Slaughter And 'Submission'

Creator Of Dutch Film Vows Sequel Despite Muslim Death Threats

This story originally aired on March 13, 2005.


In Nov., 2004 a brutal murder shocked Holland and the world. On a busy Amsterdam street, in broad daylight, a prominent film maker named Theo van Gogh was shot, stabbed and mutilated in front of dozens of witnesses.

A young Muslim radical was arrested. What was described as a ritual slaughter set off alarm bells throughout Europe and the United States, where millions of devoute Muslims live as minorities in secular society.

For the Dutch who have prided themselves for centuries on a tradition of tolerance, it was a painful awakening, the prospect of a homegrown jihad in the world's most liberal state. As Morley Safer reported 18 months ago, it all began with a movie called "Submission," a 12 minute movie, which aired on Dutch television.

The images were meant to shock.



In one image, the opening lines of the holy book, the Koran, were written across the naked body of a Muslim woman. Another image showed Koranic verses about female obedience scrawled on the back of a woman beaten by her husband, while a female voice accused Allah of condoning the violence.

The movie, "Submission," was directed by Holland's most controversial film maker, Theo Van Gogh, a descendant of the painter Vincent Van Gogh, and a national gadfly, who made a career insulting everyone, no matter their faith, race or gender.

"Submission" was right up Van Gogh's alley, but it wasn't his idea. The movie was written and conceived by a 35-year-old Muslim woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament, and a relentless critic of the way Islam treats women.

"Surely that must have been a gross insult to devout Muslims, to see those pictures," says Safer, of the images that appear in "Submission."

"It depends," says Hirsi Ali. "If you're a Muslim woman and you read the Koran, and you read in there that you should be raped if you say 'no' to your husband, that is offensive. And that is insulting."

Such provocative interpretations of the Koran have made Hirsi Ali a lot of enemies among radical Muslims. She lives in hiding with round-the-clock security. But she gave 60 Minutes an exclusive interview in a room in the Dutch parliament.

In the past, Hirsi Ali has called the prophet Mohammed a "perverted tyrant." She remarks, "he has said a few things that are not compatible with democracy." She has also called a part of the Koran "a license for oppression."

Even before the movie was broadcast, Hirsi Ali worked in parliament under guard. After the broadcast, she received a new wave of death threats, and the government increased her security. There were threats against Van Gogh, too, but he laughed them off. This was Holland, after all, the world's capital of free speech.

But Van Gogh was murdered as he cycled to work on a bike path in Linnaeus Street in Amsterdam one morning. He was shot several times by a bearded young man. As he lay dying, Van Gogh was reported to have begged for mercy, and said, "Can't we talk about this?" But the man shot him again, slit his throat and stabbed him, pinning a letter to his body.

Holland was in a state of shock. Tens of thousands massed in the center of Amsterdam to mourn Van Gogh's death, a sense of lost innocence and enormous anger. There were fire-bombings of mosques and Muslim schools, and counterattacks against churches.

Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, was charged with murder. Eleven other Muslim men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to assassinate Hirsi Ali. That letter pinned to Van Gogh's body was addressed to her. It said that she would be destroyed, along with Holland and the United States.

Did Hirsi Ali think that Van Gogh would become a target?

"Before we talked about making the film I said, 'Do you realize the danger?' " says Hirsi Ali. "But he was adamant about making it. He was adamant about putting his name on the title."

The Dutch government got Hirsi Ali out of the country while the people of Holland grappled with the aftermath of the murder. Almost overnight, the tolerant nation was transformed, and long-simmering resentment against the country's Muslim minority erupted.
  • Rebecca Leung

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