(Reuters) - A controversial Dutch filmmaker accused by Muslims of ridiculing
their religion was stabbed and shot dead on his bicycle on Tuesday, shocking
the Netherlands where the murder was denounced as an attack on free speech.
- Theo van Gogh, a distant relative of 19th century Dutch
painter Vincent van Gogh, stirred controversy with newspaper articles,
books and films voicing his contentious views on Islam after the September
11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
- Van Gogh, 47, was attacked near a park close to the center
of the Dutch capital in the morning on his way to work in what could be
the second political killing in the country in two years after anti-immigration
politician Pim Fortuyn was shot.
- Police arrested a man near the scene after an exchange
of gunfire in which the suspect wounded a police officer. The suspect,
who was wounded in the leg, was a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch and Moroccan
- Police said the murder was clearly premeditated.
- A note was found at the scene and, Dutch media said,
it contained lines from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
- Van Gogh, who branded imams women-haters and ridiculed
the Prophet Mohammad in his newspaper columns, was hailed as a champion
of free speech by some Dutch but others called him an extremist, while
Muslims said they found his work insulting.
- He had received death threats but had rejected protection
after a recent television program, called Submission, about domestic violence
in some Muslim marriages.
- "Van Gogh was someone who joined the public debate
with outspoken views. He was a champion of free speech. The Netherlands
is a country in which people can speak their mind. We must all stand for
that," said Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose country holds
the rotating EU presidency.
- Security for politicians was stepped up after the killing
of Fortuyn by an animal rights activist ahead of a May 2002 election in
which his party took second place.
- The Netherlands is home to nearly one million Muslims
or 5.5 percent of the population.
- Several thousand people demonstrated on Amsterdam's central
Dam square and railway drivers were urged to honk their horns to protest
- People banged on drums, pots and pans and blew whistles
for some 15 minutes, with some participants holding up signs saying "Muslims
- Abdou Menebhi, of the Amsterdam Moroccan council, urged
his co-religionists to obey a minute of silence in the mosque in the evening
during regular Ramadan holy month prayers.
- The UMAH association of Moroccan-Dutch academics said
they did not share Van Gogh's opinions but condemned his murder.
- Police in the Hague, seat of the Dutch government, arrested
several people who had been shouting anti-immigrant slogans.
- Immigration, integration and Islam are burning issues
in the Netherlands where outspoken parliamentarians such as Geert Wilders,
an opponent of Turkish EU membership, have received death threats.
- "In this country, nobody can be killed because of
what he says, that is not what we want," Immigration Minister Rita
Verdonk told the crowd. (Additional reporting by Anna Mudeva, Melanie Cheary,
Theo Kolker and Lucas van Grinsven)
- Email From Holland On
Death Of Theo van Gogh
This was received from a source who requested anonymity. -ed
- Hi xxxxx,
- My faith is at a very low point, because Theo van Gogh,
Holland's best film director, columnist and writer was assassinated today
by a Muslim extremist. He was shot seven times, after which the murderer
slit his throat and drove a knife into his chest to which a note was attached.
It happened in broad daylight on the streets of Amsterdam (yes, he was
a descendant of the famous 19th. century painter).
- The reason? Theo had made a movie that was critical of
the treatment of women by the Islam. There's a huge demonstration tonight
on the Dam square in Amsterdam (it's the central square with the Palace
where we met up with my wife in the hotel).
- I was declared insane years before 911 by saying that
WW3 would be between the West and the Islam and that it would be a very
difficult war because we would not be fighting countries and armies, but
ideology and terrorism. I don't particularly like the fact that it seems
to be going that way and that it is getting closer all the time..
- So, if you feel like praying tonight, say one for Theo
van Gogh because I admired him and I am very angry and very low on Christian
tolerance toward my fellow men.
- Your Friend
- By the way, you're welcome here if Bush wins.