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 6Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 6 Summary: “A Promising Boy”

In Chapter 6, Buruma tells the story of Theo van Gogh’s assassin, Mohammed Bouyeri. Beginning with a brief recollection of the trial of Theo van Gogh, where Bouyeri stated that “he was obligated to ‘cut off the heads of all those who insult Allah’” (189) to show the extent of his radicalization, Buruma then attempts to trace the path to Bouyeri’s extremism by showing how a series of frustrations led an otherwise normal youth to a violent endgame.

A relatively liberal, weed-smoking youth, Bouyeri was seen as a “positive” (199), but after butting his head against the glass ceiling of advancement for immigrants in the Netherlands, he developed “an authority problem” (205)—both with the Dutch state and with his father, whom he viewed as having little to no control over his younger sister having a boyfriend. Eventually falling under the influence of Abou Khaled, “a radical Muslim preacher who had fled Assad’s secular dictatorship in Syria in 1995” (210), Bouyeri began the process of radicalization, which, along with sermons of Khaled’s, included scouring the internet for anything jihadist.

Spurred on by a feeling of disillusionment with life in the Netherlands, a belief in something greater than himself, and the desire to take control and authority over an otherwise weak existence, Bouyeri killed Theo van Gogh, an enemy of the Prophet, on November 2, 2004.