- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

AMSTERDAM — A filmmaker who was the great-grandnephew of the painter Vincent van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street yesterday after receiving death threats over a movie he made criticizing the treatment of women under Islam.

A suspect, a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, was arrested after a shootout with officers that left him wounded, police said.

Filmmaker Theo van Gogh, 47, had been threatened after the August airing of the movie “Submission,” which he made with a conservative Dutch politician who had renounced the Islamic faith of her birth.

Police had kept watch on Mr. van Gogh’s house as protection immediately after the film’s release, but it was dropped because there was no concrete evidence of a threat, public prosecutor Leo de Wit said.

In a recent radio interview, Mr. van Gogh — the great-grandson of the brother of Vincent van Gogh, who also was named Theo — dismissed the threats and called the movie “the best protection I could have. It’s not something I worry about.”

Authorities had felt that the more likely target of revenge attacks was the film’s writer, Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of parliament who frequently has outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways. She remains under police protection.

Police said Mr. van Gogh’s killer shot and stabbed his victim and left a note on his body. They declined to comment on reports that his neck was slashed and would not reveal the contents of the note.

The attacker fled to the nearby East Park and was arrested after exchanging gunfire with police, police spokesman Eric Vermeulen said. Both the suspect and a police officer sustained minor injuries.

One unidentified witness who lives in the neighborhood told the Dutch national broadcaster NOS that she heard six shots and saw a man with a long beard and dressed in Islamic garb concealing a gun.

Mr. van Gogh’s death immediately rekindled memories of the 2002 assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who polarized the nation with his anti-immigration views — particularly against Moroccan and Turkish immigrants — and was fatally shot just days before national elections. A Dutch animal rights activist was convicted of the slaying.

Mr. van Gogh’s short English-language film “Submission,” which aired on Dutch television in August, enraged the Netherlands’ Muslim community — including some Muslim women’s groups that called its depiction of abuse of women insensitive.

In the fictional story, a veiled Muslim woman spoke about her violent marriage, being raped by a relative and being brutally punished for adultery. In parts of the movie, the actress’ naked body is shown through a transparent gown — with Koranic verses written on it in one scene — further angering some Muslims.

The place of Muslim immigrants in Dutch society long has been a contentious issue, with many nationalist politicians pushing for tougher immigration laws.

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