Muslim row filmmaker 'murdered'
Tuesday, November 2, 2004 Posted: 8:33 AM EST (1333 GMT)
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Controversial Dutch filmmaker and newspaper columnist Theo van Gogh, who made a film about violence against women in Islamic societies, has been murdered in Amsterdam, police said.
Police said they arrested a man at the scene after a shootout. The suspect, a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, and a police officer were slightly wounded.
Filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been threatened after the August airing of the movie "Submission," which he made with a right-wing Dutch politician who had renounced the Islamic faith of her birth.
Van Gogh, 47 -- who said he was the great grandson of the brother of famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, who was also named Theo -- had received police protection after the film's release.
The killing immediately rekindled memories of the 2002 assassination of Dutch anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn who was shot to death days before national elections.
Van Gogh had been making a film about Fortuyn, which was due for release in December.
In a recent radio interview, Van Gogh dismissed the threats and called "Submission" "the best protection I could have. It's not something I worry about."
Police told The Associated Press that Van Gogh's killer shot and stabbed his victim and left a note on his body. They declined to comment on reports that the filmmaker's neck was slashed.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende called on the Dutch people to remain calm and not to jump to conclusions.
In a report by Dutch national broadcaster NOS quoted by AP, an unidentified witness who lives in the neighborhood said she heard six shots and saw the suspect concealing a gun. She said he walked away slowly, spoke to someone at the edge of the park, and then ran.
She said he was wearing a long beard and Islamic garb and appeared to be either an Arabic man or someone disguised as a Muslim.
Another unidentified witness told Dutch Radio 1 the killer arrived by bicycle and shot Van Gogh as he got out of a car. "He fell backward on the bicycle path and just laid there. The shooter stayed next to him and waited. Waited to make sure he was dead."
In a written statement, the prime minister said, "Nothing is known about the motive.
"I want to call on everyone not to jump to far-reaching conclusions. The facts must first be carefully weighed so let's allow the investigators to do their jobs," he said.
Police search the area of Van Gogh's killing for clues.
Balkenende praised Van Gogh as a proponent of free speech who had "outspoken opinions."
"It would be unacceptable if a difference of opinion led to this brutal murder," he said.
"He did receive death threats but he never took them quite seriously. He was a controversial figure and a champion of free speech," a colleague at Van Gogh's film production company told Reuters.
Police declined to comment on the possible motive.
Police spokesman Eric Vermeulen said the attacker fled to the nearby East Park, and was arrested after exchanging gunfire with police. Both the suspect and a policeman suffered minor injuries.
"They were conscious" when taken to hospital, Vermeulen told AP.
In addition to his film, Van Gogh also wrote columns about Islam that were published on his Web site, www.theovangogh.nl
, and Dutch newspaper Metro.
The short television film "Submission" aired on Dutch television in August, enraged the Muslim community in the Netherlands.
It told the fictional story of a Muslim woman forced into a violent marriage, raped by a relative and brutally punished for adultery.
The English-language film was scripted by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament, has repeatedly outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways.
The place of Muslim immigrants in Dutch society became a contentious issue in the Netherlands, where many right-wing politicians have pushed for tougher immigration laws and say Muslims already settled in the country must make a greater effort to assimilate.
The Dutch wing of the European Arab League, one of several organizations to criticize "Submission" as insulting to Muslims, said they were shocked by the news of Van Gogh's murder.
"It's horrible. We don't know who did it and why but it's absolutely shocking that someone can be shot dead in a park in Amsterdam," Nabil Maruch told Reuters. "Shots and death threats are not the way to make people think differently."
Van Gogh has often come under criticism for his controversial movies. In December, his next movie "06-05," about the May 6, 2002 assassination of Pim Fortuyn, is scheduled to debut on the Internet.
Oh my god...what is happening in the world? What is happening in my country? Murdered...because of his opinion...? Shot 6 times, his throat slit, a knife in his body with a letter?! WTF, we're one of the most tolerant countries on earth. omg...this is so shocking.
Already people are screaming anti-muslim things, generalizing liek crazy, talking 'true dutchmen'-****...
Ugh, you can't help but notice the society is hardening everywhere in the world. Intolerance is becoming the rule, instead of exception... Why is this happening? Any ideas/opinions?