Monday, March 17, 2008

Dutch in Oman brace for impact

The Dutch community in Oman is bracing itself for the expected reaction to the infamous Geert Wilders film 'Fitna'. Briefings from the Embassy have taken place, and emergency planning completed in Dutch-related businesses in the Sultanate (like Shell and KLM). After failing to get a TV station to air the film (which he says is now ready), he’s now just going to release it on internet. He has said he will release the film on 28th March.

This is one of those times I’m very glad that the ROP and Oman Internal Security are so damn good. Compared to many other Omani Government Departments, trust me, these guys are world class. Computerised and pretty much state-of-the–art surveillance of communications, good human intel, and a pretty sensible approach to their job too [a special thanks for that, guys]. There are good reasons why Oman spends more than 25% of the Government budget on Internal Security.

Interestingly, Omantel have yet to block the sites, or Perhaps they arte waiting for the film to be posted before acting? Although it seems clear that the press in Oman are being encouraged to not report the thing, which is probably a wise use of the considerable powers of censorship the Government have here. After all, freedom of speech in Holland is one thing, but there is also freedom to ignore him, and freedom to make it as hard as possible to get the Omani population to overreact.

There are also many anti-Wilders film sites springing up too, for example this one is pretty cute.

I’ve taken the liberty to post some pretty important facts that might help people that are perhaps less accepting of free speech understand what's going on.
Geert Wilders is an elected politician who does have a base of support. He is, however, not part of the Dutch government. During the last democratic elections in the Netherlands he received a minority vote and is therefore part of the opposition. The reason that Wilders received support is not only because of his critical view on the Islam. It can also be attributed to the fact that the electorate seems to miss an alternative in the current Dutch political landscape.

Unfortunately Geert Wilders has done something that we find unwise. He holds the nation hostage by announcing a film that, without even having been released, has begun to start planting hatred and conflict.

We believe in solutions and an open dialogue. We believe in talking with each other, listening to each other and respecting each other. Freedom of speech is a great good. Living together in peace and respecting each other are too.

We have set up this website to give Dutch people an opportunity to show the world that Geert Wilders does not speak on behalf of Holland, but on behalf of himself. So remember, 'Fitna' is not a Dutch Islam film, nor is it a film of the Dutch government. It is a film privately made by Geert Wilders and expresses his views, not that of the Dutch.
Basically, he's a right-wing populist politician, using this issue to polarize the Dutch electorate by making a grey issue into a black and white one. He’s also being, politically speaking, pretty cunning. If Islamists react with threats and violence, he is simply getting them to both prove his point and allow him to justify the broadcast with a huge See, I told you how violent they are! If they protest peacefully, he gets publicity; if there are no protests, he can continue and even claim tacit support!

However, if I was Dutch and living in Oman, I'd start stocking up on stroopwafels and Heineken now, before the bans come into place. At least they managed to hold the annual Omani Dutch Community OranjeBall earlier this month, as it was looking like a security nightmare waiting to happen…


  1. Thanks for the post. Your assumption that the omani people will "over-react" and that censorship is needed to control the "natives" is very patronisng and offensive. I have increasingly noticed that expats in the kiddle east take such thinly concealed attitudes of racism in their attempt to live out a British Raj-esque lifestyle. Apologies for being so honest but that is what comes across from your post.

    It is because of these attitudes that democracy is considered such a tainted currency because it is always at the expense of curtailed freedom of the other.

  2. Nav,

    Its not 'my assumption' - it's your press! Have you seen any stories about the cartoons or Geert's film in Oman (apart from the boycott press release)?

    I actually think the opposite - that Oman IS ready for a more open intellectual debate in the media on real issues. Because your certainly not getting one now.

    Perhaps its YOUR assumption that 'expats in the Middle East' want to live a Raj-esque lifestyle' and are racists?

    But thanks for the feedback. I'll try and be clearer in future.

  3. Does Oman really spend 25% on internal security? Does that include defence or is this just the huge network of plain clothed taxi drivers who everyone assumes are ISS spies?

  4. The part where you say "If Islamists react with threats ..." is very true, I took this part and posted in my blog with Arabic translation and links.

    As for the film links, it seems they are open now, either this or that the filters at Omantel are off for a while, and there is nothing on them but:

    De website op deze domeinnaam is opgeheven. Meer info:
    = The website at this domain has been lifted. More info:

    Has been Lifted!!

  5. Muscati,
    That's all internal security, incl. ROP and defense. It's down from closer to 33% in the 80s, but it represents a huge proportion of GDP.

    See (Quote:) The government allocated nearly a quarter of planned expenditures or 1.4 billion Omani riyals for defence and security matters. The figure represents some 13 per cent rise over the allocated amount in the last fiscal. Omani officials are worried about developments in the region, notably the possible fallout of military confrontation between the US and Iran, in addition to instability in different parts of the world. (end quote)

  6. As close as earlier this decade Oman was spending 40% of its budget on Defense. If you count the police, internal security, and the royal office, I am sure Oman is spending well over 25% of the present year's budget on internal security.

  7. My apologies about my comments, borne out of frustration from conversations i have had with some expats and their attitudes. i was reading more into what you were saying than you were actually saying.



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