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Fitna, an anti-Islamic film made by Dutch politician Geert Wilders that equates Islam with violence, debuted on Thursday at Web site LiveLeak.com, only to be taken down a day later following threats to LiveLeak's staff.
LiveLeak on Friday afternoon issued a statement explaining its decision: "Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill-informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, LiveLeak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers.
"This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realized LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one.
"Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one another's culture. We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high."
Initial efforts to derail the film proved less successful. Network Solutions on Saturday suspended the Web site where Wilders had been planning to premiere the film, citing complaints about the then unseen film's content.
During the day that the film was available, it prompted widespread condemnation. On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decried Fitna as hate speech.
"I condemn, in the strongest terms, the airing of Geert Wilders' offensively anti-Islamic film," said Ban in a statement. "There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here. I acknowledge the efforts of the Government of the Netherlands to stop the broadcast of this film, and appeal for calm to those understandably offended by it. Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility."
Ban said that the real fault line is not between Muslim and Western nations but a minority of extremists eager to stir strife.
The Organization of The Islamic Conference also denounced the film as blasphemy. OIC Secretary General Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said, "The film is a deliberate act of discrimination against Muslims, incitement for hatred and an act defamation of religions which is solely intended to incite and provoke unrest and intolerance among people of different religious beliefs and to jeopardize world peace and stability."
In the day that Fitna played, it was viewed over 420,000 times. More than 280 comments were posted on LiveLeak.com. And many chose to reply through countervideos, which are still online.
The word "fitna" in Arabic means strife or conflict within a group.
The film may also generate a lawsuit. The BBC reports that Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, known for his cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban, plans to sue Wilders for using his cartoon in the film without permission.