Ian Buruma's new book investigates the role of radical Islam in the Netherlands. Jeffrey Brown speaks with the author.
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On November 2, 2004, a Dutch filmmaker named Theo van Gogh was murdered as he rode his bicycle on an Amsterdam street. The brutal killing — van Gogh was shot numerous times and then cut and stabbed with a machete — was carried out by 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, Dutch-born of Moroccan heritage.
It was a horrific response to a film called "Submission," which focused on violence against women in Islamic societies. Van Gogh made the film with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Muslim who had moved to the Netherlands and become a vocal critic of what she saw as Islam's intolerance.
Ian Buruma, a writer then living in London, returned to his native country to explore the people and tensions that led to this event. The result is a new book, "Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance." Ian Buruma teaches journalism at Bard College in New York.
And welcome to you.
I gather that, when you went back to your homeland, you found a very different place than the one you had left?
IAN BURUMA, Author:
Yes. I mean, I left in 1975, and cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam didn't look so different because they were always very mixed populations. It's in smaller towns in Holland that you really see how much has changed. And that when you see 20 percent or 30 percent of the small provincial town of foreign and usually Muslim origin, that's a very different cityscape.
Theo van Gogh was a true provocateur, correct? He went out of his way to insult Muslims, but he insulted everyone.
He insulted everyone indiscriminately. He was very democratic in his hatreds. But he cared about one thing, which was hypocrisy. And he didn't like religion much, either. And he thought that, by being deliberately provocative, deliberately rude, even grossly offensive was a way to sort of bring honesty into the conversation.