A Dutch lawmaker who produced a film criticizing Islam and its holy book, the Quran, released the piece Thursday by posting it on the Internet.
The 15-minute film by Geere Wilders cites verses of the Quran interspersed with images of violence from terrorist attacks in the United States and Spain and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street.
The Dutch government had warned the legislator that a film offensive to Muslims could spark violent protests in Islamic countries, like those two years ago after European newspapers published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
His movie begins and ends with one of those caricatures of Muhammad, accompanied by the sound of a page being torn from a book.
Subtitles assure viewers that the page was not torn from a Quran, but from a telephone book. "It's not up to me, but the Muslims to tear the hate-sowing pages out of the Koran," the subtitles add.
'Less bad than we thought'
Yusuf Altuntas, of the Contact Group Muslims and Government, said Wilders "is seeking the limits, but not crossing the line. For Mr. Wilders, this is quite subtle."
The film was not as jarring as anticipated, said Maurits Berger, professor of Islam in the West at Leiden University.
"It's a series of images and photos, headlines from recent years which we already know," he said. The film told more about Wilders than the Quran, Berger said. "It represents his fear of Islam."
The film was released the evening before a Dutch judge was due to hear a petition of a Muslim group seeking an independent review of the film to see whether it violates hate speech laws.
The Dutch Islamic Federation was asking the court to impose a fine of $79,000 for every day the film is available to the public.
Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, which appealed for calm in January before the film's release, said he had heard about the film but not yet seen it.
"On the one hand, this is less bad than we thought he was going to do," he said, but Wilders also gives the impression the Quran justifies violence, "and that is really wrong."
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has warned Wilders that his film may harm the country's national interests, and thousands of Dutch demonstrated Saturday in Amsterdam in a protest intended to show that Wilders does not represent the whole country.