The Netherlands commemorates death of Islam critic Theo Van Gogh

Sunday 2 November marks the death a decennium ago of Islam critic Theo van Gogh (d. 2 November 2004). Both hated and admired Van Gogh was in the forefront of early criticisms of Islam in the Netherlands in the post 9/11 period. The film producer, professional provocateur and collateral descendant of the nineteenth century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh was brutally murdered on the street in broad daylight by the Dutch-Moroccan and adherent of a radical form of Muslim fundamentalism Mohammed Bouyeri. Most notoriously known for his film Submission in collaboration with the Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali Van Gogh not only heavily criticized Islam but also other expressions of organized religion leading to claims of alleged anti-semitism on his behalf. A decennium after his death the Netherlands commemorates and reflects on his dubious legacy as both standard-bearer for unadulterated criticisms on Islam and Muslims as well as a catalyst for the rise of Islamophobic tendencies in the Netherlands and abroad.

Various media outlets devoted their space and time to this striking figure in the Dutch landscape of opinionated debate on Islam in the Netherlands. Prominent Newsmagazine De Groene Amsterdammer devoted it’s cover and a long essay to Van Gogh (in conjunction with an in-depth article about Mohammed Bouyeri’s process of radicalization). Van Gogh is portrayed as a polemicist and provocateur who used his film-productions and prose to shock but also to unveil and lay bare societal taboos and civil pitifulness.

The case of Van Gogh’s brutal murder still causes a stir in Dutch politics and society as evidenced for example by the recent re-opening of its investigation commissioned by the Dutch Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in consequence of a recent broadcast by the Dutch current affairs program EénVandaag. The proposed re-opening of Bouyeri’s case is mainly a consequence of perceived irregularities during the initial investigation and the possibility of unknown accomplices to the crime.

In the cultural domain Van Gogh’s life and death recently inspired a new movie production and a theatre show. In the theatre piece Van Gogh Spreekt – De Wederopstanding van een Enfant Terrible (English: Van Gogh Speaks – The Resurrection of An Enfant Terrible) written by his personal friend and music critic Roeland Hazendonk Van Gogh arises as a boy adrift – an enfant terrible – obnoxious, hilarious and merciless but also lonely and full of self-mockery. The movie 2/11 – Het Spel van de Wolf (English: 2/11 – The Game of the Wolf) is a political thriller shot in the style of both a documentary and a drama. It addresses and criticizes the functioning of Dutch politics and the Dutch secret services in the context of the Van Gogh murder-case. It is suggested that the Dutch secret services were on to Bouyeri long before his murdering Van Gogh and that Van Gogh was collateral damage in a bigger investigation into the notorious Hofstad Network in which Bouyeri allegedly participated.

De schreeuw ("The Cry") a monument commemorating the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in November 2004.
De schreeuw (“The Cry”) a monument commemorating the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in November 2004.

Friend of Mohammed B. has regrets: “I am merciful.”

10 years ago Theo van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed B. Jutta Chorchus and Ahmet Olgun spoke to his friends, members of the Hofstadgroep […] and Nouredine el F. was one of them. In 2005 he was arrested with his wife Soumaya S., while he was carrying a machinegun. He was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment and after send back to Morocco. He now claims he has made mistakes and he shouldn’t have carried the machinegun, because this is forbidden.

He came into contact with the Hofstadgroep while he was in puberty, stating that when you’re in your puberty you’re enthusiastic in the things you do. Things are simple, black-and-white. And then came the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror, and both the West and became a victim of this. The ‘brothers’ in the Hofstadgroep not only felt connected by them sharing a religion, but the group also provided a feeling of belonging, a common destiny and ‘cosiness.’

According to Nouredine el F. Muslim extremism played a role in emergence of Geert Wilders (Dutch right-wing politician, known for his harsh critics on Islam and Muslims). Their actions have harmed the society as a whole and the Muslim society in the Netherlands and have caused feelings of fear.

Critiquing Salafism in the Netherlands

4 September 2012


Radio Netherlands Worldwide profiles Izzeddin Ruhulessin, a young convert to Islam, and his assessment of the Salafist movement in the Netherlands. According to the article, Salafism gained in prominence in the country in the years following the 2004 murder of film maker Theo van Gogh. Researcher Martijn de Koning attributes the popularity to “second and third generation immigrants who are looking for an alternative to the traditional Islam that was brought by their parents or grandparents from the countries of origin.”

Ruhulessin suggests that Salafism is now declining in popularity, with other Muslims irritated by the strict requirements for orthodoxy and emphasis on external appearance upheld by the movement. The dynamic is particularly visible online, which sees both a strong and popular Salafist presence in internet forums used by young Dutch Muslims, as well as an increasingly vocal critique on venues such as Face Book.

Update: Shari4Holland Spokesman Fined

11 July 2012


Ab Qasim, a member of the Shariah4Holland group, has been fined 750 Euros for his comments threatening PVV leader Geert Wilders. Speaking at an impromptu press conference in Amsterdam in May, Qasim suggested that Wilders should learn the lesson of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004. In addition to the fine Qasim has been sentenced to 150 hours community service and a month’s suspended sentence.

Dutch Film Directors’ Murderer Included in Al-Qaeda Video

June 4 2011

De Telegraaf reports that a video clip released by as-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media branch, has featured an image of Mohammed Bouyeri, who killed Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. His inclusion is unusual in a video which otherwise focuses on depictions of senior al-Qaeda leaders.

Wikileaks Reveals US Courted Dutch Muslims

January 21 2011

Wikileaks documents have revealed a concerted effort by Washington to court a series of prominent Dutch Muslims in the wake of the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that, following the murder, US authorities deemed the Netherlands home to the most poorly integrated Muslim community in Europe, and one with strongly anti-American views. Consequently, diplomats were instructed to contact leading members of the Dutch Muslim community in order to cultivate greater understanding for American views. This process also involved offering trips to the US for prominent journalists and politicians including Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam.

Hirsi Ali Announces Submission II Is Too Risky

In an interview on Dutch television Ayaan Hirsi Ali announced that she will not make sequals to her controversial 2004 film Submission. Although the script is written, Hirsi Ali claims that making the film causes too great a risk to the cast and crew. Currently living in the United States, Hirsi Ali released Submission with director Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands in 2004, alleging to illustrate violence towards women in Islam. Van Gogh was subsequently murdered by a Muslim extremist. Hirsi Ali’s sequal was to depict the oppression of homosexuals in Islam.

Members of Dutch “Hofstad Group” Should Face 17 Years in Prison

November 3 2010

Seven young men accused of being members of members of the so-called ‘Hofstad (capital city) group’ face retrial on accusations of being members of a terrorist organization. The seven are part of a loose grouping of of young Muslims said to include Mohammed Bouyeri who murdered film maker Theo van Gogh in 2004. Since initially being found not guilty of participation in a terrorist organization in 2008, the Dutch high court has ruled that the definitions for the ‘existence and structure of a criminal or terrorist organization’ were too strict and ordered a retrial. Public prosecution suggested this week that the men should face up to 17 years in prison.

Verdict in Hate Trial for Dutch Politician Postponed

October 1 2010

The verdict in Geert Wilders’ trial for inciting hatred is to be postponed by two days, the Amsterdam court has announced. The verdict was originally scheduled for November 2, the anniversary of the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 by a Muslim extremist, though the court denies that the anniversary is the reason for postponing the verdict.

Hofstad Group Retrial Starts in Amsterdam

ANP reports that seven men accused of being members of the “Hofstad” terrorist group will go on trial again on Friday, in Amsterdam. The retrial was ordered by the Dutch high court in February after the men were found not guilty on charges as a terrorist organization. The Hofstad (‘capital city’) group, so named for its location in the Hague, is said to include Mohammed Bouyeri, who murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004.