03 November 2004

Robert Spencer on the death of Theo van Gogh

[Theo van Gogh's] death [is] something that everyone who values freedom should worry about.

[F]or such things to happen in Iran and Egypt, two countries where Islamic radicalism is widespread, is one thing; to have a ?blasphemer? gunned down on the streets of Amsterdam in broad daylight is another. Europe has for thirty years encouraged massive immigration from Muslim nations; Muslims now comprise five percent of Holland?s population, and that number is growing rapidly. But it is still largely taboo in Europe ? as in America ? to raise any questions about how ready that population is to accept the parameters of secularism. When Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn tried to raise some of those questions in 2002, he was vilified as a racist ? in line with the continuing tendency of the Western media to frame questions regarding Islam in racial terms, despite the fact that the totalitarian intransigence of the ideology of radical Islam is found among all races. And Fortuyn himself, of course, was himself ultimately murdered by a Dutch assailant who, according to The Guardian, ?did it for Dutch Muslims.?

The deaths of Fortuyn and now van Gogh indicate that the costs of maintaining this taboo are growing ever higher. One of the prerequisites of the hard-won peaceful coexistence of ideologies in a secular society is freedom of speech ? particularly the freedom to question, to dissent, even to ridicule. Multiculturalism and secularism are on a collision course: if one group is able to demand that its tenets remain above criticism, it no longer coexists with the others as an equal, but has embarked on the path to hegemony.

It is long past due for such considerations to become part of the public debate in Western countries.

After van Gogh was killed, thousands of people took to the streets of Amsterdam to pay him homage. Among them, according to Agence France Presse, was a Muslim woman who stated: ?I didn?t really agree with van Gogh but he was a person who used his freedom of expression.? ...

No one knows how many Muslims in Europe and America hold the views of the Moroccan woman at the rally, and how many would side with Pakistan?s Sharia Court ? and the killer of Theo van Gogh.

If Western countries continue, out of ignorance, fear, or narrow self-interest, to refuse to find out, they will find themselves playing host to many more incidents like the bloody scene in Amsterdam Tuesday morning. The longer this question is ignored, or attributed only to ?racist? sensibilities, the more likely it becomes that the killing of Theo van Gogh will not be a tragic anomaly, but a harbinger of things to come.