But his announcement in late November that he would make a short film to that effect sent the government into a panic. The cabinet met in secret. It ordered foreign embassies to draw up evacuation plans in case of mob violence. It put the mayors of Dutch cities on alert. It arranged meetings with imams and other Muslim representatives, distancing itself from Mr Wilders' positions. The interior, justice and foreign ministers summoned Mr Wilders to meetings, and the country's terrorism co-ordinator warned him that he might have to leave the country for his own security. The government reportedly investigated whether it would be possible to block or delay Mr Wilders's broadcast.
Not that there is anything illogical about taking precautions against radical Islam. When the director, Theo van Gogh, made a 10-minute film critical of Islam in 2004, he was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a Dutch-born Muslim. The printing of cartoons showing the prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked deadly riots around the world. Each time a gauntlet is thrown down, someone will credibly promise violence in the name of Islam. Mr Wilders' film idea was no exception. At the European parliament in Strasbourg last week, Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, Grand Mufti of Syria, warned that Mr Wilders would be responsible for any "violence and bloodshed" that resulted from his film - and that the Dutch people would, in turn, be responsible for reining him in. Noor Farida Ariffin, the departing Malaysian ambassador, told De Volkskrant: "Compared to what I'm expecting, the riots over the Danish cartoons will look like a picnic." --Christopher Caldwell