There have been several sporadic protests in Pakistan against Dutch politician Geert Wilders'
anti-Koran film "Fitna" in recent weeks. But on Sunday, the demonstrations took on a new quality when more than 25,000 Pakistanis took to the streets of Karachi. Dutch, Danish and American flags went up in flames and the protesters demanded the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador.
The 15-minute film, released on the Internet last month, interposes images of the terrorist attacks in New York and Madrid with headlines reporting Islamic violence. Verses from the Koran are sprinkled throughout. It also shows the Muhammad cartoons, whose publication in Denmark in 2005 caused massive protests throughout the Muslim world.
Wilders, a right-wing populist, said he intended "Fitna" -- which means "strife" -- as a "warning" to the Dutch people about the growing Muslim presence in the Netherlands and Europe. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende condemned the film while putting evacuation plans for Dutch embassies in the Arab world in place.
Pakistani police reported the attendance of 25,000 at the weekend demonstration while organizers claimed more than 100,000. Roughly 5,000 activists from the religious party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) took part. Their leader Munawar Hasan held the Koran in one hand and a sword in the other, mimicking images in the film. He said people who insult Muslims should be declared terrorists.
"This is freedom to provoke, freedom to incite. This freedom is not to hurt people, it is not to hurt sentiments," Hasan said.
Pakistan's upper house of parliament has spoken out against the film, which it considers to be an attempt to slander Islam and promote hatred.