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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Jihad Comes to The Netherlands


"Education by murder" describes the slow and painful way people wake up to
the problem of radical Islam. It took 3,000 deaths to wake up Americans, or
at least to wake up the half of them who are conservative. Likewise, it took
hundreds of deaths in the Bali explosion to semi-wake up Australians; it
took the Madrid assault for Spaniards, and the Beslan atrocity for Russians.
Twelve workers beheaded in Iraq awoke the Nepalese.

But it took just one death to wake up many Dutch. Indeed, one gruesome
killing may have done more to arouse the Netherlands than September 11,
2001, did for Americans.

The reason for this lies in the identity of the victim and the nature of the
crime. He was Theo van Gogh, 47, a well-known radical libertarian, a
filmmaker, television producer, talk show host, newspaper columnist, and
all-around mischief-maker who enjoyed the distinction of being a relative of
one of Holland's most renowned artists, Vincent van Gogh. In recent years,
Theo garnered attention by critiquing Islam (in a 2003 book Allah Knows Best
and a 2004 film Submission).

He was murdered at 8:40 a.m. on November 2 in his hometown of Amsterdam
while bicycling down a busy street to work. In the course of being shot
repeatedly, Van Gogh beseeched his killer, "Don't do it. Don't do it. Have
mercy. Have mercy!" Then the killer stabbed his chest with one knife and
slit his throat with another, nearly decapitating van Gogh.

The presumed murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, a Dutch-born dual
Moroccan-Dutch citizen, left a five-page note in both Arabic and Dutch
attached to Van Gogh's body with a knife. In it he threatened jihad against
the West in general, ("I surely know that you, Oh Europe, will be
destroyed"), and specifically against five prominent Dutch political

Police investigators quickly realized that the assassin was an Islamist whom
they knew well and had been following until just two weeks earlier; they
also placed him in the "Hofstadgroep" network and charged him and six of his
associates with "conspiracy with a terrorist intent." The authorities
additionally asserted that these had possible connections to the Takfir
wa'l-Hijra and Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

That a non-Muslim critic of Islam was ritually murdered for artistically
expressing his views was something without precedent, not just in Holland
but anywhere in the West. Dutch revulsion at the deed shook the deep
complacency of what is perhaps the world's most tolerant society. The
immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, one of the five persons threatened,
publicly rued the country's having long ignored the presence of radical
Islam. "For too long we have said we had a multicultural society and
everyone would simply find each other. We were too naïve in thinking people
would exist in society together."

Jozias van Aartsen, parliamentary leader of the VVD party, went further,
warning that "jihad has come to the Netherlands and a small group of
jihadist terrorists is attacking the principles of our country. These people
don't want to change our society, they want to destroy it."

One day after the murder, 20,000 demonstrators gathered to denounce the
killing, and 30 people were arrested for inciting hatred against Muslims.
The interior minister, Johan Remkes, announced that he could not rule out
unrest. "The climate is seriously hardened." Proving him right, the next two
weeks saw more than 20 arson and bombing attacks and counterattacks on
mosques, churches, and other institutions, plus some major police raids,
giving the country the feel of a small-scale civil war.

Dutch attitudes toward Muslims immediately and dramatically hardened. A poll
found 40% of the population wanting the nearly million-strong Muslim
community no longer to feel at home in the Netherlands. Double that number
endorsed more stringent policies toward immigrants.

De Telegraaf, a leading paper, published an editorial unimaginable before
the van Gogh murder calling for "a very public crackdown on extremist Muslim
fanatics." Even left-wing politicians woke up to the need to speak "harsh
truths" about immigration, focusing on the disproportionate criminality of

Islamist terrorism in the West is counterproductive because it awakens the
sleeping masses; in brief, jihad provokes crusade. A more cunning Islamist
enemy would advance its totalitarian agenda through Mafia-like intimidation,
not brazen murders.

But if Islamists do continue with overt terrorism, the tough Dutch response
will everywhere be replicated.

-- "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Ben Franklin


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