Monday, November 2, 2009

Question (6)

Freedom of speech is more valuable and more important than an imagined “right” not to feel insulted, right?

5 years after the killing of van Gogh

Theo Van Gogh, the great grandson of art dealer Theo Van Gogh and great grandnephew of the famed Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, led an extraordinary life much like his predecessors. Theo was an out-spoken and prominent Dutch film director, author, journalist, actor, producer and an advocate of free speech who used the media as an open forum to broadcast his controversial views on religion, politics and social mores and values. The candid and often provocative method he used to express his ideologies quickly propelled him into the national spotlight in the Netherlands.

However, his critical views and brusque approach also made him unpopular among a lot of people. According to a November 2, 2004 article in, businessman and broadcaster Harry Mens described Theo as "a bit of a 'kamikaze,' who expressed his views regardless of whom he might offend." And offend he did. He harshly criticized Christianity and Judaism. However, the Muslim community bore the brunt of his irritation, which was evident when he likened Dutch Muslim immigrants to "goat f--kers."

At approximately 8:45 a.m. on November 2, 2004 (exact 5 years ago), the 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, an Islamic extremist with dual Dutch and Moroccan nationalities,
dressed in a traditional Moroccan "djelleba," brutally attacked Theo outside of a city council building as he bicycled to work in central Amsterdam. The attacker shot Theo Van Gogh and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest, callously disregarding his victim's pleas for mercy. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Theo was able to gain enough momentum to stumble to the other side of the street but by the time he made his way across, his attacker shot and stabbed him again. He then slit Theo's throat with a butcher knife as onlookers gasped in sheer horror.

Today, all the Dutch newspapers mark the event that shook the Netherlands to the core. The image of being an open, tolerant society where one could say anything was shattered and Dutch society changed in a fundamental way. Van Gogh was of rude, coarse and - according to many - offensive but his murder was an abhorrent act that can never be justified. The murder also had far-reaching consequences, many analysts believe that Geert Wilders and his far-right Freedom Party wouldn't be nearly so popular if van Gogh hadn't been slaughtered.

The general trend in the Netherlands is that"After van Gogh, people are scared to say anything controversial". Ton Folkertsma, who watched as Mohammed Bouyeri butchered the filmmaker, tells a Dutch paper that his life hasn't been the same since the murder and that the country has changed, "things are going badly in the Netherlands, things can't continue as they are. Maybe I'll be murdered tomorrow, or maybe it will be you".

Political scientist Sebastiaan van der Lubben who says that the murder created a general climate of fear that has now become institutionalised, "since van Gogh's murder, Wilders has been under 24-hour guard. That, to me, is ample evidence that the Netherlands has fundamentally changed".

The writer Nahed Selimş A Dutch/Egyptian Muslimfeministe sais, "I'd call van Gogh a martyr for the cause of freedom of expression".

Day Opening - November 2

While the Sahara Desert is a wonderful place to see for the wide expanse of sand dunes, the sunset there is sure to take your breath away. A night spent camping on the sand dunes of this three-million year old desert, watching the sky change colors at dusk, is a dream come true for any nature lover. (click on picture to enlarge)