Europe's tolerance finds its limit
Death of multiculturalism
Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, says the Netherlands is about to be engulfed by an "Islamic tsunami" and wants bans on building religious schools and mosques.
Photograph by : Jerry Lampen, Reuters
Peter Goodspeed, National Post
Published: Saturday, November 25, 2006
Tolerance may have died in Europe the day Mohammed Bouyeri murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
On the morning of Nov. 2, 2004, as Mr. van Gogh cycled to work in Amsterdam, the bearded young man in a long Middle-Eastern-style shirt fired at him with a handgun.
The mortally wounded filmmaker tried to run for cover. But the killer chased him, shot him once more and slit his throat from ear to ear.
Then, he plunged two knives, one with a five-page letter attached, into the body.
The note began: "This is my last word, riddled with bullets, baptized in blood ... "
It was filled with jihadist slogans and threats and contained a blood-curdling diatribe against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch politician who had written the script of Mr. van Gogh's last film, Submission. The 10-minute short about the abuse of Muslim women had upset some Muslims because it showed sacred Koranic texts superimposed on a semi-naked woman.
Bouyeri's missive ended with a threatening chant: "I know for sure that you, O America, are going to meet with disaster. I know for sure that you, O Europe, are going to meet with disaster. I know for sure that you, O Holland, are going to meet with disaster."
The savagery of the killing triggered revulsion across Europe. Today, the continent is attempting to cope with increasingly bitter racial and religious squabbles and is riven with doubts about its future.
Decades of open-door immigration policies have transformed Europe through the arrival of several million immigrants, mostly Muslims, from North Africa, Turkey and Southwest Asia.
But as the region became one of the most multicultural regions on Earth, its people have gradually turned against the policies that made it this way.
From Amsterdam to Paris and Brussels to Berlin, politicians want to restrict immigration and force recent arrivals to integrate more thoroughly into their new homelands.
The Netherlands, where 6% of the country's 16 million people come from Islamic countries, has found itself at the forefront of a general hardening of European attitudes toward Muslim minorities.
In the two years since Mr. van Gogh's murder, the Dutch government has adopted sweeping reforms aimed at forcing immigrants to integrate more fully into society. Immigrants must now pass a language test within five years of arrival or risk being deported. They must also take special integration classes when they apply for a visa.
Rotterdam has published a code of conduct suggesting that immigrants speak Dutch when out in public and the government runs courses to train imams in Western values.
This week, elections in the Netherlands seemed to reinforce the growing distrust between the native and immigrant populations when the Freedom Party, a previously insignificant far-right fringe group, won nine seats in parliament.
Led by Geert Wilders, a strident radical who goes out of his way to insult Muslims and warn that the Netherlands is about to be engulfed by an "Islamic tsunami," the Freedom Party is now the fifth- largest in the Dutch parliament.