The first anniversary of the savage public murder of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh, 47, by Islamist radical Mohammed Bouyeri was commemorated yesterday with a gathering of politicians, relatives, religious leaders, and admirers at the Amsterdam park where van Gogh was bicyling when attacked in what was deemed an act of religious terrorism.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende spoke from the pavement where van Gogh was shot by Bouyeri in broad daylight, before slitting his throat and leaving two knives in his body, one pinning a note to his chest.
“The murder impinges on everything that is dear to us in the Netherlands,” Mr Balkenende said. “Violence is not the way.”
Bouyeri said he murdered the director out of religious conviction and that he would kill again in the name of Islam if given a chance. The 27 year-old of joint Dutch-Moroccan nationality was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the crime in July. Presiding judge Udo Willem Bentinck said at the sentencing that life in prison was the only fitting punishment for a crime that sought to undermine Dutch democracy and freedom of expression.
At the trial, Bouyeri confessed and vowed to do the same again if given the chance, saying that “the law compels me to chop off the head of anyone who insults Allah and the prophet.” He said he felt nothing for van Gogh’s family.
The source of Bouyeri’s murderous rage was Van Gogh’s film Submission, which was shown three months before the murder on Dutch national TV. Submission — written by liberal Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who fled an arranged marriage — tells the story of a Muslim woman forced into an arranged marriage who is abused by her husband and raped by her uncle. In one scene an actress is shown in see-through garments with Koranic script written on her body, which also bears whip marks. Much of the Netherlands’ Muslim community of one million, or 5.5% of the population, took offense with the film.
Van Gogh’s murder stunned the peaceful self-image of the Netherlands, set off a chain of attacks on Muslim buildings, followed by retaliatory attacks on Christian churches.
Van Gogh’s films were regularly nominated at the Nederlands Film Festival, where he won five awards. 06, about a young woman who advertises her services for phone sex, was made in 1994 and became one of his best-known works. It was renamed 1-900 for the US market.
Blind Date, two years later, featured a bartender listening to two customers talk and 2004’s Cool! was about the rehabilitation of a gang of young criminals.
It was announced at the Toronto Film Festival in September that Dutch and US co-producers will remake 06, Blind Date and Interview in early 2006 with stars including Steve Buscemi.