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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Theo Van Gogh resided in Holland and produced short films, one of which, Submission, (which can be seen in its entirety here) concerned the suffering of women under Islam. According to CNN, "The English-language film was scripted by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament, has repeatedly outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways. That film apparently resulted in his recent murder.

Van Gogh does not appear to have been a moderate person. He railed publicly against Muslims in general. If the report I read (and can no longer find) is true, the terms he used to describe them and their religion were beyond the pale. None of which justifies his murder. The only response to bad speech is more speech. Not murder.

Nor do Van Gogh beliefs or statements justify one of the more ridiculous responses of Dutch authorities to his murder in removing a mural stating "Thou Shalt Not Kill" from a wall near a mosque following complaints from the leaders of that mosque.

In response to Van Gogh's murder and the pathetic political correctness evidenced by the removal of that mural, there have been a number of recent incidents of violence directed against Muslims.

Captain Ed correctly states that this is a direct result of the murder of Van Gogh, but I also think that a backlash is precisely what the murderers hoped to achieve by killing Van Gogh. I also think that the rise of vigilantism and the use of arson can hardly be said to advance the cause of Western values among the less radical Muslims in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe.

I don't have a good solution to suggest for the problems faced by Dutch society, other than to say that they have to quickly get control not only of the Islamic nutballs in their midst, but the violent people on the other end of the spectrum as well. In the short term, the authorities must pursue and prosecute those who participated in Van Gogh's murder: the planners and enablers as well as the perpetrators. Likewise, the people lighting the fires and throwing the bombs at Muslim schools and mosques must also be stopped, arrested and prosecuted (although, as an aside, this will probably prove to be more difficult, since it seems to me to be less organized and less directed than the murder of Van Gogh).

In the long term, the only real solution is to integrate the Muslim immigrant community into the existing social structure. The only way to do it is to make certain that each immigrant has an interest in maintaining the society he has recently joined.

How exactly can that be accomplished? Well, a good start might be to look at how the US dealt with its immigrant waves. We had lots of them: Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Latin Americans, Russians, Chinese, and I know that I have probably insulted half the world by leaving them out of that list. We are still quite good at giving recent immigrants a stake in our society, but we used to be better at it. The rise of identity politics and multiculturalism seems to have degraded our ability (perhaps our desire) to integrate new groups into the existing societal structures.

Western Europe in general and Holland in particular, are "farther along the curve" of accepting multiculturalism than we are. Is it too late to accomplish the needed changes there? I don't think so, but that's only a guess. I certainly hope not. Even if it is too late for the Dutch, the US can and should take note of what happens when a large unassimilated minority is repeatedly told that its values are just as good as those of the society which surrounds but is not accepted by that minority, a society that the minority risked everything to migrate to.
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