A 27 year-old Islamist radical of joint Dutch-Moroccan nationality, Mohammed Bouyeri, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole today for committing a terrorist act by murdering Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh last November. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of several police officers and bystanders, and illegal possession of firearms. Presiding judge Udo Willem Bentinck said life in prison was the only fitting punishment for a crime that sought to undermine Dutch democracy and freedom of expression.
During the trial, Bouyeri, who according to observers looked “very calm and superior,” 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.
Bouyeri shot van Gogh, the great-grandnephew of Vincent, in broad daylight THEN slit his throat before leaving two knives in his body, one pinning a note to his chest. The conviction and sentence puts to rest any notions that this was anything but an overt political act against freedom of expression: criticize any aspect of Islamic culture and die. This is the Rushdie fatwa carried out in 2004.
Why was Bouyeri so upset? Van Gogh’s film Submission was shown last year 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.
There was much hue and cry at the time from the Netherlands’ Muslim community of one million, or 5.5% of the population. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been under police protection since the film was aired. She has also received death threats and has renounced the Islamic faith.
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. He also found success on TV. Among his highlights was Najib en Julia, a modern reworking of Romeo and Juliet that saw a Dutch girl fall in love with a Moroccan pizza delivery boy.
The director’s most recent project was 06-05, a movie about Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2002.