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Dutch Muslims Threatened After Killing

DW Staff (dre)November 9, 2004

Following the assassination of a famous Dutch filmmaker by a suspected Muslim radical last week, tensions between the country and its Muslim community have reached the boiling point.

Women and children wait outside a school where a bomb explodedImage: AP

Police are looking for suspects after a bomb exploded outside a Muslim elementary school in Eindhoven Monday, injuring no one but adding to the tension and fear that has gripped Holland in the last week.

The bomb explosion is the latest in a series of attacks on Muslim buildings since Theo van Gogh, 49, a filmmaker and critic of radical Islam, was shot and killed on his bicycle in Amsterdam last Tuesday. Mosques in five Dutch towns and cities were defaced or suffered fire damage over the weekend.

Police arrested a Moroccan man on Friday with reportedly close ties to Islamic fundamentalists in Holland.

Navel-gazing, tough measures after killing

On Monday, far-right protestors marched in Amsterdam and Rotterdam against the killing of the filmmaker (photo), who had recently completed a film on the treatment of women in Islam. The marches come at a time when the Netherlands, which had long prided itself on a liberal and open immigration policy, is radically reconsidering its relationship to its Muslim communities.

Filmregisseur Theo van Gogh erschossen
Theo van Gogh in 2001Image: AP

"The tiller needs to be pulled in the other direction," Rita Verdonk, the country's conservative Integration Minister, said last week. "We've thought for too long that we have a multicultural society."

Following the killing, Verdonk announced reportedly long-planned measures that aim to control what is being preached in the country's mosques. In the future, Imams will only receive residency permits once they pass Quran tests. The goal is to eventually get the Imams to preach Western values in the Dutch language.

Her proposals have caused an uproar in the liberal country's Muslim community who say the government is trying to dictate to Imams how the Quran is to be interpreted. Muslim leaders have urged calm in an atmosphere of heated rhetoric and accusations since the killing.

"We need to show in different ways that Muslims as well treasure freedom of speech and condemn violence," Mohamed Sioni, from the foundation, Islam and Citizenship said in a newspaper interview.

Pim's populist ghost rises again

But the opposite seems to be happening. Populism in the spirit of Pim Fortuyn, the anti-immigrant Dutch politician assassinated in May 2002 (photo), is taking hold. Geert Wilders, who some see as the successor to Fortuyn, announced this week that he is starting a new party aimed at curbing immigration from Muslim countries like Morocco and Turkey.

Pim Fortuyn
Pim FortuynImage: AP
"One of the focal points of this movement is going to be to deal effectively with growing Muslim extremism in Holland," a Wilders spokesman told Reuters. "The hope is that politicians and the government will be held more responsible."