From the New York Times:
Can angry young Muslims dictate what is and is not acceptable in the traditionally open-minded world of Dutch arts? In the last few weeks, it appears, the answer has been yes.
The Netherlands’ main film festival, now going on in Rotterdam, canceled a showing of a short documentary denouncing violence against Muslim women that was made by Theo van Gogh, who was killed 10 weeks ago. An Islamic militant is accused of the crime.
The film’s producer said he had pulled the film on the advice of the police after receiving threats.
At about the same time, a Moroccan-Dutch painter went into hiding after a show of his work opened on Jan. 15 at a modern art museum in Amsterdam. The museum director said the painter, Rachid Ben Ali, had received death threats linked to his satirical work critical of violence by Islamic militants.
The two incidents have reinforced fears among many Dutch that fast-growing non-Western immigration is having a negative impact on social attitudes in the Netherlands. Newspaper columnists and members of Parliament have warned in recent days that if people capitulated to intimidation, they would only encourage Islamic militants.
Some have pointed to the recent events as signs that militants are trying to impose their agenda and are undermining the constitutional right to free speech in the Netherlands. A few people have quietly asked if self-censorship might be acceptable to keep the social peace.
“It would be very regrettable if we had to start accepting self-censorship, if we could not show this kind of protest art,” said John Frieze, the curator of Mr. Ben Ali’s show at the Cobra Museum. “We’ve been pleased with the show, not only because the work is good, but also because it generated much debate with young Muslims attacking and defending it.”
The exhibition, part of a series of cultural events called Morocco-Netherlands 2005, was opened by a prominent Moroccan-born politician in Amsterdam, Alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb, who delivered a strong plea for freedom of expression. But in a sign of the times, he was accompanied by bodyguards, and he has had police protection since he received death threats from Islamic militants.
In Amsterdam, a city known for its ebullient cultural life, local people say threats to painters have not been heard since the occupation by the Nazis during World War II.
A few months ago, Paul Belien noticed an even more remarkable assault on free speech in the Netherlands:
Chris Ripke is a Rotterdam artist. His artist studio is close to a mosque in the Insulindestraat. Shocked by the murder last Tuesday of fellow artist Theo van Gogh, Chris painted an angel on the exterior wall of his studio with the text “Thou shalt not kill” (“Gij zult niet doden”).
His neighbors in the mosque found the text “offensive” and called the Rotterdam mayor, the Liberal Ivo Opstelten. This morning, 4 November, the mayor ordered the police to erase the painting from Mr. Ripke’s wall, because it was “racist.”
When the police and the men from the town service arrived to erase the “racist” painting, Wim Nottroth, a television journalist, positioned himself in front of the painting in protest. The police arrested him.
A camerawoman who filmed everything was forced by the police to erase part of the pictures.
Here is a photo of the painting, courtesy of a site called 2525:
The video of the police arresting Nottroth can be viewed here.
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