- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

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If you want to know where the outrage is when Islamist thugs butcher a civilian, look to the Netherlands. There may not be much of an outcry over the slaughter of humanitarian worker Margaret Hassan in Iraq, but the Dutch are up in arms about the Nov. 2 murder of Theo van Gogh, a columnist/talk-show host/filmmaker and provocateur who was shot, almost decapitated and stabbed in the heart because of his criticism of Islam.

There is one corpse, but the Nov. 2 attack on van Gogh as he pedaled his bicycle near his Amsterdam home could be the Dutch Sept. 11.

Many Dutch are incensed (as they should be) that a man would be killed for what he says and thinks. The government was clear that the murder was an assault on free expression. It is also an assault on the Dutch way of life.

It’s true that Theo van Gogh (related to the famous Vincent) used crude and gratuitous words to describe Muslims. He had earned their wrath. But he was the child of a free society, and he did not deserve to die.

The fact that one Mohammed Bouyeri, the 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan arrested for the murder, could believe otherwise scares the Dutch. Bouyeri grew up in the Netherlands. He went to Dutch schools. He had worked at a Dutch youth center. Raised in the bosom of a country that prided itself in religious tolerance, Bouyeri turned to the dark side as he joined those who believe they have a right to kill non-believers.

According to reports from witnesses, Bouyeri put a knife through van Gogh’s heart as he pinned a five-page jihad letter on the dying man. The anti-Semitic letter promised “fear” and warned that Europe and America would suffer. Already, the letter has delivered.

As The New York Times reported, two lawmakers went into hiding. The Times of London quoted a letter sent to a Dutch officeholder that warned of a “brigade” of jihadists who could kill “the enemies of Islam.”

Meanwhile, Dutch law enforcement has rallied. Officials rounded up seven young men for aiding in the van Gogh killing. All seven were foreign born.

Before van Gogh’s murder, the Dutch had passed their own Patriot Act so that prosecutors could go after the extremists. Now, people are calling for even more law enforcement.

An editorial in Amsterdam’s The Telegraaf newspaper called for the expulsion of extremists with dual citizenship, as well as a crackdown on the hate-spewers. (There is no Dutch First Amendment protecting the right of free speech.) There is talk of passing laws requiring Muslims to learn Dutch — even though Bouyeri and his parents were fluent.

“We are not going to tolerate this,” announced Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm, according to the New York Sun. Indeed, he declared “war” on radical Islam.

While the American left has suggested that Washington emulate Our Betters in Europe by being less aggressive in the war on terrorism, Our Betters in Amsterdam are pushing for tougher laws, more restrictions on hate speech, and aggressive enforcement of immigration law.

Last year, an animal-rights nut was sentenced to 18 years — which means he’ll probably serve a mere 12 years — for killing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. (Van Gogh was working on a documentary of the assassination when he was killed.) If Bouyeri is found guilty, he won’t get off so easy.

I don’t envy the Dutch. They too have to negotiate the delicate balancing act of fulfilling their duty to protect a way of life, while not needlessly alienating the majority of Muslims who aren’t radical or violent. In this case, noted political scientist Dennis Bark of the Hoover Institution, the Dutch need to find ways to work with Muslim leaders to offer Muslim youth “a hope for the future.”

Bark has a point. But any such effort also has to be clear in its renunciation of violence. The villain in this story isn’t Dutch society; it is Islamic extremism. And Dutch Muslim leaders could do a better job at renouncing the bloodshed.

In the meantime, the Dutch have no choice but to look at law enforcement to be part of the solution because the knife that stabbed the heart of Theo van Gogh also stabbed at the ability of the Dutch to speak their minds and elect officials of their own choosing.

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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