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Viewing cable 05THEHAGUE3069, ONE YEAR AFTER MURDER OF THEO VAN GOGH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05THEHAGUE3069 2005-11-10 15:03 2011-01-26 18:06 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy The Hague
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS THE HAGUE 003069

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PINR PTER SOCI SCUL KISL NL KPAO
SUBJECT: ONE YEAR AFTER MURDER OF THEO VAN GOGH

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The first anniversary of the murder of
Theo van Gogh passed with lightly attended memorial events,
but the most durable memorial is a heated and constant
discussion in the government, the press and on the streets
about integration, Islam, immigrants, and terrorism. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Family and friends of Theo van Gogh and the City
of Amsterdam organized several memorial events on November 2
to commemorate van Gogh's life, encourage better
understanding among native Dutch and ethnic Dutch, and to
emphasize the importance of freedom of speech, as they
consider van Gogh died for speaking out freely, if
imprudently.

3. (SBU) Prime Minister Balkenende and Amsterdam Mayor Job
Cohen attended a memorial ceremony held at the same hour and
location as last year's murder. Balkenende called for
tolerance and not letting go of each other. He also
argued that, No one in the Netherlands should be afraid to
give his opinion. Cohen too stressed the importance of
freedom and mutual understanding.

4. (SBU) In the afternoon the City organized an event at
which Mayor Cohen and van Gogh's father spoke, followed by a
debate on how Amsterdammers of all backgrounds should live
with each other. At other locations in the city as well,
debates, commemoration services and seminars were organized
that brought together publicists, politicians, Muslim
community leaders and integration experts to discuss ethnic
tension in society, the role of the media, the ideological
motives of Muslim extremists, as well as the need to protect
freedom of speech.

POLICTICALLY CORRECT NO MORE
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) A year after the event, much of the rage on both
sides is gone, as is the political correctness that framed
the debate for the decades leading up to van Gogh's murder.
Emboff attended a lecture on Muslim minorities in Western
liberal democracies by American Professor Francis Fukuyama
earlier this fall. An elegant native Dutch woman stood up
during the question and answer session and said: Let's be
honest: Muslims are the problem. The audience reacted with
nervous laughter and chatter. These sentiments have become
a common refrain for many native Dutch.

RESULTS QUESTIONABLE
--------------------

6. (SBU) Despite the debate and resulting initiatives to
better the situation, the results have been lackluster. A
recent poll among residents in large Dutch cities with
sizeable minority populations confirmed the perception in
each ethnic group that the gulf between native Dutch and
immigrants has widened since van Gogh's murder. The Muslim
community, especially Turks and Moroccans, views Dutch
society as increasingly hostile. As Green Left party leader
Femke Halsema said after the murder of van Gogh,
[Immigrants] have lost confidence in Dutch society. Dutchborn
and raised Moroccans suddenly feel strangers in their
own country. People are increasingly alienated and lonely.

ONUS ON THE IMMIGRANTS
----------------------

7. (SBU) Many native Dutch citizens believe that the duty
to integrate falls primarily on the shoulders of immigrants,
including second generation Dutch citizens of ethnic
descent. During a meeting with Emboff November 9, prominent
Dutch sociologist Dr. Han Entzinger said, Dutch society
sees itself on the receiving end of immigrants; especially
the government. Society does not believe it needs to be
more welcoming to newcomers. All the same, there is
increased awareness since the murder that both segments of
society must live together and should therefore take more
consideration of each other.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Van Gogh has become a symbol for free
speech, and the need to defend it. His murder has triggered
heated debate on how to deal with those who challenge such
core Dutch values. The debate touches on the underlying
question of how to deal with Islam in a secularized and
individualized western society like the Netherlands. The
debate continues, and many educational, socioeconomic and
housing initiatives have been established to address
segregation in Dutch society. For now, however, Muslims and
non-Muslims continue to live mostly segregated lives. There
is concern from both sides over what might happen next. 
END COMMENT.