minutes, it begins with a warning about shocking images to follow, then gives a glimpse of the most infamous of the 12 "Mohammed" cartoons published by Danish newspapers in 2005 -- the one depicting the prophet's turban as a bomb with a lit fuse.
A digital clock starts ticking down, and a translation of a verse from the Qur'an (sura 8:30) appears: "Prepare for them whatever force and cavalry ye are capable of gathering to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies ..."
Newsclips then show hijacked planes being flown into New York's World Trade Center in September 2001, people fleeing in fear, falling bodies, and a voiceover of a phone conversation with a terrified person inside the building.
Scenes of Islamist bombing attacks in Madrid (March 2004) and London (July 2005) follow, as do images of victims' bodies, interlaced with quotations by radical Arab and Iranian clerics.
"What makes Allah happy?" one asks. "Allah is happy when non-Muslims get killed ..." Declares another: "Annihilate the infidels and the polytheists ... Allah, count them and kill them to the last one."
"We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again," a preacher tells his congregants. "The day will come when we will rule America."
The film also shows a three-year-old Muslim girl saying Jews are "apes and pigs," images of protesting Muslims holding signs such as "Be prepared for the real Holocaust" and "God bless Hitler," and a clip showing terrorists beheading a Western hostage in Iraq.
Among the scenes featured is one of Albanian Muslims desecrating a church in Kosovo, taken from a video posted by Cybercast News Service in 2005.
Wilders' film features fragments of interviews with the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a critic of Islamism who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004, and newspaper headlines relating to Islamic death threats against others, including British author Salman Rushdie, former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Wilders himself.
Interspersed with the images are other verses from the Qur'an, including 4: 56 ("Those who have disbelieved our signs, we shall roast them in fire"); 47:4 ("Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks ..."); and 8:39 ("Fight them until there is no dissension and the religion is entirely Allah's").
Wilders then turns to his own country, which he says is "under the spell of Islam." The film notes that the number of Muslims there has risen over the past century from 54,000 to 944,000 in 2004, having more than doubled in number since 1990 alone. (The total population of the Netherlands is around 16 million).
One of the rumors circulating about the film in recent months held that it would feature Wilders tearing up a copy of the Qur'an.
Towards the end, the film shows a hand turning a page of an Arabic Qur'an. Over a blank screen, a ripping noise follows, and then the words, "The sound you heard was a page being removed from the phonebook. For it is not up to me, but for Muslims themselves, to tear out the hateful verses from the Qur'an."
Wilders ends by noting that Nazism was crushed in 1945 and Communism fell in 1989. "Now," he concludes, "the Islamic ideology has to be defeated."