Today, I attended an anti-racism rally in Amsterdam along with about 1,300 other people, most of them Dutch (all photos by Jessie Daniels). The purpose of the rally was to draw attention to what German magazine Speigel calls the “risky stunt” of Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders and what protesters call “racism.” Wilders “stunt” is that he has made a 15-minute film that is not yet released which reportedly juxtaposes excerpts from the Koran with beheadings and stonings on a split screen. Wilders’ message is clear; he wants the West to resist “the threat of the growing Islamization of Western society.” It’s this sort of rhetoric that has people in Holland gathering at the Dam, in central Amsterdam, protesting.
To put this in context, it’s important to understand what happened the last time a Dutch filmmaker made a film critical of Islam. This piece from the Spiegel magazine article summarizes it well:
“On Nov. 2, 2004, an Islamic fundamentalist murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the painter Vincent van Gogh, in broad daylight on a street in Amsterdam.
The killer, a 26-year-old Dutch citizen, the son of Moroccan immigrants, shot the filmmaker at 9 a.m. as van Gogh was riding his bicycle. He then slit his throat and, using a knife, pinned a note to his victim’s chest, claiming responsibility and explaining his motives. The killer’s true target was politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But she, unlike van Gogh, was under 24-hour police protection. The bloody act was also a declaration of war against Dutch society, which, as the murderer was convinced, was controlled ‘by the Jews.’ Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali had collaborated to produce a short film called “Submission,” which uses four real-life examples to illustrate the poor treatment of women in Islam.”
The rise of Somalian-born and Muslim-raised politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali is also important to understanding the context of race, gender and anti-racism politics in Holland. Ali, a former Member of Parliament in Holland (and current U.S. resident), is also a radical opponent of Islam based on gender oppression – her own experience and on behalf of other Muslim women – and what she views as the violent and intolerant core of the religion. In the U.S., Ali has been deployed by the right-wing to put a more respectable (and visibly black, female, Muslim, African) face on anti-Islamic sentiments. And, yet somehow, the advocacy for gender equality gets lost in all that rhetoric within most of the mainstream reporting about her. Still, Theo Van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are forever linked because of the note that Mohammed Bouyeri penned then stabbed into Van Gogh naming Ali as an enemy of Islam. Continue reading…