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I miss you, you magnificent bastard.
November 2, 2005 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Life without Theo - one year on. It's not that Holland's cherished troublemaker wasn't aware of the possibility - he had been threatened more than once. He just sincerely believed that no-one would harm the "village idiot", as he liked to call himself (salon link). Today, the skilled polemicist who regarded it his constitutional right to insult anyone but would at the same time engage anyone in reasonable, friendly debate is remembered in various ways. [more inside]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (33 comments total)

 

At a commemoration in Amsterdam this afternoon, mayor Job Cohen emphasized the futility of remembrance without also drawing lessons from the past, using FDR's famous quote to urge his audience to live without fear. He also noted that the problem of immigrants finding their place in Western European society is obviously not specific to Holland, citing recent incidents in Birmingham and Paris as examples (although in regard to specific personal threats, some researchers disagree). In reference to the July 7th attacks he praised Londoners' sense of calm, recommending werenotafraid.com as an example of the power of humour as a weapon.

One year after the lovable, idiosyncratic instigator's life was so hatefully cut short, killer Mohammed Bouyeri (who was recently misquoted by Bush) has been convicted to life in prison, and Theo's cinematic legacy is reinvigorated by American filmmakers (NYT link). However, the Dutch haven't quite yet completely come to terms (NYT).

Previous discussion: 1, 2, 3
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:03 AM on November 2, 2005


Year after murder, Netherlands on edge
With Egyptian mangos and Surinamese prawns stacked alongside Dutch cheeses, the vast open-air Hague Market and its crowds of immigrant shoppers are a multicultural picture that used to make the Netherlands proud. Today, a year after the gruesome murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist, pride has given way to tension and suspicion.

Van Gogh was shot, stabbed and nearly decapitated Nov. 2, 2004, because of a film that 27-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutchman born to Moroccan parents, regarded as insulting to Islam. In the month of violent reactions that followed, authorities counted 174 bias attacks, 47 of them on mosques and 13 on Christian churches.

"You can still feel the difference on the streets," said Marc Verwaal, 17, an ethnic Dutchman on neighborhood watch in the immigrant neighborhood around the Hague Market. "There is more tension and people are on edge."




When freedom of speech butts heads with Islam, people seem to die, or be threatened with death.

Hell, let's hope Omar Sharif isn't next. Maybe he can bunk with Rushdie and Hirsi Ali.

Good post, goodnewsfortheinsane.
posted by jenleigh at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2005


W.R.T. The first link

It seems rather crazy to say that the "whole experiment was a failure" simply because of a single murder. The author claims that Van Gough's murderer was not a 'lone nut'. I don't see how he can claim that, it's just silly. I mean, the guy was alone. And so far there has been no more terrorism in the Netherlands.

I mean, come on. There are thousands of gun-related murders in the US, but do you see us changing our gun laws? Hell no!

---
That said, the Dutch ought to kick these guys out on their asses. Too much of this and they'll end up like America. Controlled by religious nutters.
posted by delmoi at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2005


But this brings up the old paradox. How do you "live and let live" with people fundementaly opposed to the "live and let live philosophy"?
posted by delmoi at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2005


What's so disagreeable is the Islamic zealots migrate into the Netherlands, live on very reasonable welfare and free healthcare, then spit poison into the face of a kind and tolerant society that allows them to live there.

There's a reason there are a million Muslims in Holland, and 4 dutchmen in Turkey. Something to do with a virus and a host.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:21 AM on November 2, 2005


Via The Nation: The Dutch-Muslim Culture War:

Seven months ago, Hirsi Ali's implacable campaign against what she views as Islam's oppression of women prompted a Muslim fanatic to ritually slaughter Theo van Gogh, her Dutch collaborator on the film Submission. The murderer used his knife to affix a five-page letter to the corpse promising the same treatment for Hirsi Ali and another Dutch politician who has criticized Islam. The murder sent Dutch society into paroxysms of rage and fear, sparking dozens of attacks on mosques and schools. But it didn't seem to faze Hirsi Ali. In a series of defiant interviews, the former refugee refused to be intimidated. When a group of Muslims tried to block her from making a sequel to Submission, she fought back in court and won. Like a dark avenging angel, she seemed to loom over Holland's wintry Dutch, her ubiquitous media presence a virtual guarantee of further conflict.
posted by jenleigh at 10:22 AM on November 2, 2005


Oh -- I thought this FPP would be mulling over the possibilities of what Theo (Epstein) will be up to one year from now.
posted by ericb at 10:25 AM on November 2, 2005


I mean, the guy was alone.

Admittedly, I don't think the links in the post explicitly discuss this (I considered mentioning it but decided against it for brevity), but it is now believed he wasn't that alone after all.

The paradox you mention, delmoi, is indeed at the heart of this matter, and the article in The Australian linked in the post touches upon this:
Two things need to happen: First, countries [such as The Netherlands] and Britain need to reverse the counterproductive multiculturalist policies that sheltered radicalism and crack down on extremists. But, second, they also need to reformulate their definitions of national identity to be more accepting of people from non-Western backgrounds.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:27 AM on November 2, 2005


The Jesse Helms, I see your point, and I don't want to head down the slippery slope of discussing the successes and failures of Dutch immigration policy history, but I would at least like to point out that Holland asked them to come here in the first place.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:33 AM on November 2, 2005


jenleigh's link fixed: The Nation: The Dutch-Muslim Culture War.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:36 AM on November 2, 2005


(previously posted and discussed here)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:37 AM on November 2, 2005


goodnewsfortheinsane: It seems like you really don't know much about the ethnic makeup of the Netherlands. It's ridiculous to say that they need to "reformulate their definitions of national identity to be more accepting of people from non-western backgrounds". Britan, maybe, the netherlands? I would say no.

Secondly, the divide is primarily ethnic, not religious. It's Moroccan Muslims, rather then Turkish (or other groups) Muslims who have been causing most of the problems.

Admittedly, I don't think the links in the post explicitly discuss this (I considered mentioning it but decided against it for brevity), but it is now believed he wasn't that alone after all.

I'm sure that animal-rights activist who killed Pym also had friends, but the actual murder was carried out alone. This isn't a suicide bombing, it was a one-on-one murder, same as with Pym.
posted by delmoi at 10:44 AM on November 2, 2005


demoi That said, the Dutch ought to kick these guys out on their asses. Too much of this and they'll end up like America. Controlled by religious nutters.

TheJesseHelms What's so disagreeable is the Islamic zealots migrate into the Netherlands, live on very reasonable welfare and free healthcare, then spit poison into the face of a kind and tolerant society that allows them to live there.

Keep in mind that Pim fortyn , no friend of islamic immigration, was capped by a Dutch animal rights activist. Volkert van der Graaf. No brown skinned boogey man that Volkert.

Political murders? Perhaps. But the evidence seems to be that both were the criminal acts of a twisted individuals.
posted by three blind mice at 10:50 AM on November 2, 2005


What's interesting about all this is that, at its core, this is a question of economic integration into a nation. The United States has millions of Muslims and no domestic Islamic terrorism problem at all. One of the main reasons is probably that Muslims here are economically integrated. (I'd bet that this is also due to the fact that many of those that do come are wealthy to begin with).
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on November 2, 2005


tbm. I agree that the 'terrorism' angle is a bit of a red-hearing. but the problem is that if trends continue as they do, dutch liberals could lose their power to protect gay rights and women's rights. Which is what the fight was all about in the first place.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on November 2, 2005


delmoi: I agree, it is more about Moroccans rather than Turks. I chose the link mainly because it provided a bit of background, not because it dealt with Turkish immigrants in particular. Also, I would like to clarify that I didn't intend to say I support the statements made by the Australian article, just that this particular one touches upon the paradox you mentioned. As far as my knowledge of Holland's ethnic makeup is concerned, I'll take that in stride, having lived here all my life.

Lastly, although Volkert van der Graaf (murderer of Pim Fortuyn) may have had friends (in Dutch, Geocities), none of them were, to our knowledge, aware of his intentions. In contrast, the Hofstad Network, albeit of disputed credibility as a terrorist group, is at the very least a group of people with similar ideas, thus discounting the possibility that Bouyeri was alone in his desire or intention to see van Gogh dead.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:05 AM on November 2, 2005


"friends" link fixed
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:13 AM on November 2, 2005


As a (non-Muslim, but Mediterranean-looking) foreigner living in the Netherlands, I'd like to inject some personal experience into this debate. It has become topic to say that "immigrants have abused Dutch hospitality and tolerance", but the hospitality as such is not really all that evident, and the tolerance rather double-edged.

Multi-culturalism as it has been understood here sometimes comes dangerously close to segregation. Immigrants have been left to "live their own lives" ostensibly in the name of that tolerance, but in reality not least because this allowed the natives to have as little contact as possible with them. One striking thing about this place is just how racially segregated neighbourhoods are. I live close to an important shopping street. Around this end of the street, where there is a small Chinatown, the shoppers are an eclectic mix of race and colour. Walking up the street into the posher shops to the north, I notice how the crowd gradually lightens in skin colour. At the other end, just one or two kilometers away, you'd be hard-pressed to find a non-blonde.

So, communities have been kept separate. But equal? That's an illusion that has been shattered in the last years. Take (again) education. Schools in the Netherlands are privately- or municipally-run but state-funded: every school that satisfies a set of broad conditions and follows the national curriculum gets the same funding per pupil. This system was introduced at the beginning of the XX century so that children from Protestant families, Catholic families and "others" could each be educated within their own "belief system" at the cost of the state (it was indeed considered an important step in Catholic emancipation). So, a large part of the schools are "religious" (even if this means rather little these days) and, what is important, this was actually *meant* to be so. Now, one of the battle cries of the current "realists" is "Ban the Muslim schools". Their approval is getting increasingly difficult. I am *all* for secular education, and I definitely prefer the French model of assimilation to this form of multi-culturalism, but *why* only the Muslim schools? In the Dutch Bible Belt there are some Calvinist communities with state-funded schools still stuck in the 17th century, and *their* 17th century attitudes towards women hardly raise any eyebrow!

In fine, not being a Muslim, never mind a "terrarist", but looking like one in the eyes of many a Dutchman, I think I know how it feels to be prejudged on appearance (and I don't even dare to imagine how some Dutch families would react if I were dating their daughters, for instance...)
posted by Skeptic at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2005


What's interesting about all this is that, at its core, this is a question of economic integration into a nation. The United States has millions of Muslims and no domestic Islamic terrorism problem at all. One of the main reasons is probably that Muslims here are economically integrated. (I'd bet that this is also due to the fact that many of those that do come are wealthy to begin with).

I'm not convinced by the economic idea. They've made this article paid now, but the guy came from a well off moderate Pakistani family and is a well known wannabe martyr. I think you just get local cultures in places, and some idiots who want to be part of something big.
posted by lunkfish at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2005


At first glance I thought this was an article from a Boston Globe of the future.
posted by deadcowdan at 1:50 PM on November 2, 2005


deadcowdan -- so did I (above)..as the FPP was posted two-minutes into Theo's live press conference from Fenway Park.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on November 2, 2005


"Constitutional right" Just what free speech rights are enshrined in what "Constitution"?

As I have said before, at some point, more people will come to wonder, as I do, whether the lunatic fringe of Islam is actually a fringe, or the core actually calling the shots.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2005


PP - this right, in this constitution:

Article 7

1. No one shall require prior permission to publish thoughts or opinions through the press, without prejudice to the responsibility of every person under the law.

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:26 PM on November 2, 2005


Dutch animal rights activist. Volkert van der Graaf.

Seems like a bit of misdirection to always link those two. How about "overworked lawyer" or "arbitrary idealist".

According to the linked article "He said he saw Fortuyn as a steadily increasing danger for vulnerable groups in society, namely Muslims. It was thereby a combination of Fortuyn's stigmatising views, the polarising way that he presented them and the great political power that Fortuyn was threatening to obtain. He saw no other possibility for himself than to end the danger by killing Fortuyn."

So, not some sort of earth first or ELF thing, just more religious terror.
posted by milovoo at 3:11 PM on November 2, 2005


Thanks for posting goodnewsfortheinsane. That you actually live in The Netheralnds makes your research more interesting.
posted by Cranberry at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2005


i, a longtime resident of Amsterdam and a person who met and spoke with Theo van Gogh on several occasions was always struck by his lack of subtlety, a willful denial of subtlety, as if being rude, blunt and vocally outward (not towards me, but his general behaviour) was somehow a statement.

i think this is a key to his abundant fanaticism .

still, a good man, Theo was, but not very subtle.
posted by Substrata at 3:42 PM on November 2, 2005


Thanks, Cran.

milovoo - as a Dutchman, it is very difficult for me to imagine Volkert van der Graaf's murder of Pim Fortuyn as "just more religious terror". I honestly believe that Van der Graaf saw Fortuyn's looming election win as a threat to his moral values - it has been said that he was particularly concerned about Fortuyn planning to reverse legislation prohibiting fur farming (see this BBC News profile for background).

In short: out-of-control personal convictions, certainly; religious fervour, I still have to see a source supporting that.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:46 PM on November 2, 2005


a willful denial of subtlety

Very true, Substrata, and totally on the mark. Personally I wouldn't say I was a fan of his style, but just the fact that he was so consequent and reasonable about his obnoxiousness towards others (if that is at all possible, but in his case I guess it is) made him an asset to society.

As someone said in a TV interview the other day (was it Theodor Holman?), when people would call him names in the street or take issue with something he had said, he would step off of his bike and engage in conversation, and half an hour later they would shake hands, in agreement or not. Now that is freedom of expression in my book.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:59 PM on November 2, 2005


In short: out-of-control personal convictions, certainly; religious fervour, I still have to see a source supporting that.

Ok, fair enough, as this is my first reading of these news items. The stories all highlight the animal rights activist part, but then never cite it as a reason, your link is the first that even comes close, and even then they admit it's just speculation. ( I just think it's important not to label unknown acts of zealotry as the work of animal rights folks, that's all. )

The quote about Muslims was supposedly from his confession and that's why I thought it was for religious reasons, but I admit I'll have to read more ...
posted by milovoo at 4:59 PM on November 2, 2005


Skeptic: Fascinating look. Thanks for sharing it.

When I lived in the Netherlands (Leiden) I was struck by some of the very retrogressive attitudes that existed right alongside very progressive initiatives. The Surinamese seemed to get the worst of the sideways invective; it was at once the most and least tolerant place I had seen to that date. The sense I got was that the bulk of non-white foreigners were allowed equality and defended in their rights but not really integrated into the Dutch mental picture of themselves or the cultural ecumene.

I went to register with the Police when I got there, as we were told all resident foreigners should do, but first I stopped into the Stadhuis for a related matter and they told me all of these supposedly "standard" things I should just ignore because I was not a "non-European foreigner" [sic!] so the police were not concerned about me. It was very surprising to hear it laid out so plainly like that.

(Of course, had I approached them in English and not Dutch, I may have had a rougher time with it--this is just an anecdote.)
posted by trigonometry at 6:09 PM on November 2, 2005


I think it's important to remember that Pim Fortuyn was a politician and Van Gogh an artist.

Islamic fanatics seem to take art a lot more seriously that any one from the "West".
posted by johnny novak at 12:58 AM on November 3, 2005


Believers are scum, period.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:37 AM on November 3, 2005


People who think all believers are scum are scum.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:39 AM on November 3, 2005


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