The Murder of Theo Van Gogh
Intolerance in the Land of 'Tolerance'
The Netherlands, which prides itself for its "tolerance" has experienced in the last several years a radical change in its political climate concerning immigration policies and views on Islam. This change was most evident with the victory of maverick right-winger Pim Fortuyn, 54, who won an amazing 17 of the 45 seats in the 2002 Rotterdam district council election. In fact, his newly formed party Lijst Pim Fortuyn was so ahead in the polls that Pim, a sociology professor, was slated to win at least 20 of the 150 seats in parliament during the 2002 May elections, which would have likely propelled him into the position of Prime Minister. What made Pim's ascent in the political world so surprising was that he was unashamedly anti-immigration and considered Islam to be a "backwards culture."
However, Pim did not hold the pulpit long. On May 6, 2002, Dutch animal-rights activist Volkert van der Graaf shot and killed Pim outside of a Dutch radio station because he allegedly disagreed with his controversial stance on immigration. Pim's death would mark the first political assassination in the Netherlands since 1672, when Dutch politician Johan de Witt was slain by a mob.
Robert Wielaard suggested in a November 11, 2004 AP Worldstream article that "in the immediate aftermath of the slaying, many Dutch assumed he had been killed for his anti-foreigner views, prompting an outpouring of rage aimed mostly at the Muslim minority" but when they realized the culprit was a native Dutchman, "the damage to racial harmony was already done." However, there are those who would view it differently. Some believe that the "damage" occurred well before Pim even took office and that pre-existing prejudices against immigrants and Muslims was what actually propelled him to such political heights in the first place. Yet, what is certain is that the "tolerance" wave that the Dutch have ridden on for so long is now in the process of leveling off.
The shifting political climate became more evident two years later, when a survey conducted by GPD regional newspapers after Theo Van Gogh's murder found that "40% of Dutch people hope Muslims no longer feel welcome in the Netherlands," Expatica.com reported in a November 10th article. The statistics were surprising, even to the average Dutch person. Needless to say, there is little wonder why many of the 1 million Muslims that live in the country feel widely discriminated against. It is a feeling that is surely reciprocated by many in the Muslim community, which leads some to question whether the racial and religious tensions will ever subside or simply continue to escalate.