The Dutch government declared war on Islamic terrorists yesterday as mourners gathered in Amsterdam for the cremation of the murdered film maker Theo van Gogh.
Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister, said the brutal killing of van Gogh last week by a Moroccan-Dutch terrorist was a grave assault on freedom of speech and Holland’s tolerant way of life. He promised a relentless crackdown on extremist cells.
The immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, unveiled plans for a law allowing the deportation of Islamic radicals even if they are Dutch citizens.
She said the intention was “to take away their Dutch passports if a person is suspected of planning or being involved in extremism or serious crimes”, adding that Holland would no longer be so “naive” in dealing with its enemies.
The cremation service was limited to family and close friends but hundreds outside the crematorium watched the service on giant screens.
The country’s national television network, NOS, said the live broadcast was watched by more than a million viewers.
Van Gogh’s mother, Anneke, called for her son’s death “not to have been in vain”.
She added: “Remember freedom is not granted to people who are frightened”.
Van Gogh’s father thanked friends and family for their support and his two sisters spoke about their brother’s “enjoyment of life, love of people and aversion to violence and crimes against democracy”.
Van Gogh, a fierce critic of Islam and the multicultural nostrums of the Dutch Left, was shot and stabbed as he cycled through the centre of Amsterdam last week.
The alleged killer, who studied computer science before being influenced by jihad videos, cut through van Gogh’s neck with a butcher’s knife then used the weapon to pin a letter in Dutch and Arabic on his chest.
The letter foretold “disaster” for Holland and contained an explicit threat to kill Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee and Islamic apostate elected to the Dutch parliament.
Ms Hirsi Ali, now in hiding, co-produced an inflammatory film with van Gogh to draw attention to what they see as the oppression of women in Islam.
Released in August on Dutch television, Submission depicted an almost naked girl in a Muslim veil with passages of the Koran painted across her chest and thighs.
The Dutch press reported yesterday that the killer might be linked to a Syrian terrorist “mastermind”, extradited last month to Germany. He was suspected of plotting terrorist attacks on the Dutch parliament and the Borssele nuclear reactor.
He also appears to have been a member of an Islamic “martyrs’ brigade” known as al-Takfir wal Hijra.
Five other men with ties to Holland’s radical Islamic underground are also being detained in connection with the murder.
A spate of reprisal attacks against mosques and Islamic centres appears to have targeted Muslim groups with militant ties. A Muslim school firebombed in Eindhoven was already under surveillance.
Sources within the Dutch AIVD intelligence services say there are big differences between the ethnic groups making up Holland’s 900,000-strong Muslim community. Al-Qa’eda’s appeals have little resonance among Turkish immigrants from Anatolia or North Africans of Berber extraction.
A network of 150 suspected terrorists under surveillance by the AIVD is largely Arabic-speaking.
A report by the intelligence services said al-Qa’eda was “stealthily taking root in Dutch society” by preying on alienated Dutch-born Muslim youths in mosques, cafes and prisons. Hikmat Mahawat Khan, the head of the Dutch Islamic organisation Ulamon, called upon Dutch Muslims to resist provocation by anti-Islamic commentators and focus instead on putting their own house in order.
“Muslims need now more than anyone else to understand their religion, Islam, is being hijacked,” he said.