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H&A REPORT: Possible reactions in Asia to the release of anti-Koran movie "Fitna"

March 6, 2008

Hill & Associates Risk Consulting (S) Pte Ltd

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RIGHT-WING POLITICIAN DETERMINED TO RELEASE MOVIE

Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders is reportedly in talks this week with broadcasters in the Netherlands to air his 15-minute movie, which is said to portray Islam's holy book as a "fascist" text that incites violence and preaches the oppression of women and homosexuals. He has demanded that his movie be broadcasted in its entirety, and has also said he intends to make it available on the Internet at www.fitnathemovie.com. The website reportedly went "live" on Wednesday (Mar 5), showing a picture of the cover of the Koran. Called "Fitna", an Arabic term used to describe strife or discord, the movie is yet another of Wilders' many provocative statements; the right-wing politician had previously warned of a "tsunami of Islamisation" sweeping the Netherlands, and has proposed radical solutions to this perceived threat, including calling for the Koran to be banned and declaring that Muslims should tear up half the Koran if they want to live in the country. Wilders' Party for Freedom won nine of the Dutch parliament's 150 seats in recent elections, and has gained support in opinion polls, one of which conducted by the Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation had identified him as the country's politician of the year. The Netherlands' national anti-terrorism coordinator has told Wilders he may have to leave the country for his own safety amid reports of death threats on Islamic militant websites. Wilders has reportedly lived under a 24-hour security watch since the 2004 murder of film maker Theo van Gogh as a result of the latter's movie, "Submission", which was a fictional study of abused Muslim women with scenes of almost-naked women with Koranic texts engraved on their bodies.

SURVEY SHOWS DUTCH IN FAVOUR OF MOVIE BROADCAST

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance had in February accused Wilders' political party of "stigmatising, stereotyping and even outright racist discourse targeting Muslims". Noting that the behaviour and rhetoric went largely unchallenged by the Netherlands' mainstream political parties, it also called on the Dutch government to do more to fight "Islamophobia". It said Muslims in the Netherlands faced mounting violence and discrimination. A survey conducted by Dutch market research firm TNS NIPO showed that 54 percent of the 600 Netherlands residents polled on February 29 thought Wilders' movie should be broadcast. This despite 76 percent of respondents expecting tension between Muslims and non-Muslims to increase, and 74 percent anticipating worsening relations with Arab nations. Dutch Muslims Expected To File Criminal Complaint The approximately 850,000 Muslims residing in the Netherlands ­ constituting about 5 percent of the total population ­ have to date refrained from reacting strongly to the production of the movie. However, the moderate National Moroccan Council, which said it is trying to "neutralise the threat", does not rule out violence. The government has also warned municipalities to be on alert for rioting as a result of the movie's release. Amsterdam police have conducted interviews with religious leaders and other influential personalities in the Muslim community to prepare for such negative reactions, and scenario planning for major public disorder and disruptive incidents have also been undertaken.

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On their part, Dutch Muslims are expected to file criminal complaints for racial or religious vilification, according to media reports, and prosecutors would have to decide whether to charge Wilders with any offence. Dutch Muslims have also reportedly said they want to open mosques on the day the movie is released to demonstrate tolerance and diffuse tension. Government Hopes To Ban Movie Meanwhile, the government is said to be looking into whether there are legal grounds to ban the movie, fearing attacks on its citizens and businesses. Local media have reported that the coalition government is divided: the Christian Democrats are favouring a ban, while Labour is maintaining the need to uphold freedom of expression, calling on Muslim countries to prevent violence against Dutch interests. Development Minister Bert Koenders cancelled his February 29 trip to Somalia as a result of "specific threats" linked to the movie, and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has warned that the Netherlands risks economic sanctions and attacks against its troops currently in Afghanistan. Balkenende also told reporters last week that it was the government's responsibility to "make clear to everyone that the views and actions of this one elected representative are not those of the government", and that "we guarantee freedom of expression and of religion, for Muslims as for everyone else". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also informed its diplomatic posts to explain to their host countries that the Dutch cabinet has distanced itself from the film.

PROTESTS ALREADY OCCURRING IN PAKISTAN, INDONESIA

Many fear a repeat of protracted street demonstrations, rioting and other violence that erupted in many Muslim countries in early 2006 after caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed were published in Denmark's newspapers. At least 50 people were reportedly killed and three Danish embassies were attacked in the ensuing violence. Reports of Wilders' movie and his attempts to broadcast it have to date provoked reactions in several Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. Approximately 5,000 Afghans protested on Wednesday against the movie and a recent re-publication of one of the Prophet Mohammed caricatures in Denmark. Afghan protesters also burned Dutch flags over the past weekend, calling for the withdrawal of Dutch troops from the country's volatile south; the Taleban has also warned it would step up attacks against these troops if the "insulting" movie was broadcast. Pakistan Government Condemns Anti-Islam Acts Reactions in Asia have already come from Pakistan and Indonesia, with the former lodging a formal protest with the Dutch ambassador and promising to not only raise the issue in Brussels, the Vatican and The Hague, but also discuss it at an Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit in Senegal this month. Pakistan had also adopted a parliamentary resolution as recently as last week, condemning efforts to denigrate Islam and promote hatred. Its foreign office said on Wednesday that the Wilders movie was "tantamount to propagating the politics of hate and promoting xenophobia in Europe", and cannot be justified. Pakistan also ordered Internet service providers last week to restrict access to popular video-sharing website YouTube, allegedly to prevent Pakistanis from watching a video clip of Wilders making derogatory remarks about Islam; the move inadvertently caused a brief worldwide outage of the site.

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Protests Likely In Major Cities, May Turn Violent Notwithstanding government moves to register disapproval, and the current political uncertainty in the country, Hill & Associates sources state that protests and other demonstrations are likely to occur in major cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar, and that the probability of these turning violent is "medium to high". Sentiment and the extent of the reaction in Pakistan will also depend on the reaction of other Muslim countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Malaysia. However, sources note that the burning of effigies and the Dutch flag is very likely, given past protest activity and the reaction in 2006 to the Prophet Mohammed caricatures. More Islamic Groups Expected To Demonstrate In Indonesia In Indonesia, where anti-Dutch sentiment has at times been high because of the country's colonial past, protesters from the Indonesian arm of the international Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) organisation had already demonstrated outside the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta on February 20 against Wilders' movie. The event saw approximately 100 female HuT members hand over a protest letter to Embassy officials and deliver speeches before peacefully dispersing; sources reported that there was little disruption to traffic in the vicinity of the Embassy. HuT, which aims to restore the Muslim Caliphate and establish Islamic (Sharia) law, is considered by many to be hardline and is banned in a number of countries. However, in Indonesia it is largely campus-based and members are active in political advocacy and religious propagation. It also operates a publishing house; its appeal across Indonesia's social classes is based on its ideological framework and professional materials. Thousands of members typically attend HuT's protests at the US Embassy in Jakarta, and in August 2007 at least 80,000 supporters attended a HuT conference in Jakarta's Senayan stadium. Large Crowds, Violence A Possibility As in the case of the anti-Wilders demonstration on February 20, the Indonesian government is likely to allow more such protests in future; this in order to avoid being seen as stifling Muslim sentiments. Islamic groups such as Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiah ­ Indonesia's two largest groups preaching moderate Islam ­ as well as the Indonesian Council of Muslim Scholars (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI), and the more radical Indonesian Mujahidin Council (Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia or MMI) and Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam or FPI) are likely to protest, albeit to varying degrees. Sources indicate that more protests are expected in the lead-up to and after the release of Wilders' movie, and that the demonstrations are likely to be rowdy and attract large crowds. Such protests are by no means restricted to Jakarta; they may also occur in other parts of Java and in provinces such as Sumatra and Sulawesi, among others. The possibility of violence exists; members of FPI vented their anger over the Prophet Mohammed caricatures in February 2006 by protesting and destroying property inside the lobby of the Menara Rajawali building in central Jakarta, which houses the Danish Embassy. The protesters, who threatened to burn the lobby when they were refused access to the Embassy, had also set ablaze effigies and tyres. However, Indonesia's security agencies will deploy personnel to monitor demonstrations and ensure that even the most emotionally charged protests do not spiral out of control. Groups intending to protest are also required to inform police in advance ­ this process helps decrease the likelihood of spontaneous protest activity, as such demonstrations would be deemed illegal, and action can be swiftly taken against organisers and unruly participants.

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LIMITED PROTESTS LIKELY IN OTHER ASIAN COUNTRIES

Protests against Wilders' movie are also likely in other Asian countries with a Muslimmajority population, such as Bangladesh and Malaysia. Those with smaller Muslim communities, such as India, Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines, may see possible demonstrations with limited disruption; while minimal grassroots reaction is expected in countries such as China, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Hill & Associates sources in these countries indicate that the respective governments and their security agencies are likely to be in control and able to maintain calm in the event of protest activity. The governments would also put in place measures to ensure the security of Dutch interests ­ including embassies, schools and other institutions ­ along with those of other western nations, should the situation necessitate. Bangladesh Bangladesh is currently under a state of emergency, with increased police and military presence on the streets. Political activity has been banned after emergency was declared on Jan 11, 2007, and nationwide elections scheduled for January 22 that year were postponed indefinitely. Illegal demonstrations, street rallies and public gatherings, however, can develop with little or no warning in major cities and provincial centres; spontaneous protests do take place in Bangladesh from time to time in response to world events or local developments, and demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn violent. Violent protests involving thousands of demonstrators occurred in several cities in Bangladesh in August 2007, during the state of emergency. Authorities imposed a curfew to restore calm. Sources note that Bangladeshis had reacted to the Prophet Mohammed caricatures in 2006 with large demonstrations in Dhaka, Chittagong and other cities. Opposition parties also held demonstrations, attracting thousands of participants to chant slogans against European countries. India Sources report that religious groups have been active in past protests on Muslim-related issues, and that it is likely they would get involved if controversy over the Wilders movie grows in India. The following groups were identified as possibly staging protests in India: Jamait Ulama-i-Hind; All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen; Jamaat-e-Islami Hind; All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat; All India Sunni Jamat-Ul-Ulema and Ulema Association. Sources indicate that the likelihood of protests turning violent and disrupting travel or public order is low, as national leaders and political parties would call for calm and help restore peace. However, isolated incidents of violence cannot be ruled out, as was seen during protests against the Prophet Mohammed caricatures. Strikes and shutdowns are also possible, while flag and effigy burning would be likely during protests. Hong Kong This special administrative region of China is known for its tolerance of protest activity and an efficient police force capable of handling riot situations in the form of the well-trained Police Tactical Unit, which is able to turn out at very short notice. Civic groups in Hong Kong may speak on behalf of or in unity with the Muslim community, but the Muslim community is not known to have organised violent protests in the past and protesters in Hong Kong are typically law-abiding. Sources indicate that protests, if any, would likely involve a peaceful event outside the office building housing the Dutch consulate, and a petition delivered to officials there.

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Malaysia Although it is a Muslim-majority country, Malaysia is currently pre-occupied with the political machinations of its 12th general elections. March 8 may be Election Day, but controversial developments in the electoral process and claims of vote fraud will likely plague the government and occupy the minds of the electorate ­ including Islamic groups ­ in the weeks following the elections. The likelihood of Islamic groups staging mass protests is low; should demonstrations occur, these would likely be organised, peaceful and localised. Sources note that groups such as the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or ABIM), which is considered to be one of the most organised forces in Islamic revivalism in Malaysia, as well as political party Islamic Party of Malaysia (Parti Islam se Malaysia or PAS) and the youth wing of the ruling majority United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, would be one of the first few to protest. Philippines The southern Philippines is home to the vast majority of the country's 10 million Muslims. Thus, protest activity would likely be localised and limited to areas in Mindanao or the Sulu archipelago; demonstrations targeting the Dutch Embassy in Manila are not likely to occur. Sources also indicate that Muslims in the Philippines are not capable of mounting wellcoordinated protests tantamount to civil unrest or disorder; the pervading reality is that the Wilders movie may not reach the majority of Muslims, who typically live in isolated and under-developed areas in Mindanao. Tribal chiefs, the heads of clan associations, and Muslim politicians also tend to act to further their own political interests. Thailand According to sources, the government ­ more specifically, the Cultural Ministry ­ is not likely to allow any film that shows disrespect to the Koran or Muslims in general. Thailand has restricted access to websites in the past; it blocked Thai Internet users from accessing YouTube for several weeks last year because of content deemed as insulting the Thai king. Protests, if any, would likely be organised by mosques or Muslim business owners. Sources also indicate that such protests would be peaceful, albeit noisy, and held outside the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok; these would also be localised and closely monitored as the Dutch Embassy is located behind US Embassy and US Ambassador's residence. Police would likely employ tougher measures if the protests prove to be protracted, block traffic or in any way approach violent behaviour. Sources note that even if there was a call to boycott Dutch products, most Thais would have trouble recognising them. A major Thai company, Dutch Mill, may be a recipient of misunderstood protests; its head office is in southern Bangkok on Sirithorn Road. Limited Reaction In China, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan Singapore and mainland China do not tolerate public protests, and authorities in these countries will not hesitate to clamp down on demonstrations. Singapore allows indoor protests, but sources state that even these require organisers to apply for permits to stage them. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore will likely express its unhappiness over the Wilders movie via a public statement. Reaction to the movie will be muted in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, according to sources, as the Muslim population in these countries form a small minority and have historically not over-reacted to such events.

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HILL & ASSOCIATES' ADVICE TO CLIENTS

Clients are advised to be alert for protests and pay attention to media coverage of reactions to the Wilders movie in other countries, which may highlight the issue. Clients nominally or otherwise affiliated or associated with Dutch interests may want to exercise a raised level of security awareness. Clients in countries where the threat of protests and larger scale disruption is greater are advised to conduct internal housekeeping by ensuring that communications, such as warden lists, are current; that individuals remain contactable; and that staff continue to monitor their media sources to remain informed on the developing issue. Clients should also consider avoiding the vicinity of the Dutch embassy and consulatesgeneral in their respective Asian countries, especially when the movie is first broadcast and/or released on the Internet. Clients may want to familiarise themselves with the location of Dutch embassies ­ the addresses are provided in the table below. Hill & Associates is closely monitoring developments and will advise as necessary.

LOCATION OF DUTCH EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES-GENERAL IN ASIA

COUNTRY

EMBASSY LOCATION

REMARKS

Australia

Canberra: 120 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (Embassy) Sydney: Level 23, Tower 2, Westfield Bondi Junction, 101 Grafton Street, Bondi Junction, NSW 2022 (Consulate-General)

Bangladesh Cambodia China

Road 90, House 49, Gulshan II, Dhaka Refer to "Thailand" Beijing: No 4 Liangmahe Road (South), Beijing 100600 (Embassy) Shanghai: 4/F East Tower, Sun Plaza, 88 Xianxia Road, Shanghai 200336 (Consulate-General)

Hong Kong

Suite 5702, 57/F, Cheung Kong Centre, 2 Queens Road Central (ConsulateGeneral) New Delhi: 6/50 F, Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021 (Embassy) Mumbai: Forbes Building, 1st Floor, Charanjit Rai Marg, Mumbai 400001 (Consulate-General)

India

Indonesia Japan

Jalan HR Rasuna Said S-3, Kuningan, Jakarta 12950 Tokyo: Shibakoen 3-6-3, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 (Embassy) Osaka: Twin 21 MID Tower, 33rd Floor, Shiromi 2-1-61, Chuo-ku, Osaka City, 5406133 (Consulate-General)

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COUNTRY

EMBASSY LOCATION

REMARKS Refer to "Thailand"

Laos Malaysia Myanmar Nepal Bakhundole Height, Lalitpur, Nepal, PO Box 1966, Kathmandu, Nepal (ConsulateGeneral) Wellington: PO Box 840, Cnr. Ballance & Featherston Street Auckland: PO Box 3816, Equitable House, 1st floor, 57 Symonds Street (Consulate-General) Pakistan Islamabad: House No 28, Margalla Road, F-7/3, PO Box 1065, Islamabad-44000 (Embassy) Karachi: Bungalow No D-19, Block 7, Kehkashan, Clifton (Consulate-General) Philippines 26th Floor, Equitable PCI Bank Tower, 8751 Paseo de Roxas, Makati City, Metro Manila 541 Orchard Road, #13-01, Liat Towers, Singapore 238881 Kyobo Bldg 14th Floor, Jongno 1-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-714 Hilton Residences, Staple Street, Colombo 5F, No 133, Min Sheng East Road, Section 3, Taipei-105 (Netherlands Trade & Investment Office) 15 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Hanoi: Daeha Office Tower, 6th floor, 360 Kim Ma Street, Ba Dinh (Embassy) Ho Chi Minh City: Saigon Tower, suite 901, 29 Le Duan Boulevard, District 1 (Consulate-General) 7th Floor, South Block, The Ampwalk, 218 Jalan Ampang, 50480 Kuala Lumpur

Refer to "Thailand"

New Zealand

Singapore South Korea Sri Lanka Taiwan

No formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan

Thailand Vietnam

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