Wednesday, November 02, 2005

One year ago the Dutch publicist and director Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered in Amsterdam by a Muslim extremist. For me it is easy to remember the date, because on the day of Van Gogh's murder our son celebrated his second birthday, 87 years after the Balfour declaration was issued. Van Gogh was not exactly the saint that some people turned him into right after his murder, but it is worrying that today about 50% of Dutchmen and -women believe that the man more or less called down misfortune over himself by provoking Islamists and other intolerant, humorless Muslims. Except for a few rightwing politicians and for the member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali - who is courageous and outspoken but who tends to overstate her case - Dutch intellectuals and public figures seem to think twice before they say or do something that might anger Muslims.
Early this week I wrote an article - in Dutch - about the murder of Van Gogh and of Yitzhak Rabin, claiming that these crimes have two things in common: the murderers got their way, at least partially, and both in Israel and in the Netherlands many people use what I call a 'problematic but'. You will often hear someone say or hint that of course nobody should be killed for his ideas, but obviously Rabin/Van Gogh hurt, angered and frustrated many Jews/Muslims by 'betraying the Land of Israel' and giving in to the Palestinians/needlessly shocking and provoking them, and it is almost natural that someone might take the law into his own hands and act violently. After both religious-political murders it was said that a red line had been crossed, but it seems that many people do not really believe that such red lines exist, too much understanding ( and, by some, admiration ) is shown in mainstream media and by not necessarily extremist members of the public for those who use violence to further their religious-political causes. The boundaries between free speech and verbal political violence should be clearly defined, not only by the authorities but also by the media.

No comments: