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Cablegate: Van Gogh Killing Shocks Dutch Nation

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The brutal murder November 3 of prominent
Dutch film director/personality Theo van Gogh by a Dutch
Moroccan in bright daylight in an Amsterdam street has
rocked Dutch society. The murder recalls the assassination
in 2002 of maverick politician Pim Fortuyn, who, like Van
Gogh, criticized Islam and challenged political
correctness. Dutch politicians and opinion makers
universally condemned the attack as a blow against free
speech and democracy, but the killing also spotlighted the
growing problem of pockets of Islamic extremists in the
Netherlands. The killing coincides with changes in the
GoNL's counterterrorism system and criticism of Dutch
security services. While some politicians called for tough
action against those who aim to undermine the principles of
our society, others warned against seeking simple
solutions. The government urged the nation to stay calm and
to refrain from retaliation against certain groups.
Security measures have been taken and public protests thus
far have been largely peaceful. End summary.

The Assassination

2. (U) The cold-blooded murder of Theo van Gogh, as he was
riding his bike along an Amsterdam street on the morning of
November 3, hit the Netherlands like a bombshell. Van Gogh
was a well-known publicist, movie director and opinion maker
(and grandson of Van Gogh's brother Theo) with outspoken
opinions, whose blunt criticism of Islam had often provoked
sharp criticism within Islamic circles. Recently, he made a
film called Submission with Liberal (VVD) parliamentarian
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a staunch fighter for the liberation of
Muslim women, about the abuse of Muslim women. The film
showed women in transparent robes on whose bodies were
projected texts from the Koran that are hostile to women.
The film triggered fierce protests from Muslim circles, and
both Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali received death threats. Hirsi
Ali accepted police protection, Van Gogh reportedly did not.

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The Killer

3. (U) According to press reports, the murder appeared to
take the form of a ritual execution. Van Gogh was shot
multiple times, stabbed, and the killer attempted to behead
him. The murderer left a knife stuck in his chest (clearly
visible in press photos) and pinned a five-page pamphlet to
his body that called for a Jihad against infidels. The
murderer, apprehended after a brief shootout in which a
policeman was wounded, carried a farewell letter.

4. (U) Dutch police revealed that the murderer was a 26-year
old inhabitant of Amsterdam with both Dutch and Moroccan
citizenship. The press identified him as Mohammed B., born
and raised in Amsterdam. One newspaper reported that
Mohammed B. went twice on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in
recent years. He is said to be affiliated with the radical
El Tawheed mosque, and is an associate of Samir Azzouz, a
Moroccan in prison on suspicion of preparing terrorist
attacks on Schiphol, the Second Chamber and the Borssele
nuclear plant.

5. (SBU) Embarrassingly for the government, press reports
note that the suspect had been known to the Dutch National
Intelligence Agency for some time. Internal Affairs Minister
Remkes told parliament on November 3 that the suspect was to
be found around a group of extremist Muslims that has the
AIVD's attention, but he did not belong to the core group.
According to Remkes and Justice Minister Donner, the
assassin may have acted on grounds of radical Islamic
convictions, but the available information gave no cause
to assume that he was making preparations for violent

More arrests

6. (U) On November 3-4, Dutch police arrested eight radical
Muslims youths (six Moroccans, a Spanish Moroccan and an
Algerian) between the ages of 19 and 27. During house
searches, computers, books and fundamentalist pamphlets were
seized. The arrested Muslims reportedly belonged to the
same Islamic circles as Mohammed.


7. (U) The entire nation reacted with outrage to the
killing. The Queen, Prime Minister, cabinet members,
politicians, media and spokesmen for Muslim organizations
all condemned the murder as a blatant attack on the
traditional Dutch values of free speech and democracy.
Although the government allowed and encouraged peaceful
demonstrations of sympathy following the murder, it also
took quick action to discourage rioting, such as posting
additional police to key areas and blocking off certain
areas of major cities from demonstrations. Amsterdam Mayor
Job Cohen warned against reactions based on hatred and fear
between native Dutch and Moroccans on either side. Noting
that the Amsterdam population of about 870,000 included
about 120,000 Muslims, Cohen rejected excluding Muslims from
dialogue but did call for tough action against idle youth.

8. (U) Predictably, some politicians on the right
immediately called for decisive action against radical
Islamic groups. Others on the left warned against taking
drastic action prematurely, pointing out that there were no
simple solutions to a difficult social issue. Politicians
were united in expressing warnings that population groups
should not be set against each other, and encouraged Muslim
and minority groups to join the common battle against
radicalization and violence.


9. (SBU) The murder of van Gogh brutally highlighted
divisions within Dutch society. Like the assassinated
populist politician Pim Fortuyn, Van Gogh also spoke out
against those in the Muslim community who, in his view,
abused traditional Dutch tolerance to pursue intolerant
policies. The murder of Van Gogh forced Dutch society to
confront the reality that their tradition of tolerance does
not make them immune from Islamic extremist violence.

10. (SBU) Objectively, the Dutch record on integration is
mixed. The Muslim population of the Netherlands grew from a
few thousand in the 1960s to about one million (out of a
total population of 16 million) at present. Dutch separate
but equal policies have left them isolated largely in big
city ghettoes. Hundreds of thousands speak little or no
Dutch. For a long time, native Dutch chose not to deal with
this fact, arguing that the tolerant policy was to let
migrants live in their own culture. After Fortuyn
challenged this, the Dutch government took on a wide range
of measures to advance their integration. However, large
groups of unassimilated immigrants (especially Moroccan
youth) still function within insular social pockets separate
from mainstream Holland. They are a prime source of
recruitment for religious extremist groups, youth gangs and
other criminal organizations.

11. (SBU) While Pim Fortuyn's own party is on the verge of
collapse, other politicians on the right are likely to
benefit politically from the frustration and anger generated
by the Van Gogh murder. Key among them is the outspoken
independent MP Geert Wilders, who recently left the
conservative VVD party that includes Hirsi Ali to found his
own Liberal Conservative Party on the far right of the
Dutch political spectrum. Fortuyn's spiritual heirs
(including Wilders and Hirsi Ali) argue that the failure to
integrate new immigrants into Dutch society is a major
factor contributing to increases in crime and violence. The
internal debate sparked by this assassination could dominate
the Dutch domestic political calendar, spilling over into
other issues such as Turkish accession to the EU, Dutch
involvement in Iraq, and domestic social and economic

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