AMSTERDAM, Nov 3 (Reuters) – The killing of a filmmaker critical of Islam puts new strains on Dutch traditions of tolerance and will fuel demands for tougher treatment of immigrants, analysts and commentators said on Wednesday.
Theo van Gogh, who angered Muslims with a film that said Islam encouraged violence against women, was shot dead on Tuesday. A man with Dutch and Moroccan nationality was arrested for the killing, and suspected of Islamic extremist motives.
Commentators said the murder showed attempts to integrate immigrants had failed and threatened to make race relations worse in a country where 10 percent of the population is defined as “non-Western” foreigners — many Muslim Moroccans and Turks.
“This event shows what kind of climate we have allowed to develop. What kind of people we have allowed in and just allowed to go their own way. How we have much too long just let things go to seed,” sociologist Herman Vuijsje told the Volkskrant daily.
A country built on trade, with a reputation for openness and liberal policies on issues from drug use to gay marriage, the Netherlands has seen a rise in hostility towards foreigners since the rise in 2002 of taboo-busting populist Pim Fortuyn.
Tapping into a wave of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities, the openly gay Fortuyn said the Netherlands could not absorb more foreigners, demanded tougher integration policies and criticised Muslim views on homosexuality and women.
Noting that Fortuyn’s murder and that of Van Gogh came 911 days apart — a reference to the U.S. abbreviation for Sept. 11 — De Telegraaf newspaper said lenient immigration policies had turned an open society into a “resentful and intolerant” one.
“Afraid of being called racist, we have been so tolerant with regard to these religious fascists that they have been allowed to merrily undermine the roots of our freedom,” it said.
A group of far-right protesters shouting “Islamists, parasites” were arrested in The Hague on Tuesday after the killing and a right-wing group of Fortuyn supporters were due to hold a demonstration in Amsterdam later on Wednesday.
“I don’t rule out unrest. The climate is seriously hardened,” said Interior Minister Johan Remkes.
However, in recent years certain Muslim immigrants – and/or their Netherlands-born offspring – have behaved in ways that have marginalized them. This include anything from involvement in street gangs and criminal activities to demanding that Dutch culture and society adapts to Islamic rules and regulations. In addition, extremist Muslims have openly called for Jihad, both here and abroad.
The Dutch do not and will not accept that kind of behavior. This is one reason why the Netherlands demands that immigrants take an integration course (see, for example: Imams on Dutch culture course)
– The publishers of RNB live in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Mat Herben, a Fortuyn supporter, said Van Gogh’s death had shown that the country was embroiled in a clash of cultures:
“Society is threatened by extremists who reject our culture. They are the fifth column and Theo saw that more than anybody.”
Fortuyn’s party soared to second place in a general election just days after he was killed by an animal rights activist.
His party has since been torn apart by infighting but the political mainstream has adopted Fortuyn’s ideas, with the centre-right government cracking down on failed asylum seekers and demanding that immigrants do more to integrate.
A survey last week showed that a majority of Dutch said they expected to no longer feel at home in their own neighbourhood in five years due to the rising number of foreigners. In the three biggest cities, immigrants make up about a third of the population and form a majority among young people.
The Algemeen Dagblad daily called on the government to clamp down further on immigration and also demanded that Muslim groups to do more to condemn the killing and threats against others.
Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam’s Free University, said the killing would polarise society even more, with the prospect of a new far-right party emerging as well as a more radical immigrant underclass.
“Tensions in society are being politicised so you see radicalisation,” he said. “Politics has become less predictable.
“If politicians are not able to stop the marginalisation of certain ethnic groups then they will not feel welcome and there will be a breeding ground for extremists.”