- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

We hardly needed the reminder, but the brutal murder earlier this week of Dutch filmmaker and controversialist Theo van Gogh shows again that the enemies of the open society aren’t disposed to spare tolerant societies by virtue of their tolerance. His death has rightly saddened and enraged the Netherlands, known for its famed tolerance but increasingly becoming just another battleground between reactionary Islamism and modern society.

Mr. van Gogh, a great grand-nephew of the famous painter, was killed Tuesday by an Islamist. Dutch authorities say an assailant whom they are identifying only as Mohammed B. shot Mr. van Gogh, slit his throat and left a five-page letter in Arabic on his chest stabbed under a knife.

Mr. van Gogh’s views were controversial, to say the least, and incensed Dutch opinion across the political spectrum. A self-described “reactionary,” he reportedly delighted in inflammatory language in his newspaper columns, had been fired from several jobs on that account and was a frequent provocator of Islam. Recently, he had received death threats for “Submission,” a film he directed depicting a Muslim woman’s arranged marriage, rape by an uncle and brutal punishment for committing adultery. The film had come under fire from Muslims, not least because one scene depicted the Muslim woman in question nude with passages from the Koran scrawled across her body.

Mr. van Gogh had shrugged off the death threats, saying his film was “the best protection I could have.” He was wrong.

In the Netherlands as elsewhere, people are beginning to wonder — what with anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn’s murder two years ago by another (non-Islamist) fanatic — whether free speech in their famously tolerant country is under attack.

Clearly it is. But then, no easy solution emerges for the Dutch, or for the rest of us. One place for the Dutch to begin looking is the country’s security apparatus. Ironically, at the time of his death, Mr. van Gogh had been working on a film on the Dutch security services’ failure to prevent Mr. Fortuyn’s murder just a week before national elections in which Mr. Fortuyn had been a leading candidate. Mr. van Gogh was on to something. Any solution to the problem of radical Islamism will need to include heightened surveillance of suspected militants. But ultimately the Dutch will only be safe when the United States, Britain, the Philippines and all the other targets of Islamist fascism are secure. And we will only become secure when all civilized nations unite to defeat the fascists. Even France will eventually be driven into solidarity with civilization.

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