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Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam,…

Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerence (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Ian Buruma

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4551322,893 (3.76)41
Title:Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerence
Authors:Ian Buruma
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2007), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance by Ian Buruma (2006)



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Mohammed Bouyeri was 26 years old when he not only shot Theo van Gogh several times but slashed his throat with a machete as well. He ended his assault by stabbing a note into Van Gogh's lifeless body - however the final insult was kicking the corpse before calmly walking away. The note, oddly enough, wasn't addressed to Van Gogh (rightly so since the dead man couldn't read it) but to anti-Islam politician Hirsi Ali who claimed the Koran was the source of abuse against women. That's not to say there weren't plenty of folks in Holland who wished Van Gogh dead. He thrived on being controversial to the point of revolting. Buruma knew Van Gogh in certain circles so I can only imagine what it was like to write about his death as an acquaintance. But, the actual crime is only the centerpiece for the much wider topic of controversies surrounding what happens when nonconformist immigrant populations with differing religions and cultural politics clash against other stringent societies. ( )
  SeriousGrace | May 20, 2015 |
This is a fascinating and thorough look at the contemporary social/political scene in Holland, where a massive influx of rural Moroccan immigrants, some of whom practice takfir, a particularly extreme form of Islam, challenges the ulta-liberal government's policies of tolerance and multiculturalism and the country's traditions. This issue came to a head in 2004 with the famous assassination of filmmaker and provocateur Theo Van Gogh. Buruma is very balanced, examining the issue from many sides and never taking one side as "right" and the other as "wrong." He's uniquely situated to write such a book, as he is Dutch by birth, but has lived abroad for the past three decades. This gives him an insider view with a bit of a detached gaze. The fundamental question of the book -- can a liberal society, one that believes in the value of diversity and of tolerance for other cultures, accept and incorporate a culture that doesn't share certain of its most important beliefs (in this case equality between men and women, acceptance of homosexuality, and separation of church and state) or are there certain things that are non-negotiable? -- seems to be something that must be addressed if we're to understand how Islam is changing Europe. Indeed, reading this book as an American who's never been to the Netherlands, I felt I was getting half the picture, and a distorted one at that. The American idea of immigration is so different from the Dutch one, especially for this reader, who lives in Los Angeles and takes for granted that Spanish shares nearly equal footing with English in the public sphere. But Holland is different, as it harbors a level of guilt for its relative complacency during the Holocaust (Anne Frank continues to be the ultimate Dutch trump card, her name ending all debate in a moment of shamed silence), and its more recent role as colonial oppressor in Suriname and Indonesia. This book is a fundamentally European book, just as the author argues, at one point, that Islam is now a European religion. One of the people Buruma profiles in the book, explains that "The heart of Islam is in the Middle East, but its head is in Europe," meaning that liberal European culture has given Muslims the intellectual space to feel out how it will interact with the West, with modernity, and with itself, the freedom to decide whether it will grow to reconcile life in a modern, multicultural society or whether it will ultimately reject it.The reason I give this book only 3 stars is that it felt repetitive at times, hammering home the same lessons about the "Dutch character" over and over, and in the end, it offered little in the way of a solution. While it isn't the author's job to find an answer to such an enormous question, I would've liked to have seen more than what he eventually concludes, that giving young Muslim men more economic opportunities to succeed and a chance to feel more accepted in Dutch society will curtail the spread of extremism. This seems like the typical leftist response to social ills, "All political strife and all crime is the result of economic disparity." It's not that I don't believe this to be true (it certainly couldn't hurt to give them greater economic opportunities, for example), but I would've liked to have seen something a bit more forward-thinking from a book that so often surprised me. ( )
  Patrick311 | Jul 15, 2011 |
A good discussion of the murder of the Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh, following his production of a short film on Islam with Ayaan Hirsi-Ali. The author tries to avoid making judgements on the individuals involved, though there are times when his opinion slips through in the way a phrase is worded or an idea presented. Overall, it's a relatively balanced look at the murder, though perhaps with a little foray into blaming the victim from time to time. ( )
1 vote Devil_llama | Apr 11, 2011 |
This is the story of the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam and its aftermath and consequences for Holland and perhaps the world. It is about the tensions in Dutch life between liberal Dutch society and muslim culture. ( )
  xenchu | May 9, 2010 |
Review previously published on Amazon:

I think this is a book for anyone who wants to make a serious attempt at understanding the complexities of 21st Century multi-cultural life. Buruma is as non-judgemental as it is possible to be, instead he meets and interviews a number of people from all perspectives of the issue and sets out their feelings. He also sketches in the backgrounds of the key players in the specific incidents that occurred in Amsterdam and led to the murder of Theo Van Gogh.

He allows you at least see some of what lay behind some behaviour. To say what I found, would in some way defeat the object of this book, which is to allow its readers to come to their own stance or at least their own path of understanding. But if there are resolutions to be found, and there are, to the choppy seas of modern multi-cultural co-existence, then books like these are a very good starting point. I know I shall re-read this book with more rigour in the months ahead. ( )
2 vote Caroline_McElwee | Nov 13, 2007 |
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It was the coolness of his manner, the composure of a person who knew precisely what he was doing, that struck those who saw Mohammed Bouyeri, a twenty-six-year-old Moroccan-Dutchman in a gray raincoat and prayer hat, blast the filmmaker Theo van Gogh off his bicycle on a dreary morning in Amsterdam.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143112368, Paperback)

A revelatory look at what happens when political Islam collides with the secular West

Ian Buruma 's Murder in Amsterdam is a masterpiece of investigative journalism, a book with the intimacy and narrative control of a crime novel and the analytical brilliance for which Buruma is renowned. On a cold November day in Amsterdam in 2004, the celebrated and controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot and killed by an Islamic extremist for making a movie that "insulted the prophet Mohammed." The murder sent shock waves across Europe and around the world. Shortly thereafter, Ian Buruma returned to his native land to investigate the event and its larger meaning as part of the great dilemma of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

On a cold November day in Amsterdam, an angry young Muslim man, the son of Moroccan immigrants, killed celebrated and controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, great-grandnephew of Vincent and iconic European provocateur, for making a movie that "blasphemed" Islam. The murder horrified quiet, complacent, prosperous Holland, a country that prides itself on being a bastion of tolerance, and sent shock waves across Europe and around the world. Ian Buruma returned to his native Netherlands to try to make sense of it all and to see what larger meaning should and shouldn't be drawn from this story. The result is a true-crime page-turner with the intellectual resonance we've come to expect from this well-regarded journalist and thinker: the exemplary tale of our age, the story of what happens when political Islam collides with the secular West and tolerance finds its limits.… (more)

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