Slaughter And 'Submission'

Creator Of Dutch Film Vows Sequel Despite Muslim Death Threats


"The death of Theo was actually a kind of a smart bomb. Everybody is threatened when they speak out," says Theodor Holman, a columnist and radio commentator. He was also one of Van Gogh's closest friends.

Van Gogh's death, Holman says, really shocked the country, "Because the country did love him as well. He had his own television show. He had a radio show. He made movies. So he embodied what you can do in this country and what you can say."

And that means just about anything goes. Coffee shops sell cappuccino, hashish and marijuana, and it's legal. In storefronts, prostitutes offer anything you fancy, which is also perfectly legal. Gay life and gay marriage are also protected by law.

This was all a reflection of a centuries-old tradition of religious and social tolerance that included, until very recently, a policy of openness to the world. For decades, Dutch immigration laws were the most easygoing on earth. Those laws have become more restrictive in recent years, but in the wake of Van Gogh's death, there is a call for extreme measures, which were once unthinkable in Holland.

"A poor man's Patriot Act is in the making," says Holman. "A Dutch way of having a Patriot Act."

Holland once had a reputation, historically, of being a welcoming country. Has that changed? "I think that is gone now," says Holman. "I hope it will return. But it has gone now."

It's changed particularly for new Muslim immigrants. Out of a Dutch population of 16 million, there are 1 million Muslims, mostly Moroccans and Turks, who are now Dutch citizens. With high unemployment, and with huge numbers who never learned the language, most Muslims live in a separate world, in barren suburbs known as "dish cities," named for the satellite dishes beaming sometimes inflammatory Arab television into homes, and fostering a militant Islam. The man charged with killing Van Gogh grew up in such a place.

Paul Scheffer, a professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam, says people of faith of every kind are welcome, so long as they understand that in Dutch democracy, virtually nothing is sacred.

"You can't live here with a holy book that is above or beyond our democracy. Your holy book will be the object of criticism," says Scheffer. "It will be the object of interpretation, and sometimes of ridicule. And if you can't accept that, you can't live here."

"But it's not so easy, because what you're asking these families to do, when you even suggest that, is give up your tradition," says Safer. "And become one of us."

"They could interest themselves more for this society and the other way around as well," says Scheffer. "No one was interested in their existence. Never a question was asked because nobody was interested in the answer."

On that point, Nabil Marmouch, a Muslim community leader, agrees with Scheffer. He says Muslims in Holland have been marginalized and worse. And the movie, "Submission," is a prime example.

"You cannot emancipate women by insulting them," says Marmouch. "Unless, of course, that is your hidden agenda, to insult them, and to create what has happened here in the Netherlands."

Marmouch, who is starting a Muslim political party, says murder is wrong, but he says he was not surprised by the murder of Van Gogh: "We could expect that from the beginning."

In part, Marmouch's lack of surprise stems from the fact that Van Gogh insulted people from all religious backgrounds. "So that is a good argument," asks Marmouch. "'Oh, we Christians are being insulted, so you Muslims should also be insulted?' No, I don't think so."

Marmouch adds, "The whole thing is being politicized by Ayaan Hirsi Ali."

She is seen as a traitor to Islam, the faith she rejected as a very young woman. Hirsi Ali says her rejection of Islam started at an early age: "From the time I started reading novels of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, I wanted to be like Nancy Drew." Her beliefs estranged her from her upper middle class Somali parents, who remain devout believers.

"They just don't get it, I think," says Hirsi Ali, who says her father thinks she's misguided. "The last time I spoke to my father, he told me that he believes that one day I will return to the faith."