10 November 2004


Dutch filmmaker and newspaper columnist Theo van Gogh was no stranger to controversy. His films provoked outrage from Muslims in the Netherlands and he received death threats. Last week in Amsterdam, he was murdered in broad daylight.

On 3 November 2004, an assailant shot and stabbed van Gogh to death and left a note reportedly containing Islamic text pinned to his chest. A man with dual Dutch-Moroccan citizenship has been arrested.

The Netherlands Association of Journalists (Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) have condemned the murder.

Although police have yet to confirm a motive, it is widely believed that van Gogh, a descendant of the famous painter, was killed in retaliation for his short film "Submission," which aired on Dutch television in August. The film told the fictional story of a Muslim woman forced into a violent marriage, raped by a relative and brutally punished for adultery. It featured actresses portraying abused Muslim women, naked under transparent Islamic-style shawls, their bodies marked with texts from the Koran that supposedly justify the repression of females.

The film was co-produced by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch member of parliament of Somali origin who has blamed Islamists for fostering repression and domestic violence among immigrant communities in the Netherlands. Hirsi Ali and van Gogh received death threats after the film was broadcast.

Index on Censorship notes that as a newspaper columnist, van Gogh developed a reputation for opposing immigration. He argued that Islamic culture contradicted Dutch culture and endangered Dutch values, consciously echoing Pim Fortuyn, the maverick anti-immigration politician who was murdered in May 2002.


- Index on Censorship: Two Views on van Gogh: http://www.indexonline.org/news/20041102_netherlands.shtmlhttp://www.indexonline.org/news/20041103_netherlands.shtml
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=11772- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2770&Language=EN- NVJ: http://www.villamedia.nl/n/- Theo Van Gogh's Website: http://www.theovangogh.nl/- BBC Profile of Pim Fortuyn: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1971462.stm(Image courtesy of Index on Censorship)

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