Ministers blasted for weak Van Gogh response

21st December 2004, Comments 0 comments

21 December 2004, AMSTERDAM — Alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb has launched a blistering attack on the Dutch government for the way Cabinet ministers reacted to the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

21 December 2004

AMSTERDAM — Alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb has launched a blistering attack on the Dutch government for the way Cabinet ministers reacted to the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Moroccan-born Aboutaleb is in charge of Amsterdam City Council's Social Affairs Department and has been under 24-hour guard following threats to his life in the days after Van Gogh was killed.

Van Gogh was shot and stabbed on an Amsterdam street on 2 November. His throat was also cut. Mohammed B., 26, who holds Dutch and Moroccan nationality, was arrested for the killing.

Van Gogh appears to have been targeted because of the movie Submission, which suggested the Koran sanctioned domestic violence against women.

Several politicians, including Aboutaleb, also received death threats, apparently from radicalised Muslims.

Speaking on a radio programme on Tuesday morning, Aboutaleb rated the government's response to the killing as "totally unsatisfactory".

He said the only major response from senior politicians in The Hague was the appearance of Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk at an intentionally noisy rally in central Amsterdam hours after the killing to honour Van Gogh's right to free speech.

Verdonk told the estimated 20,000 crowd that everyone — native Dutch and Muslim newcomers — had to decide "which side they were on" following Van Gogh's murder.

Aboutaleb said there had been an "icy silence" from The Hague in the following days. "Our task was to join in a dialogue with the public, but I didn't see the government really get involved. I feel I was let down," he said.

"We heard nothing from the heart of the cabinet. No minister came to Amsterdam, not even a state secretary [junior minister]."

He did not even get any phone calls from senior ministers. "Only Mark Rutte [Education State Secretary] rang me because I know him fairly well. I can't come to terms with the idea that you would not take a personal interest in something like this," Aboutaleb said.

The alderman said he had attended an average of five public meetings a day after Van Gogh's murder and had cleared his hectic work schedule to make himself available to the public "as the city cried".

"So many people want to hold you, want to cry and want to tell you their story. I stood alone in the rooms, whereas the Prime Minister [Jan Peter Balkenende] should have been standing beside me. The government can’t just shout 'we are at war' into the microphone."

Referring to the "declaration of war" against Islamic extremism made by Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm, Aboutaleb said: "I am unbelievably angry".

He accused Balkenende of a lack of leadership. "After such a terrible incident, one should, as a priority, ensure the public keeps a cool head. Balkenende didn't do that. Isn't it too crazy for words that mosques were set alight because they were not given protection?"

"The Netherlands misses someone the nation will listen to and that is very problematic. I don't see someone like that walking around in The Hague."

[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]

Subject: Dutch news, Theo van Gogh

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