42 pages 1 hour read

Ian Buruma

Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2006

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Chapter 1Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary: “Holy War in Amsterdam”

In the first chapter to Murder in Amsterdam, Ian Buruma, a native son of the Netherlands who has been living outside of the country since 1975, tries to set the backstory to the murder of Theo van Gogh so that the reader can begin to understand the current political and social climate in the Netherlands as well as the reason for it. In a style that jumps around from recounting aspects of present-day life in the Netherlands to offering bits of important history about the people of Holland, Buruma trains his reader to understand that much of what they are going to encounter in this book is fragmented.

Known as place filled with “public figures preaching multicultural tolerance” (5), the Dutch have always taken pride in the fact that they are viewed as living “in the finest, freest, most progressive, most decent, most perfect evolved playground of multicultural utopianism” (11). Buruma goes on to describe how, for centuries, the Netherlands has been a place of refuge for those persecuted in other parts of Europe for either their religious or philosophical beliefs. This is particularly demonstrated in Amsterdam, which “has a long history of taking in foreigners” (18)—from the Sephardic Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain, to Protestant Huguenots fleeing Catholic France, to the Moluccans fleeing persecution in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia.