Polemics by Henryk M. Broder: How a Film Triggered a Global Panic

It is the kind of stunt that has many fearing the worst: Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders plans to release a film about Islam. Politicians worldwide are already trying to stop the project, before a single scene has been shown. Critics fear the film could lead to bloodshed in many countries. Let us summarize what has happened to date. On Nov. 2, 2004, an Islamic fundamentalist murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the painter Vincent van Gogh, in broad daylight on a street in Amsterdam. The killer, a 26-year-old Dutch citizen, the son of Moroccan immigrants, shot the filmmaker at 9 a.m. as van Gogh was riding his bicycle. He then slit his throat and, using a knife, pinned a note to his victim’s chest, claiming responsibility and explaining his motives. The killer’s true target was politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But she, unlike van Gogh, was under 24-hour police protection. The bloody act was also a declaration of war against Dutch society, which, as the murderer was convinced, was controlled “by the Jews.”