Paying Too Much Attention

I find the murder of Theo van Gogh quite disturbing, upsetting, disgusting, infuriating, etc. As I’m meant to, of course; as we all are – all we unrepentent atheists and secularists and women who wander around in the world without asking anyone’s permission. Killing him is meant precisely as a message – to people like him, to people like his co-producer of the film ‘Submission,’ Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to people who criticise or resist Islamism in general.

Some of the coverage of the murder is slightly peculiar. It seems somewhat – cowed. Hesitant. Apologetic. It seems to want to say or signal that van Gogh kind of sort of asked for it. That he shouldn’t have said such mean things about Islamism. This article for example.

People of Moroccan Muslim descent make up the largest single ethnic minority group in the Netherlands and their representatives had been on the frontline in van Gogh’s frequently harsh war of words on extremist Islam. This war reached a height with the recent broadcast on Dutch TV of his short film Submission, a film that protested van Gogh’s view of Muslim treatment of women…Co-produced by the Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an activist of Somali origin who has blamed Islamists for fostering repression and domestic violence in the Netherlands’ immigrant communities, the film provoked an outcry. Both Hirsi Ali and van Gogh received death threats.

‘Frequently harsh’…Well the reporter is there and I’m not, and I haven’t seen the movie, I haven’t seen van Gogh’s work. But I have to wonder. What’s wrong with saying ‘harsh’ words about ‘extremist Islam’. Why wouldn’t Ayaan Hirsi Ali blame Islamists for fostering repression and domestic violence (to put it more forthrightly, oppression of women)? Is it a secret that ferocious control of women is one of the chief goals of Islamism? Is that some sort of Western or Orientalist myth? Homa Arjomand and Maryam Namazie and their colleagues, women from Iran and other ‘Muslim’ countries, would say no, as would (and did) Ishtiaq Ahmed in this column a few weeks ago. So why the tip-toeing? Multiculturalism run amok or plain fear of another jihadi with a knife and a gun. Who knows. But it’s a tad creepy.

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