Van Gogh Killing Reveals Dutch Anger at Muslims

Van Gogh’s killing reveals anger at Islam (Washington Times)

Two weeks after the brutal slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, many Dutch are saying their normally staid society has been transformed just as the United States was altered by the September 11 attacks. Polls taken in the hours immediately after Mr. van Gogh was fatally shot and nearly beheaded showed that 80 percent of Netherlands residents think their country has been changed forever.


Opinion polls show an overwhelming majority of citizens favor a crackdown on Muslim extremists, who are estimated to number as many as 50,000 in the country. “It was a great shock. A wake-up call,” said Theo Kwakman, a construction foreman restoring an ancient building along the old Warmoesstraat. “I’m afraid that there will be more Muslims here soon than Christians. “I don’t worry about the atheists. They won’t do anything. [Muslims] are not all bad. But … I’m afraid someday one of the tunnels [into Amsterdam] will be blown up.”

The killing unleashed a torrent of pent-up Dutch anger at the Muslim community, and in the two weeks since, there have been at least 20 attempted fire bombings or arson attacks on mosques and Muslim schools. A smaller number of churches have been attacked in retaliation.

Muslims now make up about 5 percent of the Netherlands’ 16 million people. About 300,000 are Moroccans, and another 300,000 are Turks, many of whom came as “guest workers” and never went home. They now call the Netherlands their home, and many of their children have full Dutch citizenship.

Police and security officials will not say how many Muslims are involved in extremism, but a Dutch intelligence report from the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) said there may be as many as 50,000 Muslims sympathetic to extremist ideas. That is far too many for the comfort of many Dutch residents. Past polls repeatedly have shown that about 50 percent of the “native” Dutch think their country has too many foreigners of any kind — but particularly Moroccan and Turkish Muslims.

It’s remarkable to me how relatively little of this reaction there has been in the United States.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Religion, Terrorism, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kathy K says:

    We have a much lower percentage of Muslims VS the total population. We have taken in far more Mid-Eastern Christians and others who were fleeing from persecution.

  2. Attila Girl says:

    We’re also more accustomed to rubbing elbows with people from other cultures.

    I wonder to what degree Van Gogh’s relationship to the painter made this more personal to many Dutch–gave them a sense that this was an attack on a “national treasure” in addition to mere retaliation for a film perceived to be anti-Muslim.

  3. PlutosDad says:

    Kind of shoots holes in some people’s theories that only Americans are racist.

    Part of it is, America is newer, we don’t have thousands of years of Tradition. we also have separation of Church and State in our constitution, where we consider religion to be a personal matter.

    Also, our country was populated to a certain extent by people running from persecution.

    Europe, with their Church Tax like in Germany, does not consider religion to be personal, it’s very much public and part of the state. Therefore, you can’t help but have more anger and violence.

  4. Rod Hug says:

    After 9/11 Americans are not supprised by Van Gogh’s killing. We realise that Europe is being populated by Arab migrants, and a certain number will be radicals. Many Americans are of the opinion that migrant Arabs will carry their culture into Europe, rather than adopt European cultures.

  5. Sarcastro says:

    “It’s remarkable to me how relatively little of this reaction there has been in the United States.”

    You say this as if I am to believe that America is moderate when it comes to anger about muslim terrorism. May I remind you that you set two countries a blaze in retaliation to the WTC attack!

    “we also have separation of Church and State in our constitution,…”

    That’s what you say, but American politics seem to prove something else, fact is that the Bush administration has a very high amount of evangalists and the views, rules and politics to match them. Just because you say that the two are seperated doesn’t make it so! Beside the Dutch constitution has the same angle.

    “We’re also more accustomed to rubbing elbows with people from other cultures.”

    Before Bush started his holy war on the Muslim countries we in Holland were getting along with eachother reasonably good apart from small differences.

    “I wonder to what degree Van Gogh’s relationship to the painter…”

    The reason the Dutch got upset when Van Gogh got murdered by an extremist was that he said out loud what many Dutch were thinking about the anti social behaviour of some muslims. The possible relation to the famous painter is totally irrelevant.