The news this morning of the burning down of a mosque in the eastern part of The Netherlands is the latest worrying development here following the murder of Theo van Gogh, the controversial Dutch filmmaker who was gunned down in Amsterdam on 2 November.
There have now been more than 20 incidents like this in various parts of the country following van Gogh’s murder, not only mosques: Christian churches and schools have also been attacked.
In addressing the Dutch parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said:
You don’t attack schools.
You don’t attack mosques and churches.
You don’t attack people who voice their opinions.
Everyone should be aware of the rules in this country. No violence.
Freedom of expression, freedom of religion and other fundamental rights are the cornerstones of the rule of law and democracy. They apply to everyone, at all times. We will not tolerate violence or threats by people and groups who challenge those fundamental rights. Anyone living in The Netherlands must respect those rights and accept our legal order completely and without exception.
To me, one of the alarming things is the threat all this poses to the long tradition of liberalism and freedom of expression that exists in this country, and which makes it one of the most pleasant, free and safest countries in which to live.
Here’s the worrying part in Balkende’s statement:
That legal order is the only way to preserve our society peacefully, with all its different opinions, convictions and lifestyles. The government has to be resolute in defending those fundamental rights. That is why we are taking firm measures. We are extending our system of security and stepping up investigations of people whose extreme behaviour and contacts pose a threat to the rule of law in our country.
You can read Balkende’s complete statement.
I can see The Netherlands becoming yet another battleground in the war of religious ideologies that simply shows the continuing lack of understanding and acceptance just about everywhere you look of the beliefs of others, Christian and Islam.
If you’d like some insight into why van Gogh’s film, Submission – a critical portrayal of the treatment of women under Islam – has been at the center of so much upset and was the catalyst that led to his murder, just take a look at the film. It’s 11 minutes long, in English with Dutch subtitles. It plays in Windows Media Player, Real or Quicktime.