2 Nov 2014

Provocateur’s Death Haunts the Dutch

Nothing marks the spot on an unremarkable street in east Amsterdam where on Nov. 2, 2004, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Moroccan Dutchman — saying he was acting to defend the name of Allah — shot dead, then slashed the throat of the Dutch filmmaker, television host and provocateur Theo van Gogh. Few events have been planned to mark the 10th anniversary, and many here are weary of the national soul searching the killing prompted. But the day is still seared in people’s minds.


In this tidy country of 17 million, which prides itself on tolerance, the murder opened a raw and polarizing debate. Was this a salvo in a larger war between radical Islam and the West? Or the act of one angry young man from a generation of young Dutch Muslims who feel shut out of the mainstream? What is the line between free speech and hate speech? Has self-censorship taken hold?

Ten years later, the debate is still raging. But in the cultural realm, which thrives on ambiguities, the picture is more complex. Books and at least one film have been inspired by the murder. A haunting 2005 portrait of Mr. Bouyeri by the Amsterdam artist Marlene Dumas has been prominently displayed in the Stedelijk Museum, without generating much controversy. And a new generation of Dutch Muslim actors, filmmakers, musicians, and politicians — including a coach on the local version of “The Voice,” the hip-hop artist Ali B — has been slowly claiming its place in the national conversation, far from the violence embraced by a deadly few.

More at NYTimes.com