Sunday, November 14, 2004

Van Gogh and repercussions

The filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered on November 2 by Islamic extremists. And apparently not just by a lone insane Islamic extremist either - there was group of people who organized it in the name of the religion of peace. The actual killer was Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan, born in the Netherlands. He shot Van Gogh 6 times and slit his throat.

There had been threats to Van Gogh's life, but he had never taken them seriously enough to do anything about it. There were also threats to the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalia-born Dutch MP who wrote the script for his latest movie Submission. Being apparently a lot more familiar with the religion of peace that late Van Gogh was, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has accepted police protection and is alive and well.

Since then about 15 Mosques and Islamic schools have been attacked and several churches. I have written about church and mosque destruction in Nigeria earlier this year. I had not imagined I would have to write about the same things in the Netherlands so soon. Wake up, people. It's not Nigeria we are talking about here, where - admit it - very few of you really care what the poor African people do to each other. It's the Netherlands, very recently known as probably the most tolerant country in Europe. Looks like many people's tolerance has just run out. It's the Netherlands, full of European people just like you, and only a just over two-hour flight from here.

What's wrong with you people - the ones who are throwing the bombs? We all know how peaceful the religion of peace really is, but that's no reason to imitate it. Yes, almost all the terrorists in Europe are Moslems, but the vast majority of Moslems are nevertheless not terrorists, and if you throw stones into a mosque you are a lot more likely to hit some guy who owns your corner vegetable store than an Islamic terrorist.

Right now the political discussion is starting in real in Netherlands, and soon in the rest of Europe. Does Europe want any more Moslems? How can they be absorbed? To what extent is Islam a threat, and what percentage of Moslem population is a threat? More to the point, how do you recognize the ones who are a threat from the ones who aren't? Who are the moderates, and why are they doing such a poor job of reining in the extremists? How many of the ones who would not participate in terrorism are the silent supporters of it? How many of the moderates are afraid to speak out against extremists, and can something be done to help them? Is it a good idea to ban Islamic scarves at schools? Is it a good idea to ban religious schools altogether? Is it a good idea to only allow the imams who had their religious education locally to preach, like the Netherlands are possibly about to do? How much is the Netherlands' failure to force all immigrants to learn the local language contributing to the problem (Finland take notice)? And then, if (probably when) Western countries decide to close borders from all third-world Moslems except the families of the ones already here, the conscience question: if Islam is really as bad as we admitted it is, how can we close the borders from the people who are fleeing it, and how can we tell the people who are fleeing from Islam from those who are spreading it?

These are all questions that need to be discussed. Publicly. Preferably with some input from the existing Moslem population. They probably needed to be discussed 30 years ago. They definitely needed to be discussed before the violence started. But hey, better late than never.

Europe does have a Moslem problem, and it's time to admit it publicly, and also to say that whatever the solution is, bombing the mosques is not it. It's also time to put all the terrorists in jail, including the ones that bomb mosques and assault random Moslems on the streets. While we still can. It's bad enough that Moslems can't deal with their extremists, the rest of us certainly don't need to let the situation deteriorate to the point when we can't deal with ours, either.

I can see some hope in the Dutch situation, though. In the fact that now they are talking about it, and especially in all the Moslems who have spoken against the terrorism in the last two weeks.

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