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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Key Figures

Theo van Gogh

A prominent Dutch filmmaker, social philosopher, and critic known for his harsh stance against political Islam and liberal hypocrisy, van Gogh is the catalyst behind Murder in Amsterdam. His assassination on November 2, 2004, serves as the backdrop behind Buruma’s exploration of the political and social climate in the modern-day Netherlands. Known for his outlandish statements, such as referring to Muslims as “goat fuckers” (9), his political films, and his TV talk show A Friendly Conversation, van Gogh was a lightning rod in a Dutch society that prided itself on tolerance and multi-culturalism. Quick to refer to himself as “the village idiot” (98), van Gogh was a firebrand in the sense that he believes discourse would remain safely tucked away in the world of debate and esoteric disagreement, not one who ever believed that his commentary would spill “more than imaginary blood” (99). Ultimately, his work with activist and political refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Submission—a short film onto which verses of the Koran were projected onto the body of naked women in order to highlight the physical abuse suffered by many Muslim women at the hands of their male relatives and husbands—lead to his assassination by Mohammed Bouyeri.