Amsterdam – The Islamic extremist who murdered the controversial Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was jailed for life without hope of parole yesterday.
Mohammed Bouyeri shot Mr van Gogh in the street in daylight then tried to hack off his head with a kitchen knife.
The authorities hope that the end of the trial will draw a line under a crime that shocked the nation. But in the poor west Amsterdam suburb of Slotervaart, where Bouyeri grew up, opinions were sharply divided about whether people could quickly forget the murder.
Several non-Muslim residents insisted that Holland’s cosily multi-cultural model remained intact but some young Muslim men offered a bleaker view.
During his trial, Bouyeri, a baby-faced 27-year-old with Moroccan and Dutch nationality, refused to recognise the court, telling judges only that he wanted the maximum sentence and would do “exactly the same again” if freed.
Mr van Gogh caused a storm with a film called Submission, a deliberately provocative work about the abuse of women in Islamic society.
Abdul Hamid, 21, who attended the same school as Bouyeri, said the murder was “terrible but predictable”.
He said: “Van Gogh was disrespectful towards Islam and Bouyeri was a very religious guy.”
A Dutch gymnasium manager who gave her name only as Annalies said the case had not harmed Slotervaart, an area of ugly 1960s concrete blocks, softened by flower beds, rose bushes, trees and unvandalised playgrounds.
“You can talk about it with Moroccans,” she said. “There is no tension.”
That optimism was shared by Sgt Rob Reuter, a policeman in the area for 15 years. “This was the act of an individual not a community. Most Muslims want to live in peace; they like it here.”
Khalil el-Yobari, 30, a shopkeeper, echoed the sergeant’s defence of the Netherlands as a place to build a peaceful life. But he felt there had been a big change for Muslims. “People don’t talk to us in the street any more,” he said.
His friends yearned to attack Israel or America, he said matter-of-factly, but he condemned terrorism in Europe. He combined praise for the Netherlands with nostalgia for the good life he felt ended with September 11.
“Before that attack, Amsterdam was OK,” he said. “Now it is very difficult to find a job as a Moroccan, even with school diplomas.”
He condemned Bouyeri’s crime, saying that Mr van Gogh had had every right to say what he liked without being attacked. “It’s a free country,” he said.
But he reported bitter debate among his friends about the case and gave warning that the case had added to Muslim anger about racism at home, as well as the situation in Iraq and the Middle East.
“Dutch people hate Muslims,” he said. “One survey said 56 per cent say that. We all feel we are in prison now. I have friends who tell me they want to fight.”
He rejected London-style attacks in Holland because innocent people had been killed. But, without any evident pleasure at the thought, he predicted that home-grown terrorism would hit the Netherlands.
“It is going to happen – and it will be from people like me,” he said.