Bible Commentator

Columns

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

moshereiss@moshereiss.org

The Murder of Theo Van Gogh


A Response to Spengler and to Muhammad B, the assassin of Theo van Gogh and other commentary.

To Spengler:
In Spengler's November 16, 2004 column [The assassin's master sermon] he seems to accept that the choice for Muslims is "a world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" or jihadist Islam. He seems to compare the intended recipient of the death threat, Ms Ayaan Hirshi Ali, to Socrates, who chose death over exile. She has apparently not chosen death. I may be misreading Spengler but he seems to accept the culture of death either through the "suicide bombing" ideology of Islamic jihadists ([see] Speaking Freely: Suicide bombing: Theology of death [Oct 22]) or through a Western version he defines as "sex, drugs and Rock 'n' roll". Those are not the only choices. The monotheistic religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe that a part of God's soul is embedded in every human being (Genesis 1:26). We are all made in God's image. What does that mean? In a God-like manner we must have the right of choosing God/Life or Evil/Death (Deuteronomy 30:19). Life is defined as following the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10) and the Sura (17:22-39) commandments. These rules define a system of life and reject a system of death. We may not all observe these rules all the time. But that does not mean that we should therefore opt for death. If God wanted the world peopled by angels [he] would have created Adam and Eve as angels and not as human beings. I am certainly not an angel. I raised my children in the United States, the place [Osama] bin Laden believes "devours its children". One chose to teach at Oxford University, the other chose to publish in French and English about French and Hebrew poetry and the Bible. It is choice that makes us human beings. Mohammed Bouyeri defined as "unbelieving fundamentalists" and "intellectual terrorists" Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirshi Ali. However, they have not killed innocent civilians. He and his ilk have and do. We know what choice he and bin Laden would make for us. And like Socrates I would choose death rather than their form of life. Mohammed B seems to have forgotten parts of his Koran. It states specifically: "Slay not your children ... slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has forbidden" (17:32, 34).
Rabbi Moshe Reiss (Nov 17, '04)

To Muhammad B:
After reading the letter (below) written by Muhammad B. the murderer of Theo van Gogh I wonder about your version of Islam. The monotheistic religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe that a part of God's soul is embedded in every human being (Genesis 1:26). We are all made in God's image. What does that mean? In a God-like manner we must have the right of choosing God/Life or Evil/Death (Deuteronomy 30:19). Life is defined as following the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10) and the Sura (17:22-39) commandments. These rules define a system of life and reject a system of death. We may not all observe these rules all the time. But that does not mean that we should therefore opt for death. If God wanted the world peopled by angels [he] would have created Adam and Eve as angels and not as human beings. I am certainly not an angel. I raised my children in the United States, the place [Osama] bin Laden believes "devours its children". One chose to teach at Oxford University, the other chose to has published in French.  It is choice that makes us human beings. Mohammed B defined as "unbelieving fundamentalists" and "intellectual terrorists" Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirshi Ali. However, they have not killed innocent civilians. He and his ilk have and do. We know what choice he and bin Laden would make for us. And like Socrates I would choose death rather than their form of life. Mohammed B seems to have forgotten parts of his Koran. It states specifically: "Slay not your children ... slay not the soul, the slaying of which Allah has forbidden" (17:32, 34).

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

The assassin's master sermon
By Spengler
November 16, 2004

Westerners identify readily with secular Muslims such as Ayaan Hirshi Ali, member of the Netherlands' parliament and the late Theo van Gogh's collaborator in a film attacking Islam's treatment of women, or with the Canadian Irshad Manji, the lesbian "Muslim refusenik" who published The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith. But they have something to learn from the letter that Mohammed B pinned with a knife to van Gogh's corpse after he murdered him with knife and pistol on November 2.

"An Open Letter to Hirshi Ali" opens a window into the great theological conflict of our times. Most Western readers would stop after the first 10 lines, for it begins with paranoid Jew-hatred copied from Islamist websites and petty complaints about Ayaan Hirshi Ali's immigration policy. But the core of the "Open Letter" is an admonition from a believing Muslim to an atheist apostate, with a unique exposition of the faith of radical Islam. Some secular critics wrongly claim that Islam is not a religion, but only a political ideology, a position I challenged in an August 10 essay (Islam: Religion or political ideology?). The "Open Letter" evinces not merely a religious position, but, however abhorrent, a profound religious sensibility.

Failure to confront Islam as a religion, I maintain, is the Achilles' heel of Western strategy. Ayaan Hirshi Ali has my entire sympathy, but to her antagonists I accord the respect due to a lethal enemy. US conservatives applaud secular Muslims for being reasonable, but at the same time admire the religious impulse of the American Christians. One may argue, of course, that Americans should have a religion while Arabs should not, but the fact is that they do have a religion. Antagonistic modes of faith underlie the conflict between the West and the Islamic world. The assassin Mohammed B, by delivering this message attached to the corpse of a prominent figure in European culture, demands that we consider this antagonism in earnest.

The "Open Letter" begins execrably, with an anti-Jewish screed based on misquotes from rabbinical commentary, but soon enough comes to its core argument, namely the failure of secularism:
There is one certainty in the whole of existence; and that is that everything comes to an end.
A child born unto this world and fills this universe with its presence in the form of its first life's cries, shall ultimately leave this world with its death cry.

A blade of grass sticking up its head from the dark earth and being caressed by the sunlight and fed by the descending rain, shall ultimately whither and turn to dust.

Death, Miss Hirshi Ali, is the common theme of all that exists. You, me and the rest of creation can not disconnect from this truth.

There shall be a Day where one soul can not help another soul. A Day with terrible tortures and torments. A Day where the injust shall force from their [tongues] horrible screams. Screams, Miss Hirshi Ali, that will cause shivers to roll down one's spine; that will make hairs stand up from heads. People will be seen drunk with fear while they are not drunk. Fear shall fill the atmosphere on that Great Day.

The lines above might have appeared in a Sunday sermon by an old-fashioned American preacher. All religion responds to the inevitability of death, which means not merely individual death, but also the death of the cultural continuity that makes it possible for the individual to live on in memory. The "Open Letter" elaborates this theme with verses from the 81st Sura of the Koran, which portrays a Day of Judgment (stars fall, the sun is overthrown, hell is lighted, and so forth), and then continues:

You as unbelieving extremist of course won't believe in the above described scene. For you the above is merely a made-up drama piece from a book like many. And yet, Miss Hirshi Ali, I would bet my life to claim that you are sweating with fear when you read this. You, as unbelieving fundamentalist, of course do not believe that a Supreme being controls the entire universe.

You do not believe that your heart, with which you cast away truth, has to ask permission from the Supreme being for every beat.

You do not believe that your tongue with which you deny the Guidance from the Supreme being is subject to his Laws.

You do not believe that life and death has been given you by this Supreme being.
Until this point, the "Open Letter" follows the conventional form of a believer's admonition to an unbeliever, in terms familiar to Jew and Christian. But then the writer attaches a challenge born of existential despair: if you believe so firmly in your secular view of the world, are you happy to die for it?

If you really believe this, then the following challenge should be no problem for you. I challenge you with this letter to prove you are right. You don't have to do much:

Miss Hirshi Ali: wish for death if you are really convinced you are right.

If you will not accept this challenge; know then that my master, the Most High, has unmasked you as an unjust one.
The writer invokes the 94th and 95th verses of the Koran's 2nd Sura, addressed to false
prophets:
[2.94] Say: If the future abode with Allah is specially for you to the exclusion of the people, then invoke death if you are truthful. [2.95] And they will never invoke it on account of what their hands have sent before, and Allah knows the unjust.

The "Open Letter" then concludes with a death threat to Ayaan Hirshi Ali:
"To prevent that I were to be accused of the same, I shall wish this wish [death] for you."

If you are so convinced of your philosophy, asks the writer, why do you not wish for death? We jihadis, he implies, welcome death, and if your conviction is as strong as ours, you should do no less. Westerners should think twice before despising this line of reasoning. Socrates, after all, argued that the true philosopher should wish for death before he drank the hemlock, and he chose the hemlock over exile because he could exist as nothing other than an Athenian. I made this point in Socrates the destroyer (May 25), an essay that attracted virtually no readers because its conclusions are so unsettling. After the Peloponnesian War, which doomed Athenian culture, Socrates' existential choice was rather more understandable.
 
The presentiment of death (Franz Rosenzweig's phrase) haunts the Arab mind. A senescent culture that has fallen behind in every aspect of human endeavor - economic, scientific, cultural and military - faces absorption into the hostile world of globalization. As I wrote on August 10 (Islam: Religion or political ideology?):

Traditional society is the locus of the vast majority of the world's billion Muslims. Global communications and the social freedoms embodied in the US system threaten the existence of these societies. For most of the world's Muslims the United States is a menace, not a promise, threatening to dissolve the ties that bind child to parent, wife to husband, tribesman to chief, subject to ruler. Traditional society will not go mutely to its doom and join the Great Extinction of the Peoples, blotting out ancient cultures and destroying the memory of today's generation. It will not permit the hundreds of millions of Muslims on the threshold of adulthood to pass into the world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, and lose the memory of their ancestors. On the contrary: it will turn the tables upon the corrupt metropolis, and in turn launch a war of conquest against it.

Radical Islam stems from despair in the face of cultural death; precisely for that reason it bespeaks a ghastly indifference toward individual death, analogous to the Mut der Verzweiflung, or courage borne of desperation, that impels the soldiers of a defeated army toward a final charge at the enemy cannon. Absolute certainty informs the faith of the assassin Mohammed B, but it is the certainty of cultural extinction that makes the death of the individual the supreme test of faith. Existential despair inspires the conclusion that better than defeat is to fight to the death. Peace is to be achieved when those who hold this view will have had the opportunity to do so (More killing, please!, June 12, 2003).

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)  


Open Letter to Hirshi Ali
By Saifu Deen al Muwahhied

In the name of Allah the kind, the merciful.

Peace and blessings upon the Emir of the Mujahideen, the laughing killer Mohammed Rasoulou Allah, his family and companions and those who follow him truthfully till the day of judgment.

There is no aggression except against the aggressors.

The following:
Peace and blessings upon any who follows the Leadership  

This is an open letter to an infidel fundamentalist, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, of the Thaghoet party VVD.

Dear Mss Hirshi Ali,

Since your entrance into the political arena of Holland you have been constantly terrorising Muslims and Islam with your words. You are not the first and you won't be the last to join the crusade against Islam.

With your apostasy, you have not only turned your back on the truth, but you also march along the ranks of the soldiers of evil. You mince no words about your hostility against Islam, and for this your masters have rewarded you with a seat in parliament. They have found in you a companion in their crusade against Islam and Muslims. A companion who gives them the "gunpowder" so they don't have to do the dirty work. Seeing as that you're blind by the burning infidelity which rages inside you, you are incapable of seeing that you are just an instrument of the true enemies of Islam.

U are being used to spew various hostilities about Islam and the most noble, Mohammed Rasoul Allah.

I don't blame you for all of this Miss Hirshi Ali. as a soldier of evil you are merely doing your job.

The fact that you can openly spew your hatred is not to blame on you, but on the Islamic ummah. They have ceased their task of resistance against injustice and is sleeping it off.
All your hostilities can thus only be blamed on the Islamic ummah.

This letter is Insha Allah an attempt at silencing your evil once and for all. These written words will Insha Allah make you drop your mask

I would like to start with your recent proposal to 'screen' (profile) on their ideology at job interviews. (Dan: could maybe be the request for a staying permit/passport)

Your proposal is very interesting, more so because the application of it unveils the rotten faces of your political masters (when they would of course be tested honestly and they would openly reveal their ideology)

It is a fact that Dutch politics is dominated by many Jews who are a product of the Talmud schools; that includes your political party-members.

Seeing as you always propagate "self-criticism", we shall test your proposal in your own political surroundings. The same politics that with their policies has joined the terrorism against Islam and Muslims.

I would like to ask you the following questions:

How do you feel about the fact that Van Aartsen (leader of the VVD) subscribes to an ideology where non-Jews are considered as non-humans?

Baba Mezie 114a-114b: Only Jews are people ("Only you are called people"). Also see Kerlthoth 6b under subtitle ("Oil of anointing") and Barakath 56a, where gentile (non-Jews) females are called animals ("female-donkeys")
Yebamoth 92a: All Gentile children are animals.
How do you feel about the fact that a mayor is leading Amsterdam, whom subscribes to an ideology where Jews can lie to non-Jews?
Baba Kamma 113a: Jews may lie ("listen") to mislead a Gentile.
How do you feel about the fact that you are part of a government that supports the state with an ideology that proposes genocide?
Sofarim 15, line 10 (Minor Tarcctates): These are the words by rabbi Simom ben Yohai: Tod shebe goyyim herog ("Even the best of the Gentiles should be killed").

Since you are a fighter for equal rights, you will probably (after learning this knowledge) ask with your Jewish masters in chambers to reject the teachings of the Talmud. You will also probably make work of asking the Jewish community in Holland to reject it.

Our actions now and then betrays your cowardly courage with which you ask attention for your battle. Like how you had the 'cowardly courage' to ask Islamic children in school to make a choice between their creator and the constitution.

The answer from these young, clean souls you have used immediately to come up with arguments to justify your crusade. With these hostilities you have released a boomerang and you know it’s only a matter of time before this boomerang will seal your fate.

However, you will get the opportunity, Miss Hirshi Ali, to prove you're right and crave it forever in the pages:

There is one certainty in the whole of existence; and that is that everything comes to an end.

A child born unto this world and fills this universe with its presence in the form of its first life's cries, shall ultimately leave this world with its death cry.

A blade of grass sticking up its head from the dark earth and being caressed by the sunlight and fed by the descending rain, shall ultimately whither and turn to dust.

Death, Miss Hirshi Ali, is the common theme of all that exists. You, me and the rest of creation can not disconnect from this truth.

There shall be a Day where one soul can not help another soul. A Day with terrible tortures and torments, a Day where the unjust shall force from their long horrible screams. Screams, Miss Hirshi Ali, that will cause shivers to roll down one's spine; that will make hairs stand up from heads. People will be seen drunk with fear while they are not drunk. Fear shall fill the atmosphere on that Great Day:

When the sun is overthrown,
And when the stars fall,
And when the hills are moved,
And when the camels big with young are abandoned,
And when the wild beasts are herded together,
And when the seas rise,
And when souls are reunited,
And when the girl-child that was buried alive is asked
For what sin she was slain,
And when the pages are laid open,
And when the sky is torn away,
And when hell is lighted,
And when the Garden is brought nigh,
(Then) every soul will know what it hath made ready. (81:1-14)

On the day when a man fleeth from his brother
And his mother and his father
And his wife and his children,
Every man that day will have concern enough to make him heedless (of others).
On that day faces will be bright as dawn,
Laughing, rejoicing at good news;
And other faces, on that day, with dust upon them,
Veiled in darkness,
Those are the disbelievers, the wicked. (80:34-42)

You as unbelieving extremist of course won't believe in the above described scene. For you the above is merely a made-up drama piece from a Book like many. And yet, Miss Hirshi Ali, I'd bet my life to claim that you are sweating with Fear when you read this.

You, as unbelieving fundamentalist, of course do not believe that a Supreme being controls the entire universe.

You do not believe that your heart, with which you cast away truth, has to ask permission from the Supreme being for every beat.

You do not believe that your tongue with which you deny the Guidance from the Supreme being is subject to his Laws.

You do not believe that life and death has been given you by this Supreme being. If you really believe this, then the following challenge should be no problem for you.

I challenge you with this letter to prove you are right. You don't have to do much:
Miss Hirshi Ali: WISH for DEATH if you are really convinced you are right.

If you will not accept this challenge; know then that my master, the Most High, has unmasked you as an unjust one.

"Then long for death (for ye must long for death) if ye are truthful. But they will never long for it, because of that which their own hands have sent before them. Allah is aware of evil-doers." (2:94-95)

To prevent that I were to be accused of the same, I shall wish this wish FOR you:

My Rabb, give us death to make up happy with martyrdom.

Allahoemma Amien.

Miss Hirshi Ali and the rest of the extremist infidels: Islam has resisted many hostilities and oppressions in History. Every time the pressure on Islam was added, the fire of Faith was merely alighted.

Islam is like a withered plant, which has been rendered by the years-long pressure and extreme high temperatures, a diamond. A withered plant is formed by the fancies of time into the strongest jewel on this earth, a jewel on which the hardest hammer breaks itself.

Ayaan Hirshi Ali you shall break yourself on Islam !

You and your companions know very well that the current Islamic youth is a rough diamond that only needs smoothing, so that it may spread her all-invading light of Truth. Your intellectual terrorism will not stop this, on the contrary you will only hasten it.

Islam will conquer by the blood of the martyrs. It will spread its light to every corner of this Earth and it will, if necessary, drive evil to its dark hole by the sword.

This unleashed battle is different from previous battles. The unbelieving fundamentalists have started it and Insha Allah the true believers will end it.

There shall be no mercy for the unjust, only the sword raised at them. No discussion, no demonstrations, no parades, no petitions; merely DEATH shall separate the Truth from the LIE.

Say: Lo! the death from which ye shrink will surely meet you, and afterward ye will be returned unto the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, and He will tell you what ye used to do. (62:

And like a great prophet once said:

"I deem thee lost, O Pharaoh. " (17:102)

And so we want to use similar words and send these before us, so that the heavens and the stars will gather this news and spread it over the corners of the universe like a tidal wave.

"I deem thee lost, O America."
"I deem thee lost, O Europe."
"I deem thee lost, O Holland."
"I deem thee lost, O Hirshi Ali.”
"I deem thee lost, O unbelieving fundamentalist."

Front Page  
Nov 23, 2004  

Muslim anguish and Western hypocrisy
By Spengler

Muslims who have made their life in Western countries while adhering to Islam face a frightful dilemma. After the November 2 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (The assassin's master sermon, Nov 16), European authorities have demanded that resident  Muslims repudiate violence. Many mainstream Muslim leaders, though, cannot bring themselves to denounce the murderer of van Gogh, whose film Submission showed Koranic verses superimposed on the naked skin of Muslim women.

Smugness oozes from European politicians who demand that Muslims repudiate violence as a precondition for residence in the West. To repudiate the death sentence for blasphemy would be the same as abandoning the Islamic order in traditional society in favor of a Western-style religion of personal conscience. The West spent centuries of time and rivers of blood to make such a transition, and carried it off badly. Whether Islam can do so at all remains doubtful.

As a matter of record, most European Muslim organizations declined to disavow the murder of van Gogh. During a November 19 radio interview, for example, Zahid Mukhtar, head of the Islamic Council of Norway, refused to condemn van Gogh's murder, creating a scandal out of proportion to Norway's small Muslim population. A Moroccan-born member of the Belgian Senate, Mimount Bousakla, received death threats after remonstrating with the umbrella organization of Belgian Muslims for its refusal to denounce the van Gogh murder. She since has gone into hiding.

In Germany, most of the country's Muslim groups refused to take part in this past Sunday's Muslim demonstration in Cologne against terrorism and violence. In fact, the Turkish government organized the 20,000-person demonstration without support from local Muslim organizations. Its sole sponsor was DITIB, the Turkish government's Muslim association headed by an appointee from Ankara. DITIB "already had tried in vain to organize a common declaration by all German Muslims against Islamist terrorism", noted Der Spiegel Online on November 19.

Muslim refusal to tolerate blasphemy has nothing to do with rage or recalcitrance. It is a theological necessity. Executions for blasphemy would attract no attention in Iran or Saudi Arabia. The trouble is that the population of Islamic countries has spilled over en masse into the West. Imams in Europe cannot pronounce differently on such matters than they would in their home countries, and blasphemy cannot be tolerated by traditional society.

"As for heretics, their sin deserves banishment, not only ... by excommunication, but also from this world by death. To corrupt the faith, whereby the soul lives, is much graver than to counterfeit money, which supports temporal life. Since forgers and other malefactors are summarily condemned to death by the civil authorities, with much more reason may heretics as soon as they are convicted of heresy be not only excommunicated, but also justly be put to death." Those are the words of the 13th-century Catholic authority St Thomas Aquinas, the most influential of all Catholic thinkers, presented by Catholic writers from Lord Acton to Jacques Maritain as the antecedent of European democracy.

An apologist for St Thomas, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, excused the hard line against heresy on the grounds that tough times required it:

Thirteenth-century societies were highly fragile. Beyond ties of kinship, many citizens experienced little to bind them to others. Most were subjects of a few - and one ruling aristocrat was often overturned by another ... geographical isolation was often intense, and shifting patterns of warfare, baronial allegiance, and foreign occupation awakened acute local insecurity. Under political anarchy, the common people and the poor suffered much. Under all these uncertainties, the chief consensual bond among people was Catholic faith and Catholic ritual. Virtually all unifying conceptions of relationship and social weight, meaning and order, came from that faith. [1]
St Thomas did not merely support a death sentence for individual heretics, but weighed in vigorously on behalf of the Crusade against the Albigensians, which laid waste to most of Provence. Does Novak believe that today's Muslim societies are any less fragile? If he believes that 13th-century conditions justified the death penalty for heretics in Christian Europe, why should Muslims not apply the same logic to their own societies?

In fact, the terrestrial power of the Church, along with its authority to burn heretics, was pried out of her cold, dead fingers. It took the frightful 30 Years' War to break the political power of the Church in Europe, and the reunification of Italy to reduce the Vatican to its present postage-stamp dimensions. The Church in the person of pope Pius IX responded by excommunicating the entire government of Count Cavour.

Not until the Second Vatican Council of 1965 did the Church reconcile itself to the role of a religion of conscience without temporal power. But the disintegration of European Catholic life coincides with Vatican II. Church attendance in most European countries has fallen to single-digit percentages, and the lowest fertility rates are found in Spain and Italy, formerly among the most Catholic. It is unclear whether Catholicism will survive the transition to religion of individual conscience from temporal power, and the prognosis is bleak. Even Michael Novak has his doubts:

What is the proper relation of Christian faith to the open society? A relation that entails the persecution of heretics is clearly repugnant to Christian faith. The special circumstances of the 13th century remain a vivid case study in what not to do. But if the profession of Christian faith is not to be constitutionally required, as certainly it should not be, just how can Christian faith escape from being merely privatized and relativized? And how can open societies themselves be saved from giving a posthumous victory to such relativists as Hitler and Mussolini, who began by stating that nothing in politics is right or wrong, that only power matters?
Only in one form does Christianity thrive without the policeman's baton in the back of the shepherd's rod, and that is in its American evangelical expression. The great monuments of European Catholicism lie exposed like the bones of extinct mammoths, and in Latin America, the mice of American-style Protestant denominations are eating the eggs of the Catholic dinosaurs.

Judaism suffered its own transition from a state religion to a private religion of conscience, bloodily and against its will. The best account comes from Rabbi Jacob Neusner and Bruce Chilton, an Episcopal priest. Between the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70 and the establishment of Christianity as Rome's state religion in the 4th century under the Emperor Constantine, the two religions traded places. Judaism ceased to function as the state religion of Israel, and the legal philosophy preserved in the Mishnah gave way to the theology of the Rabbinical writings of the Talmud. The private and communal character of early Christianity gave way to the public and political state religion of Constantine. [2]

The sorry state of today's Judaism should provide moderate Muslims poor cause for optimism. Not much middle ground separates the Jewish orthodox, who attempt to live by the medieval interpretation of Jewish scriptures, and secular Jews, who find themselves everywhere at the cutting-edge of social experimentation.

With its 139 major denominations, America's protean form of Christianity might seem least likely to succeed. In reality, its superficial weakness reveals underlying strength, for American Christians are immune to the blandishments of mere "Christendom" (Soren Kierkegaard's dismissive term for social habit), and better prepared to take the leap of faith. American Christianity is by its nature born-again, evangelical, disruptive, an unending moment of self-conversion.

Jews and Christians had centuries to accomplish the transition from public and political religion to private and communal religion, whereas circumstances press moderate Muslims to do this on the spot. The two older religions did so under duress, chaotically, and with limited success.

Whether Islam can make such a transition at all remains doubtful. There is an element of truth in Michael Novak's attempt to portray St Thomas Aquinas as a democrat. Human freedom flows from the Judeo-Christian concept of divine love, as Aquinas wrote:

Divine providence extends to all things. Yet a special rule applies where intelligent creatures are involved. For they excel all others in the perfection of their nature and the dignity of their end; they are masters of their activity and act freely, while others are more acted on than acting. They react to their destiny by their own proper activity, that is by knowing and loving God, whereas other creatures show only some traces of this likeness ... To begin with, rational creatures are governed for their own benefit, whereas other creatures are governed for the sake of men. Men are principals, not merely instruments. [3]
No such concept of divine love and the ensuing sovereignty of the individual can be found in Islam. Love constrains the Judeo-Christian God, but not Allah. "The God of Mohammed," wrote Franz Rosenzweig, "is a creator who well might not have bothered to create. He displays his power like an Oriental potentate who rules by violence, not by acting according to necessity, not by authorizing the enactment of the law, but rather in his freedom to act arbitrarily" (see Oil on the flames of civilizational war, Dec 2, 2003).

It is not clear where the present crisis will lead. A few European politicians are demanding harsh measures to suppress Islamist radicalism. The German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg's cultural minister, Annette Schavan, proposes that a law to compel Muslim clergy to preach exclusively in German, while the interior minister of Brandenburg, Joerg Schoenbohm, wants to take away the citizenship of "hate preachers".

On the other hand, the Netherlands' justice minister, Piet Hein Donner, has proposed to enforce a 1932 law against blasphemy to prevent future insults to Islam. The proposal is astounding, for no Christian country has penalized blasphemy of the most extreme variety in two generations. Would the anti-blasphemy rule apply to scholarly demonstrations that alternative variants exist of the Koran, or to linguistic arguments that the Koran has been mistranslated (eg, Professor Christoph Luxenberg's claim that the "seventy-two virgins" awaiting martyrs in Paradise really are white raisins)?

The tragedy will continue to unfold, and at a faster pace. Jews and Christians have learned to accept humiliation. God's love for the individual soul remains valid despite worldly reverses, and failure in the temporal realm provides cause for self-evaluation. Humiliation is intolerable to Islam; Allah sets the spin of every electron around every nucleus by a discrete act of will, and reverses in the temporal world challenge Islam's promise of success.

The logic of events offers nothing to Muslims but humiliation. The re-elected administration of US President George W Bush has put into action a two-pronged attack, destroying the Sunni resistance in Fallujah and neighboring cities, while holding a gun to the head of Iran in order to forestall the emergence of a greater Shi'ite opposition, just as I predicted (Bush, Marshal Foch, and Iran, Sept 21). Not a whimper of protest arose from the Europeans, whose undivided attention was focused on the van Gogh affair and its implications. The ground will continue to erode beneath the feet of moderate Muslims, the constituency upon whom the White House placed its best hopes.


In his November 23 column entitled Muslim Anguish and Western Hypocrisy Spengler refers to the Jewish religion. I would like to comment on that part of his column. He refers to the time 2000 years ago when Judaism was a State religion. He refers specifically to the theological basis of the Talmud which was completed 1500 years ago. . One of basic rules of the Talmud as regards to its minority position in the various countries it dwelled in was that one was required to obey the laws of the country where one lived. Since the column is based on the killing of Theo van Gogh, the Talmudic position is clear.


Dr. Theodore Darlymple – A prison psychiatric doctor
 
Why Theo Van Gogh Was Murdered
The filmmaker focused on the shameful abuse of Muslim women by Muslim men in Europe. | 15 November 2004


The slaughter of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam, in broad daylight, by a young man of Moroccan origin bent on jihad, has at last dented Dutch confidence that unconditional tolerance can be on its own the unifying principle of a viable society. For tolerance to work, it must be reciprocal; tolerance appears to the intolerant jihadist mere weakness and lack of belief in anything. Unilateral tolerance in a world of intolerance is like unilateral disarmament in a world of armed camps: it regards hope as a better basis for policy than reality.

Like most people in Western democracies, Van Gogh, by all accounts a brash and combative man, took his freedom of expression for granted. Most of us most of the time do not reflect much on the fact that such freedom is an historical exception rather than an historical rule, a reversible achievement rather than a free gift of God. There are still many who would rather kill than brook any contradiction of their opinions or beliefs, even while they live in the most tolerant of societies.

But why kill Theo Van Gogh, of all the people who have expressed hostility to radical Islam? Perhaps it was mere chance, but more likely it resulted from his work’s exposure of a very raw nerve of Muslim identity in Western Europe: the abuse of women. This abuse is now essential for people of Muslim descent for maintaining any sense of separate cultural identity in the homogenizing solution of modern mass society.

In fact, Islam is as vulnerable in Europe to the forces of secularization as Christianity has proved to be. The majority of Muslims in Europe, particularly the young, have a weak and tenuous connection to their ancestral religion. Their level and intensity of belief is low; pop music interests them more. Far from being fanatics, they are lukewarm believers at best. Were it not for the abuse of women, Islam would go the way of the Church of England.

The abuse of women has often, if not always, appealed to men, because it gives them a sense of power, however humiliated they may feel in other spheres of their life. And the oppression of women by Muslim men in Western Europe gives those men at the same time a sexual partner, a domestic servant, and a gratifying sense of power, while allowing them also to live an otherwise westernized life. For the men, it is convenient; interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, almost the only openly hostile expressions toward Islam from British-born Muslims that I hear come from young women, some of whom loathe it passionately because they blame it for their servitude.

Religious sanction for the oppression of women (whether theologically justified or not) is hence the main attraction of Islam to young men in an increasingly secular world. This explains why a divide often opens between brothers and sisters in the same European Muslim family; the sisters want liberty, but the brothers enforce the old rules. They have to, or the whole gratifying system breaks down.

This, I suspect, is the source of the rage against Theo Van Gogh.

Andrew Anthony

Sunday December 5, 2004
The Observer

When Theo van Gogh was slaughtered in the street for his attacks on Islamic fundamentalism, it was also a knife to the heart of the Dutch liberal dream. Now, in a deeply polarised society, can free expression triumph over fear? Special report by

On a grey Tuesday morning in early November, Theo van Gogh, filmmaker, columnist, interviewer and inveterate provocateur, set out from his home in Amsterdam to make his daily journey by bicycle to the offices of his production company, Column TV. A large, dishevelled character with a shock of unruly blond hair, he was a familiar and distinctive figure on the city streets. Imagine a combination of Boris Johnson and Michael Moore, in girth and media profile if not political sentiment, and it will give some idea of the expansive position he occupied within Dutch media culture. Everyone knew him, or at least knew of him.
Linnaeus Straat, in the eastern quarter, is not the Amsterdam of 17th-century town houses and pretty canals. A broad, busy high street with the kind of shops and cafes you walk by without noticing, it is a picture of unexceptional urban life. Of the hundreds of commuters and shoppers going about their business that Tuesday morning, many would have recognised van Gogh, but one young man was waiting for him.

Dressed in an oversized coat and the traditional Arab cloak known as a djellaba, he stood close to the bicycle lane. At around 8.45am, van Gogh rode by and was knocked from his saddle by a volley of shots fired from a 9mm handgun. He struggled to the other side of the road, where he collapsed in front of a shop selling washing machines. Terrified onlookers ducked behind cars or fled down side streets as the young man crossed the thoroughfare to where van Gogh lay, and opened fire again. Eight bullets were later found in his body.

 Bleeding heavily, the 47-year-old father of a 14-year-old boy had pleaded with the gunman: 'Don't do it! Don't do it! Mercy! Mercy!' A woman with a young child also screamed out to the assailant, begging him to stop. He listened to neither appeal, but instead produced a long sharpened knife and proceeded to slit van Gogh's throat so deeply that his head was almost severed. One witness described the young man as behaving with the methodical detachment of 'a butcher'. His final act was to affix a five-page letter to the corpse by plunging another knife into van Gogh's chest. It was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch MP from Somalia who had collaborated with van Gogh on Submission, a film that suggested that the Koran sanctioned domestic violence.

Having delivered his message, the killer walked quietly away from the scene, speaking briefly to a bystander, before disappearing into a nearby park. Shortly afterwards, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, a second-generation Moroccan, was arrested nearby, following a shoot-out with police. The justice department announced that he had acted out of a 'radical Islamic conviction'.

The small country with a global reputation for tolerance had witnessed peacetime Europe's most extreme act of intolerance. The whole episode lasted little more than a minute, but its aftermath continues to reverberate in Holland, and may do so for some time to come. It was as if the very savagery of the attack was aimed not just at an individual but everything he represented. As such, the murderer and his victim have been cast as symbols of conflicts now reshaping modern Europe: those between freedom of expression and the protection of ethnic minorities, national laws and religious authority, multiculturalism and integration, rationalism and faith, permissiveness and absolutism.

As inhabitants of one of the most densely populated nations on earth, the Dutch have evolved an attitude known as gedogen. The word translates as a kind of pragmatic tolerance - legislating to put up with something - which is probably a necessary outlook when you live, as it were, in your neighbour's face. It's this concept that has led to Holland's renowned hash-selling coffee bars and legalised red-light districts, as well as initiatives like police protection for gay cruising zones.

In many ways, gedogen has created an environment that ill suits a traditional culture like Islam. It does not take a social scientist to see that a veiled woman might have problems living next to a live sex show. The two seem incompatible in the same universe, let alone the same street. But for many years, a combination of state intervention (imams and mosques are subsidised in Holland) and social detachment (ethnic communities remaining apart from mainstream Dutch life) has enabled this unlikely coexistence to work. The multicultural answer to Holland's cramped diversity was essentially: same street, different universe.

The first clear sign that the Dutch were having doubts about this solution came three years ago when Pim Fortuyn, a maverick gay populist, announced that Holland was 'full' and ran for prime minister on an anti-immigration policy. Had Fortuyn not been shot dead before the election - by an animal-rights protester who said he had acted to protect the Muslim community - many commentators believe he would have gone on to lead the country. Even without Fortuyn, his makeshift party was so successful at the polls that the government adopted a more stringent immigration policy, including a proposal to repatriate 26,000 failed asylum seekers. With the arrival and assassination of Fortuyn, the familiar Dutch maxim of leven en laten leven (live and let live) seemed to pass into history.

The motto of the jihadi martyr could almost be 'kill and be killed'. 'There will be no mercy for the wicked, only the sword will be raised against them,' warned Bouyeri in his letter. In another note, written as a last testament and found on his person, Bouyeri indulged in the desperate self-romanticism of the suicide terrorist. 'These are my last words,' he wrote, 'riddled with bullets ... smeared with blood ... like I hoped.' In the event he suffered a minor gunshot wound.

Like all acts of terror, van Gogh's murder was meant to polarise society, and to an extent it has succeeded. For all its differences, Holland is a country that values consensus as the ultimate virtue, and the initial response was one of unity. As news of van Gogh's death spread, tens of thousands of protesters, including a great many Muslims, poured into Dam Square to voice their support for free speech. But soon afterwards, other more disturbing and divisive reactions were reported. Several mosques and Islamic schools were damaged by firebombs, and in turn there were a number of reprisals against churches. At van Gogh's funeral service, his family and friends were at pains to state that van Gogh would have been 'appalled' by attacks on Islamic buildings.

But it was not just extremists intent on religious or racial war who were set against one another. The murder also drove a wedge through centre-ground opinion. Jozias van Aartsen, the leader of the Liberals, a free-market party that forms part of the right-of-centre coalition government, said that the killing was Holland's '9/11'. In this conception the murder was another front opened by radical Islam in its jihad against Western freedom. Meanwhile the liberal left, particularly in Britain, sought to pin some of the blame for his murder on van Gogh himself. It also worked to diminish the role of Islam at large, insisting that the killer acted alone. The Guardian, for example, claimed that Hirsi Ali - who was circumcised at five, fled from an arranged marriage at 22, and was under police protection from Islamic extremists - and van Gogh had behaved 'with magnificent disregard for the feelings they might be offending'. The same newspaper also claimed, despite contrary evidence, that the killer was 'a lone Muslim extremist'.

The Index on Censorship, an organisation dedicated to freedom of expression, went so far as to accuse van Gogh of 'roaring his Muslim critics into silence with obscenities. An abuse of his right to free speech, it added injury to insult by effectively censoring their moderate views as well.' The article's author, Rohan Jayasekera, concluded by inviting readers to 'applaud Theo van Gogh's death as the marvellous piece of theatre it was'.

The Dutch authorities named Bouyeri as a member of the so-called 'Hofstad cell', which is under investigation for plotting to bomb a nuclear reactor. A series of raids followed on Islamic radicals. In The Hague, a death list of prominent Dutch figures was found after a siege in which militants injured two policemen with a hand grenade. Six people, aside from Bouyeri, have now been charged in connection with van Gogh's murder. Had these events taken place in France, where the school ban on hijabs has angered many Muslims, or even in Britain, a participant in the Iraq war, then there would have been a sense of shock, but much less surprise. But Holland was not an obvious scene for terror.

The question, then, is why was van Gogh killed, and what does his death really mean?

At the funeral service held the week after van Gogh's murder and broadcast on Dutch television, his sister Jantine recalled a conversation she overheard countless times in her childhood. 'My father,' she said, 'was always saying to Theo: "Yes, you can say that, but the point is you don't have to say it."' He was, it seems, a contrarian from the cradle.

He came from the nearest thing to a patrician family in an almost classless country. His great-great grandfather, also called Theo, was the brother and patron of Vincent, the brilliant and troubled painter. His father was a well-known member of Holland's Labour party and his mother equally active in the Liberals, which in Holland is a free-market, right-of-centre party. In other words, he was born into a political difference of opinion.

Attracted to the radical left in his youth, he became a member of the Labour party in the Eighties. But politics always came second to his interest in art. Brought up in a plush suburb of The Hague, he dropped out of law school to take up acting, directing and writing. At the age of 24, he made his first film, Luger, and went on over the years to win five awards at the Netherlands Film Festival. At the same time, he carved out two more careers, first as an outspoken and deliberately provocative columnist for a number of publications (many of which ended up sacking him) and as a surprisingly sympathetic interviewer on Dutch TV.

There is no doubt that van Gogh relished an argument, but he was also capable of making outrageously offensive statements. One example will give a flavour of his retaliatory style. After he had been criticised by the Jewish historian Evelien Gans, he wrote in Folia Civitatis magazine: 'I suspect that Ms Gans gets wet dreams about being fucked by Dr Mengele.' In 1991 he was fined for anti-Semitism following comments he had made about gas chambers in Moviola magazine. In van Gogh's defence, his friends point out that he spared no community or political group, insulting Catholics, Protestants and the Dutch queen. They also say that he matured in later years. 'He used to be provoking just to provoke,' says Gijs van de Westelaken, van Gogh's producer and partner at Column TV. 'But in the past 10 years or so, his provocation always had a greater meaning.'

The man accused of murdering van Gogh was, by contrast, born into a cultural divide. The son of immigrants from Morocco who spoke little Dutch, Bouyeri grew up in west Amsterdam, a working-class and Muslim district known as Satellite City, owing to its proliferation of dishes receiving Arabic TV. Like van Gogh, he was a dropout from college, where he had studied information technology. He had also worked as a journalist, writing pieces in celebration of multiculturalism for a local council magazine. It appears that he was radicalised by the 11 September attacks in America, but his drift towards fundamentalism predates that event and was accelerated, according to locals, by the death of his mother from cancer in 2002.

As far back as 2000, Bouyeri had protested at plans to refurbish the block his family lived in, on the grounds that women would not be able to walk unseen to the kitchen. He lived with his parents, three sisters and brother in a building called Complex 26, in which every household had been assigned a social worker. Bouyeri was one of the few residents who declined to see one.

Bouyeri's father has been described as a 'typical first-generation Moroccan' who worked himself to a standstill. His son, it appears, did not share his industriousness. Bouyeri quit his local mosque after the imam asked him why he was able to pray five times a day every day. 'Don't you have a job?' Wearing a beard and a djellaba, he started to attend the al-Tawheed mosque, the meeting place for radical Islam in Amsterdam. It was here that the 9/11 pilots Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, along with Ramzi Binalshibh, the man accused of co-ordinating the attacks, met in 1999 during a conference on Islamic Puritanism.

And it was here that Bouyeri met Samir Azzouz, who in June was arrested on suspicion of planning to bomb the Dutch parliament, Schiphol airport and a nuclear reactor. Azzouz in turn had links with Abdeladim Akoudad, a Moroccan held in Spain over last year's Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 people. The Swiss newspaper Le Temps also reported that classified Spanish intelligence service wiretaps show Bouyeri in 'direct contact' with Mohammed Achraf, an Algerian accused of plotting to blow up historic buildings in Madrid.

11 September was also a key event for van Gogh. According to van de Westelaken, the attacks did not change his friend's views so much as confirm them. 'He wasn't really surprised, you might say. He'd been warning of this kind of thing for years.'

I met van de Westelaken at the offices that van Gogh did not reach on that Tuesday morning. He was convinced the killing was not a random reaction but a well-targetted attempt to stifle criticism of Islam. 'In terms of terrorism, it was a smart bomb.' On the wall, there was a photograph of van Gogh with Fortuyn, who was shot dead, as conspiracy theorists have noted, exactly 911 days before van Gogh's murder. A further link between both deaths is that van Gogh had just finished a film, 06-05, about Fortuyn's murder, which accuses the security services of complicity.

'They were friends, debating friends,' says van de Westelaken. A trim, handsome man, with neatly coiffed hair and a slick dress sense, he must have made an odd couple with his famously unsartorial business partner. He spoke with much amusement of van Gogh's eccentricities. He remembered him standing outside the Van Gogh Museum with a megaphone, shouting: 'I want my paintings back.' And he recalled the army of girlfriends he had amassed. 'Special women got a ring - three, four, five thousand euros, no problem. He was very generous, always buying the most expensive wine, and always broke.'

A number of reports have implicitly, or even explicitly, referred to van Gogh's 'Islamophobia' and 'racism'. But according to Fatima Elatik, a Labour party politician with whom van Gogh often clashed, the charge of racism was misplaced. He once called her 'a perverse and gullible token Moroccan', when she greeted changes a Dutch playwright made to a play about Islam after he had been threatened. Elatik claimed not to be aware of the threats. All the same, she was present at the demonstration for free speech the night of van Gogh's murder. For a long time, she had refused to talk to him because of his insults. But a year ago, she found herself in the same TV studio. 'We sat at the bar and he was very polite and charming.

I would never call him a racist, because he wasn't.'

Van de Westelaken pointed out that few directors could match van Gogh in either his use or sympathetic portrayal of Moroccans. One of his films was Najib and Julia, an updated Romeo and Juliet, about a second-generation Moroccan pizza-delivery boy and a white middle-class Dutch girl.

'He was not against Islam,' insisted van de Westelaken. 'Everybody to his own faith. He was not against headscarves: if someone wants to put on a scarf, go ahead. He aimed at the extremist side of Islam, and of course the big problem with Islam is that they take themselves so bloody seriously.'

Certainly, few Muslims laughed at van Gogh's habit of calling Islamic fundamentalists 'goat fuckers' - undoubtedly the insult that most offended most Muslims. 'Of course it was controversial to use,' van de Westelaken acknowledged, 'but he had an explanation for that. It seems that the Ayatollah Khomeini in one of his books wrote that if you feel the urge, and there are no women around, you are allowed to fuck a goat.' (This interpretation stems from writings attributed to Khomeini on the proper preparation of meat, in which he appeared to suggest that if a man has sex with an animal, the animal should not be eaten unless the man did not have an orgasm.)

'Maybe the most important thing is to try to get some humour into Islam,' van de Westelaken reflected. He spoke about an open letter to the murderer, in answer to his own letter full of violence, that he and some of van Gogh's friends had read out on TV. 'We hope your leg is better,' it began (the suspect was injured in the shoot-out), in what was an epistolary equivalent of an ironic glove slapping an iron fist.

For Elatik, the lack is not in humour of the Islamic community, but in respect for it. 'The problem is that the attitude in Holland is: as long as you don't bother me, I don't mind that you're here. It's a kind of neglect,' she argues. But it is hard to see Bouyeri's case as one of neglect. Aside from the social worker he refused to see, he appeared to be surrounded by well-meaning professionals. He sat on a committee for a new youth centre, and even visited the Dutch parliament to argue its merits. Civil servants consulted him on how to improve relations between Moroccan youth and the police, after a series of riots in 1998; he was involved in local authority planning decisions; as late as 2002 he took a course in social work; and he enjoyed a position of influence at the community centre in Eigenwijks.

It was not until the summer of 2003 that he finally broke from the community centre, having become increasingly distressed that women were allowed to mix with men, and that alcohol was served. By then, he had started to interrupt meetings with loud prayers to Allah and had informed colleagues that 'Islam is my everything'. He had also begun writing hardline tracts on the internet, using the name Abu Zubair, in honour of the Saudi al-Qaeda commander Abu Zubair al-Haili. If you wanted to select a youth destined for alienation, then Bouyeri was a leading candidate.





Part two

When Theo van Gogh was slaughtered in the street for his attacks on Islamic fundamentalism, it was also a knife to the heart of the Dutch liberal dream. Now, in a deeply polarised society, can free expression triumph over fear? Special report by Andrew Anthony

Sunday December 5, 2004
The Observer

Despite van de Westelaken's impressive belief, given his bereavement, in the power of humour, it's likely that fewer people will now want to risk offending Islam. Six months ago Paul Cliteur, an academic and critic of multiculturalism, announced that he would no longer write for Dutch newspapers out of fear of damaging his professional prospects, and the growing possibility of violent reprisal. At the time, he was mocked for taking himself too seriously. But his decision now looks in retrospect more like basic self-preservation.

'With the murder of van Gogh,' Cliteur told me, 'everyone who writes takes a certain risk. That's a scary development. What I do is self-censorship, absolutely, but there will be people who take a heroic stance. People who study and write about Islam will have to tread very, very carefully.' In the wake of van Gogh's murder, the minister for justice, Jan Hein Donner, a Christian Democrat, proposed that the blasphemy laws be extended to take into account heightened Muslim sensitivities.

(A similar plan by the British government may go ahead after the next election.) But other members of the Dutch government remain opposed to the idea and want to scrap a law which has not been used since the case of Gerard Reve in 1965.

Reve, a Dutch writer and artist, wrote about having sex with God, who took the form of a donkey, and was found guilty of blasphemy. But he was cleared in a subsequent judgment, and since then it has been accepted that it is possible to say anything about Christianity. Cliteur feels that calls to respect Islamic sensitivities display double standards of religious tolerance. There is little doubt, he argues, that such a concept as Reve's transposed to Islam would result today in the threat of death.


 Yet the Dutch parliament recently decided that artists and writers should not be afforded the security enjoyed by politicians. In a rare exception, van Gogh was given protection for 48 hours after Submission was screened. 'Theo was called by a Dutch radio show, which asked about this,' recalled van de Westelaken. 'He said: "Well let's hope that my friends from al-Qaeda comply with the same working hours as the police." This is why he said it was useless to protect him if they did it that way. That's now being misused by politicians who are saying that he didn't want to be protected.'

One Islamist website had pronounced that van Gogh should be 'slaughtered like a pig'. Even so, he was not unduly concerned about his welfare. His address was in the phone book and he took no special precautions in public. Friends say he loved debating with strangers. 'He'd constantly be talking with young Moroccan guys hanging around,' said Tara Elders, an actress van de Westelaken smilingly referred to as van Gogh's 'muse'. 'That was really his point, having discussions with people, a young Moroccan guy, some Dutch intellectual, or a junkie in the street. He was always willing to talk - that was his goal.'

To Hirsi Ali, the fact that he did not seek protection was not the point. In an open letter published just after van Gogh's death, she wrote: 'I know that people at risk, politicians, are forced to have such protection whether they want it or not. This safeguards not only their lives, but also public order and national security.'

Even her most vocal opponents would agree that Hirsi Ali is something of an expert on Dutch security arrangements. She has lived under round-the-clock police protection ever since she renounced her faith on television two years ago. 'Measured by certain criteria,' she said in a studio discussion, 'Islam could be called a backward religion.' Immediately messages appeared on the internet calling for her to be 'shot and knifed'.

No fewer than 17 Muslim organisations signed a declaration condemning the death threats, but Ali Eddaudi, a Moroccan writer and cleric in the Netherlands, spoke for many other Muslims when he dismissed Hirsi Ali 'for pandering to the Dutch' and behaving like a 'model immigrant'. Countless threats have since been made on her life, the one impaled on van Gogh's body being only the most recent and bloody. 'With your apostasy,' it read, 'you have turned your back on truth and you are marching with the ranks of evil.'

In the Index of Censorship article, Rohan Jayasekera claimed that Hirsi Ali had been traumatised by losing her religion and that consequently van Gogh was able to exploit her to his own ends. As Jayasekera cited no evidence for this hypothesis, the reader was left to infer that a black woman would by definition suffer exploitation at the hands of a white man, and furthermore that a rational rejection of faith is inevitably a disempowering experience. Yet the impression gained from Hirsi Ali's letter is of a woman determined to speak her own mind, no matter the cost: 'I feel guilty that I approached Theo with the script for Submission. And that he's dead because of it. In the cold light of day I know that only the perpetrator is guilty of his death. Instinctively, that is confusing. Theo and I discussed at length the possible consequences for both of us. He said, "As soon as such considerations dissuade you from expressing your opinion, isn't that the end of free speech? That is grist to the mill of the Islamists."

'I was prepared to go a very long way to make people sit up and take notice: the Dutch authorities, who have to realise that radical Islam and its supporters have established themselves in the Netherlands; the Muslim population, which must learn to see the unsightly birthmarks of its own religion ... Theo agreed with me on all these points. In his own way and as a filmmaker he tried, as much as possible, not to shut out Islamic youth but to connect with it.

'I feel guilty that I abused his lack of fear, because I know that anyone who tackles the holy scripture is in great danger. A man has been killed in a most abominable manner, simply because of what he believes. This is relatively new for the Netherlands, but in Islamic countries, it's a normal part of life.'

I spoke to a number of Moroccans in Holland and not one expressed anything but disapproval of van Gogh's murder. At several of the mosques I visited, the suspect was denounced as a madman and everyone expressed the wish that things should return to normal. But normal is a relative concept. A taxi driver named Suliman told me that since 9/11, the subsequent war on terror, and the murder of Fortuyn, he had felt a distinct cooling in communal relations. 'A lot of people look at you in an unfriendly way,' he said. 'You can feel more tension, but it's the same everywhere.'

Suliman was originally from the impoverished north of Morocco, like the majority of Dutch-Moroccans. Though earlier immigrants in Holland arrived from its former colonies in Indonesia and the Caribbean, the Moroccans were encouraged by the Dutch government to come in the Sixties and Seventies to fill the labour gap in a rapidly expanding economy.

Today, Muslims are three times more likely to be unemployed than their Euro-Dutch counterparts. They also account for a disproportionate number of crimes. To many on the left, these figures are a simple function of discrimination; to others, mostly on the right, they add up to something else. In her letter, Hirsi Ali wrote: 'The Muslim population must realise that its disadvantages are not so much a function of a weakened belief in God, or of discrimination, as the radicals would have it, but partly their own doing. The treatment of the individual, the position of women, the creation of ghettos like Islamic schools, these are all factors that explain why Muslim communities lag behind others.'

Along with the Turkish community, Moroccans help make up a Muslim community of around 1m people, or about six per cent of the Dutch population. A recent government report predicted that within two generations Allochtonen, citizens of non-Dutch origin (of whom Muslims form the majority), would outnumber Autochtonen, the ethnic Dutch, in the major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. An equally striking statistic garnered from a poll taken after van Gogh's murder is that 40 per cent of the Dutch do not want Muslims to feel at home in Holland.

Suliman came as a 15-year-old in the mid-Eighties, and though it was difficult at first, he learned the language and adapted to Dutch life. Holland, he told me, was his home. 'I hate Tangiers when I go back now,' he said. 'It's full of foreigners, all hoping to get to Europe.'

He spoke fondly of van Gogh. 'He was an artist, a good interviewer, very funny guy, crazy as well. But he knew what he was saying. He was a smart guy; he knew he was causing trouble and taking a risk.' He was moving perilously close to the 'he was asking for it' argument, which van de Westelaken had compared in its moral inversion to the girl in a miniskirt asking to be raped.

As if suddenly aware of where his line of thought was leading, Suliman paused and considered what he meant. 'In a way, he was a victim,' he continued, as if to say that the shooting and stabbing had by no means guaranteed that status. 'It wasn't him but Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This woman is the cause of all the problems, telling lies about Islam. If she hadn't sucked him into this, he'd still be alive today.'

Hirsi Ali has been in deep hiding since van Gogh's murder, not daring to attend parliament or even be interviewed on the phone, as I requested. By any measure, hers is an extraordinary story. When she was five years old she underwent what she calls 'genital mutilation'. Female circumcision is not an Islamic practice, but one confined to parts of north and east Africa. Nevertheless, Hirsi Ali viewed the procedure within an Islam context. 'Suffice it to say, I remember the lesson, I learnt more than the pain,' she said. 'That to be a Muslim woman is to be born for the pleasure of men.'

At 22, she was sent to Germany to meet a distant cousin from Canada whom her family had arranged that she would marry. She ducked the meeting and fled to Holland, where she taught herself Dutch, and worked as a cleaner and in a biscuit factory, before studying political science at Leiden University (her hero is John Stuart Mill). She joined the Labour party ('I am from the realist wing of the left,' she said recently) and worked as a translator for Dutch social services.

It was while doing this job, she says, that she saw large-scale domestic and sexual abuse within Holland's Muslim community. The Labour party commissioned her to write a report on honour killings, but distanced itself from her conclusion that the non-assimilation of Muslim communities and the misogyny of Islamic culture were the problems. The Liberals liked the sound of her and asked her to stand for MP. In a recent poll, she was named the second most popular person in Holland.

A willowy, elegant woman with a taste for designer clothes, she has the looks of a model and the language of an intellectual. Her standpoint is that Muslim attitudes to women need to be reformed and only Muslim women are capable of reforming them. But not many Muslim women are prepared to join in her campaign.

'I agree with more rights for women,' Elatik told me, 'but I don't agree with the way she goes about it. She's appealing to Dutch society, to middle-class Dutch-origin people. She talks about the emancipation of women, but you can't push it down their throats. If I could talk to her, I would tell her that she needs a couple of Muslim women around her.'

In Submission, the film Hirsi Ali wrote and narrated and van Gogh directed, she made an uncompromising return to the theme of domestic violence. It recounts four apparently true stories of women physically abused by their male relatives. One woman wears a veil and a transparent gown which shows her battered body, and on which are projected verses from the Koran. An example reads: 'The good women are therefore obedient. Those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places, and beat them.'

Even among moderate Muslims, the film was seen as needlessly blasphemous. 'The Prophet never hit women,' said Elatik, who is a practising Muslim. 'Mohammed let his wives do what they wanted. Everything is written in the Koran, and there are many other verses that teach that women should be respected.'

But if that verse was in the Koran, was it morally wrong or right? 'You have to see these things in context,' said Elatik. 'The Koran was written over 1,000 years ago.' Fundamentalists say that it is true for all time. So did Elatik think that this was fit advice for husbands to heed? After a number of further evasions, she finally replied: 'No, of course it is wrong. It's like the Bible: there are many statements in that which are now out of date.'

In which case, if fallible, the Koran is just another text, with no claim to a monopoly on truth. Elatik acknowledged the rationale of this argument, and hoped that in time there would be a more open debate. She cited two reasons that were holding back such a development. The Dutch saw Islam as a matter of private conscience and did not want it to have a public say in matters of social importance. And a 'lack of Muslim scholars' in Holland. She thought that Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi was the kind of man needed to fill the void.

Qaradawi is the Muslim cleric who was controversially invited to London by Ken Livingstone, the city's mayor, to speak against the hijab ban in French schools. According to a dossier compiled by Livingstone's opponents, Qaradawi has written that homosexuality is a capital sin, that wife beating is justifiable, and of the existence of a Jewish world conspiracy. In these respects, at least, he would appear to be in accord with Sheikh Abu Bakr Jabir al-Jasairi, whose book The Muslim Way is on sale at a number of mosques in Holland. Van Gogh was fond of quoting from the book, especially the part which described the appropriate punishment of homosexuals. Sheikh Abu Bakr demands that they should be thrown off rooftops, and if they survive they should be stoned to death.

Elatik dismissed Qaradawi's alleged homophobia by arguing that it was typical of clerics of all faiths. 'All Muslims are really asking for in this country,' she concluded, 'is respect.'

Another taxi driver, who did not want to give his name, seemed in no mood to offer respect. 'They hate us,' he told me, referring to Muslims. 'They hate our way of life. I don't understand. We're supposed to tolerate their culture, but they want to change ours. And if we protest, we're called racists. I like Italy, and when I go there I adapt to their culture, I don't expect them to adapt to mine. Van Gogh was rough with his words, but in Holland if you don't like what someone says you can go to court.'

He drove me out to the house in which Bouyeri lived with several other jihadi sympathisers in west Amsterdam. 'It's a ghetto,' he said, by way of preparation. I'd heard the same thing said by other Amsterdammers. Yet when we arrived, what I saw was a neat row of council-style houses, with a well-tended green. There was no graffiti or litter or boarded-up doors. It was only the women in headscarves, some fully covered, that distinguished the area from any other Dutch suburb.

Bouyeri began renting a small apartment here in 2001, and later other members of the Hofstad cell would come to discuss the teachings of the charismatic Syrian cleric Sheikh Abu Khaled. Just along the street from Bouyeri's place, a 23-year-old called Ali was fixing his car. He said he didn't know Bouyeri. 'Islam is freedom of speech,' he said. 'People can say what they want here - it's a free country. Look around you: this is not a ghetto. We don't have a problem with anyone.'

Just a couple of streets away from van Gogh's office is the al-Tawheed mosque, an inconspicuous grey-brick building. Inside, there is a bookshop selling a colourful array of Islamic texts. The police say that the mosque plays no part in their investigations into van Gogh's murder, although it is under investigation for trading in books, such as The Muslim Way, that incite homophobia and violence against women. In the bookshop, a man sang prayers into a microphone and in a nearby room the faithful knelt to pray.

According to reports, one of the teachings of the al-Tawheed mosque is that it discourages contact with unbelievers. A young man, no more than 20, explained that no individual could talk to me because no one could speak on behalf of the whole mosque. I was given a phone number of a man called Farid, an apparent spokesman, who also told me that he could not speak. Farid sent me to a mosque down by the dockside, where, he said, someone would talk to me. But again, when I arrived, I was told that no one would meet me.

Since van Gogh's murder there have many calls for improved dialogue. But van Gogh was murdered for speaking out, the religious associates of his killer refuse to talk, and van Gogh's collaborator, Hirsi Ali, is in hiding, in fear of her life. The silence deafens the many words that have been written and spoken since that bloody Tuesday morning. The man who would have most dearly savoured a no-holds-barred debate is dead. Van Gogh, his friend and enemies agree, possessed a character that was larger than life. It remains to be seen if his legacy is larger than death.



Going Dutch: RACHEL LEVY, THE JERUSALEM POST  Dec. 2, 2004

As its one million Muslims become increasingly indigestible, Holland questions the limits of its time-honored religious liberalism and political tolerance

On a cold November morning, the police of Uden, a small village in the south of Holland, announced that six teenagers had been arrested in connection with the torching of a local Muslim school and mosque two weeks earlier. Only two months ago, the news that the suspected perpetrators were teenagers would have shocked Holland. But those days are gone.

On November 2, Dutch film director and columnist, Theo van Gogh, a critic of Islam, was assassinated in broad daylight in Amsterdam. The alleged assassin, arrested close to the scene half an hour after the murder took place, is a 25-year-old Moroccan man.

The murder marked the loss of Holland's innocence. The assassination triggered a series of attacks and counter-attacks between the "indigenous" Dutch population and the Muslim immigrant population. Attacks, arrests, military stand-offs and political crises compete for national attention; Holland is in national crisis. The days that Holland was characterized primarily by its colorful tulips and, in particular, its tolerance, seem to be over.

Van Gogh, who was the great-grandnephew of the painter Vincent van Gogh, was known for his provocative opinions. He began his career provoking Christianity, the ruling norms of sexual freedom and women. In the late Eighties, van Gogh moved his focus to Jews. He referred to Anne Frank as "the Dutch people's own holy virgin."

In a 1991 article in Moviola magazine, he wrote about "...fornicating yellow stars in a gas chamber; what a smell of caramel! Today, all Jews burnt at crematoriums are diabetic Jews."

He was sued and fined 1,000 Dutch guilders (some 200) by the Dutch court. In another case, he pictured the well-known Jewish talk show host Sonja Barend in a concentration camp, while Dutch Jewish author Leon de Winter was pictured in "Treblinka [camp] style fornication with barbed wire around his dick."

When Jewish historian Evelien Gans criticized him in 1995, he replied to her in Folia Civitatis (a magazine notorious for its anti-Semitic leanings): "I suspect that Ms. Gans gets wet dreams about being f[...] by Dr. Mengele" and repeated this in the Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant, writing that he hoped she would sue him, "because then Ms. Gans will have to explain in court that she claims that she does not get wet dreams about Dr. Mengele."

In the late Nineties, van Gogh abandoned the Jews and focused increasingly on Muslims. He referred to Muhammad as the "pimp" and used a broad range of highly offensive, degrading names for Muslims, religious Muslim personalities and Islamic customs.

Yet, van Gogh had another side. For one of his films, for which he needed Moroccan actors, he called a youth prison and requested they send him a few Moroccan inmates. By doing so, he wanted to give them another chance - and indeed, he proved successful.


In August, van Gogh directed a short film, Submission, written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former refugee from Somalia who is a member of parliament for the liberal VVD party. Hirsi Ali left Islam after she came to Holland, mainly because she was critical of its customs and attitudes towards women. Her criticism of Islam, which focussed on the position of women, sexual abuse and female "circumcision" as body mutilation, have made her the focus of many death threats.

In Submission, Hirsi Ali portrays an Islamic woman dressed in a see-through burka, the Muslim gown covering the whole body except the eyes. The body of the woman is naked, and covered with various anti-female phrases from the Koran.

Muslims both in and outside Holland responded furiously. They called the film an "offense and indignation to Islam" and some demanded that the film be banned.

Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali said the heated reactions from the Muslim community only reiterated the need for their criticism of Islam. They also said "anything could be said in Holland," because freedom of speech is part of the Dutch constitution. Many supported them - including those who did not share van Gogh's and Hirsi Ali's opinions.

STILL, IT seems that van Gogh did not expect the repercussions of his criticism of Islam. Contrary to Hirsi Ali, who had been under police protection for two years, van Gogh walked the streets unprotected. He was shot while riding his bicycle in a busy street. After the killer made sure van Gogh was dead, he stabbed him repeatedly with two knives. Finally, he pinned a five-page letter on his body with one of his knives.

The highly anti-Semitic letter, which contained a good number of misquotes from the Talmud, was an open letter to Hirsi Ali. Apart from threatening to kill her, the killer also threatened the Jewish mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen, and the former minister of foreign affairs Jozias van Aartsen, the latter whom he mistakenly thought was Jewish.

In the wake of the assassination, the main debate in Holland revolves around how to define the boundaries between two constitutional rights: freedom of expression, and the prohibition against discrimination. The Dutch media now has a continuous flow of programs and articles about integration, assimilation and multiculturalism, identity and social divisions.

Yet if anything, the debates demonstrate an increasing gap between the indigenous Dutch population and the Muslim immigrant population. Both sides feel victimized and accuse the other side of not listening. When the Muslim primary school in Uden was burned down, Dutch Queen Beatrix paid a visit to the Moroccan community - an act which angered some, who felt that her first visit following the incident should have been to members of the indigenous Dutch community and to MP Hirsi Ali, who has been in hiding since van Gogh's murder.

The era of tolerance, which characterized Holland for many years, did not end only this November. The process began a decade ago, with the drastic increase of the immigrant population as well as growing criminality and other social problems, mainly in the Moroccan community.

Holland has about one million Muslim residents (of a total population of just over 16 million), some of whom have been naturalized and carry Dutch passports.

The first Muslims came to Holland in the Seventies and Eighties as temporary foreign workers from Turkey and Morocco. Contrary to Dutch expectations, many stayed in Holland and brought their families. The second- and third-generation Turks and Moroccans speak fluent Dutch, yet are considered allochtonous - foreign - by Dutch society. The foreign workers were followed by the asylum seekers. In the Nineties, between 60,000 and 80,000 people per year, many from Muslim countries in Africa and Asia, applied for asylum in Holland.

In recent years, Muslim immigrants in Holland have become increasingly religious, in an apparent attempt to redefine their Muslim identities in a largely non-Muslim society. In doing so, they were helped by the Dutch authorities, who subsidized their mosques, schools and cultural meeting places, thinking that it would be instrumental for their successful integration into Dutch society. But the result proved quite different: They began their lives in Holland bare-headed, but today most women and girls wear head scarves - partly, again, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the indigenous Dutch population, which is known for its liberal sexual mores and dress code.

Muslims have replaced the indigenous Dutch population in most big cities. In Rotterdam, 60 percent of the children in primary schools are allochtonous.

The Dutch moved to the suburbs, or to smaller communities in the country. Many city schools have become "black schools," a phenomenon previously unknown in Holland. At these schools, with predominantly or exclusively allochtonous students, the quality of education has, in many cases, dropped dramatically due to language problems.

The Explosive growth of an immigrant population and the inability of the Dutch to acknowledge the potential problems that come with it, have had far-reaching results.

Many first-generation immigrants, especially the elderly, and most particularly women, have not mastered Dutch on a basic level. Unemployment in the immigrant population is higher than among the indigenous population. Criminality among immigrant youths, especially those of Moroccan descent, is high. Most immigrants also tend to live together, which has resulted in the ghettoization of certain neighborhoods. Some of these neighborhoods have become neglected and unsafe.

There are other problems as well. Immigrant employees call in sick more often, making use of Holland's unique welfare system for sick employees more than the indigenous population, something which angers the Dutch.

The attacks on the World Trade Center have had a strong impact on the debate about multiculturalism in Holland as well. Politicians and the public began to ask themselves to what extent immigrants could be allowed to retain their own identity, and to what extent they had to adapt to Dutch norms and values.

The politician, Pim Fortuyn, was one of the propagators of forced integration of Muslim immigrants into Dutch society. He also proposed to restrict further immigration of Muslim immigrants. Fortuyn was very critical of Islam, calling it a "backward religion." In May 2002, Fortuyn was murdered by a Dutch leftist activist, who claims he acted as a "means to protect the rights of the Muslims."

Following Fortuyn's murder, the heated debate about the essence of Dutch identity only increased. The new cabinet that was elected in the wake of the Fortuyn assassination, headed by the Christian Democrats, started its term under the slogan of "re-establishing Dutch norms and values," and the years since have been marked by a continuous debate about Dutch identity and morals and the extent to which other groups should be allowed to retain their own culture.

Meanwhile, politicians are uncertain how to take action against the latest developments. On the one hand, the government decided to increase the budget of the Dutch secret services; on the other hand, it urges citizens to "take responsibility" themselves.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian Democrats) declared that "Holland is in crisis," yet stressed that "we are all responsible," keeping it vague as to whether the government would take any special measures.

His colleague Piet Hein Donner, minister of justice and also a Christian Democrat, proposed to investigate how people who performed blasphemy could be prosecuted by criminal law. His remarks caused such a stir in the parliament that the Liberal Left D'66 party proposed a motion to delete the constitutional prohibition on blasphemy altogether. The motion was ultimately not voted on, because the Labor party felt the times were too heated for such a debate in parliament.

Last  Tuesday, Dutch politicians found themselves again perplexed and undecided following the remarks of Abdul Jabbar van der Ven, 25, a former Dutch Catholic who converted to Islam and is an influential leader among Dutch Muslim youths.

In a talk show on public television, van der Ven said he was "pretty happy" with the death of van Gogh. He said he hoped that Geert Wilders, a politician, would also die within the next two years.

Wilders is party leader of the one-man parliamentary faction Group Wilders. After having been a member of the Liberal VVD party for many years, Wilders, a strong supporter of Israel and a critic of Islam, left the party this fall over an internal disagreement regarding the inclusion of Turkey into the European Union.

The VVD party favors Turkey's inclusion in the EU - Wilders opposes it. Opinion polls claim that Wilders will achieve a massive victory in the next Dutch parliamentary elections; since the assassination of van Gogh, the polls claim he will get as many as 24 seats in parliament, becoming the third biggest party.

The day after the TV broadcast, political party leaders wrote a combined letter condemning van der Ven's comments and asking the public prosecutor to investigate options to prosecute him for incitement. Still, they refrained from using strong language, in an apparent attempt to keep the lines of communication with the Muslim community open.

It seems, however, that this will be a difficult goal. On the one hand, representatives of the Muslim community hastened to condemn the assassination and have propagated tolerance, peace and communication. On the other hand, almost three weeks after the murder, many Muslims have gone on the defensive. Representatives of Muslim organizations refrained from condemning van der Ven's remarks, and instead said that freedom of expression allowed van der Ven to speak his mind freely. Likewise, when asked whether van der Ven's expressions trivialized his position as a youth leader, they replied it did not, and instead praised his broad knowledge of Islam.

Meanwhile, an Israeli diplomat specializing in Arab Affairs and Islam and familiar with Dutch society, believes the assassination of van Gogh and the current unrest is only the beginning of much bigger Muslim-Christian problems in the formerly peaceful Netherlands.

"Holland is a very open society and therefore it is vulnerable to attacks. You can easily create a disaster by attacking the oil storage tanks at Rotterdam, by bombing a tunnel, a train station, or Schiphol. Holland is not prepared. The Dutch have been too tolerant, too indifferent to the growth of fanatical Islam in Holland, as well as to the growth of the Muslim population in general.

"They think that ultimately the Muslims will form a sort of moderate, European Islam. But that is naive. They turned a blind eye to the problems for many years and now it is too late. I expect an attack of the magnitude of September 11, 2001 in Holland within the next two years," says the diplomat, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Chronicle of strife
November 2: Theo van Gogh assassinated. Van Gogh, great-grandson of his namesake Theo van Gogh, brother of the painter Vincent van Gogh, was a film director and columnist, and a fierce critic of Islam. Tens of thousands of people protest the murder the same night at the Amsterdam Dam Square. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, member of parliament of the liberal VVD party, who worked with van Gogh and is also critical of Islam, goes into hiding.

November 5: Arson in a mosque in Utrecht.

November 7: Attempted arson in a mosque in Huizen. Arson in a mosque in Breda. Attempted arson in a Rotterdam mosque. Racist pamphlets are found on the walls of another Rotterdam mosque. Racist graffiti on an Amsterdam mosque.

November 8: In IJsselstein, a man is arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a mosque. In Groningen, attempted arson of a mosque. Another mosque building is covered with racist graffiti. A bomb explodes near an Islamic school in Eindhoven. In Amersfoort and Utrecht, arson in churches.

November 9: A bag with human feces is thrown into the Moroccan consulate in Rotterdam. Arson in two Rotterdam churches. An anonymous Islamic group threatens more attacks will follow. An Islamic school in Uden is set on fire and completely burns down. In Boxmeer, arson in several churches.

November 10: A siege of a suspected "terror house" in The Hague by the military police. A whole neighborhood is evacuated. After a day-long stand-off, three arrests are made. Arson in a mosque in Heerenveen. The police arrest one suspect and find racist pamphlets and literature in his home. Arson in a Catholic school in Eindhoven. Arson in a Protestant church in Rotterdam.

November 11: Racist graffiti on a mosque and city hall of Veendam. Attempted arson of mosque in Venray.

November 13: Mosque in Helden burns down. Arson at school in Heerlen.

November 20: Windows broken in a mosque in Sneek.

November 22: Firebomb in a mosque in The Hague.

November 23: Abdul Jabbar van der Ven, 25, a former Dutch Catholic who converted to Islam, declares on national TV he is "pretty happy" with the death of van Gogh. He hopes politician Geert Wilders - who opposes the inclusion of Turkey into the European Union - will die within the next two years. Van der Ven is an influential leader of Dutch Muslim youths.

November 24: The party leaders of all political parties write a common letter condemning van der Ven's words and asking the public prosecutor to investigate if van der Ven can be prosecuted for incitement.

November 25: Six teenagers are arrested for burning down the Islamic school in Uden on November 9.


Until the 1970s, the Jews were considered the "foreigners" of Dutch society. Since the massive influx of foreign immigrants, the position of the Jews has changed. It is not clear whether the Dutch count them among themselves, or among the foreigners. The Jews themselves also seem uncertain as to where they belong.

One classic example of overt Dutch anti-Semitism is on the soccer field. For at least two decades, anti-Jewish hooligans have associated the Amsterdam soccer team Ajax with Jews, for reasons that remain unclear. They express themselves anti-Semitically during matches against Ajax. The most infamous of slogans - "Hamas, Hamas, put the Jews to the gas" - have largely been ignored by the Dutch authorities for many years. At the same time, Dutch Jewry has also failed to call for serious action.

Since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, Jews have experienced a strong increase in anti-Jewish attacks, primarily from the Moroccan community. At the same time, the Dutch have become increasingly supportive of the Palestinians - also under influence of the Muslim immigrant population - and their criticism of Israel regularly borders on anti-Semitism (e.g., equating Israel with authoritarian dictatorships, denying Israel's democratic character, questioning its right to exist, and still believing that a massacre took place in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield).

All of this has basically left the Jews "sandwiched" between two parties.

In its increasing attempts to redefine Dutch identity, values and norms, Holland has recently also questioned the permissibility of male circumcision and ritual slaughter. On both occasions, the Jews sided with the Muslims, protesting fiercely against Dutch criticism of both customs and claiming that the government had no right to interfere in matters of personal religion.

After Theo van Gogh's assassination, Orthodox and Liberal Jewish communities joined other ethnic and religious groups in signing a letter condemning the assassination and calling for peace and tolerance. Liberal and Orthodox rabbis and representatives of Jewish organizations have participated in many public debates.

Rabbi Tzvi Marx (formerly affiliated with the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem) analyzed the misquoted phrases from the Talmud in the letter written by van Gogh's alleged assassin in the daily newspaper Trouw. Jewish author Leon de Winter, himself once the victim of van Gogh's anti-Jewish remarks, immediately condemned the murder, appeared on TV and wrote many articles defending the constitutional freedom of expression.

Endnotes:

1. Michael Novak, "Aquinas and the Heretics", in First Things, December 1995.
2. Jacob Neusner and Michael Chilton, Trading Places: The Intersecting Histories of Christianity and Judaism (Pilgrim Press: New York 1996).
3. Quoted in Michael Novak, On Two Wings (Encounter: San Francisco 2002), page 208.