Posted: 11/2/2004 9:14:22 AM EDT
Filmmaker Who Criticized Islam Slain
By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A filmmaker who was the great-grandnephew of the painter Vincent Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street Tuesday after receiving death threats over a movie he made criticizing the treatment of women under Islam.
A suspect, a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, was arrested after a shootout with officers that left him wounded, police said.
Filmmaker Theo van Gogh, 47, 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.
Police had kept watch on Van Gogh's house as protection immediately after the film's release, but it was dropped because there was no concrete evidence of a threat, public prosecutor Leo de Wit said.
In a recent radio interview, Van Gogh — who is the great-grandson of Vincent Van Gogh's brother, who also was named Theo — dismissed the threats and called the movie "the best protection I could have. It's not something I worry about."
Authorities had felt the more likely target of revenge attacks was the film's writer, Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of parliament who frequently has outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways. She has been and remains under police protection.
Police said Van Gogh's killer shot and stabbed his victim and left a note on his body. They declined to comment on reports that his neck was slashed and would not reveal the contents of the note.
The attacker fled to the nearby East Park and was arrested after exchanging gunfire with police, police spokesman Eric Vermeulen said. Both the suspect and a policeman suffered minor injuries.
One unidentified witness who lives in the neighborhood told the Dutch national broadcaster NOS that she heard six shots and saw a man with a long beard and wearing Islamic garb concealing a gun.
Another witness told Dutch Radio 1 the killer arrived by bicycle and shot Van Gogh as he got out of a car.
"The shooter stayed next to him and waited. Waited to make sure he was dead," the witness said.
Van Gogh's killing immediately rekindled memories of the 2002 assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who polarized the nation with his anti-immigration views — particularly against Moroccan and Turkish immigrants — and was shot to death days before national elections. A Dutch animal rights activist was convicted in his slaying.
Van Gogh's next movie, scheduled to debut on the Internet in December, was titled "06-05" and was about the May 6, 2002, slaying of Fortuyn.
The filmmaker had often come under criticism for his controversial movies, and he wrote columns about Islam on his Web site and for the Dutch newspaper Metro.
He has had formal complaints filed against him for making alleged anti-Jewish, anti-Christian and anti-Muslim comments in interviews and columns that he wrote. His many provocative statements including mocking a prominent Dutch Jew, making references to "the rotten fish" of Nazareth and calling a radical Muslim politician "Allah's pimp."
His short English-language film "Submission," which aired on Dutch television in August, enraged the Netherlands' Muslim community — including some Muslim women's groups that called its depiction of abuse of women insensitive.
In the fictional story, a veiled Muslim woman spoke about her violent marriage, being raped by a relative and being brutally punished for adultery. In parts of the movie, the actress' naked body is shown through a transparent gown — with Quranic verses written on it in one scene — further angering some Muslims.
The place of Muslim immigrants in Dutch society has long been a contentious issue, with many right-wing politicians pushing for tougher immigration laws.
In a written statement, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende 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," Balkenende said, praising Van Gogh as a proponent of free speech.
"It would be unacceptable if a difference of opinion led to this brutal murder."
Its like they're not really peaceful. But thats not what I learned on TV.