Theo van Gogh and “Education By Murder” in Holland

by | Nov 18, 2004

“Education by murder” describes the slow and painful way people wake up to the problem of radical Islam. It took 3,000 deaths to wake up Americans, or at least to wake up the half of them who are conservative. Likewise, it took hundreds of deaths in the Bali explosion to semi-wake up Australians; it took […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for both the New York Post and The Jerusalem Post. His website, DanielPipes.org, offers an archive of his published writings and a si

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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