Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Theo Van Gogh

Outrage and Sadness

The murder of Theo Van Gogh sparked a firestorm of outrage among citizens throughout the Netherlands. On the night of the brutal killing approximately 20,000 people gathered in central Amsterdam's Dam Square to pay tribute to Theo and show support for freedom of speech by making noise for seven minutes. According to, the public came equipped with "horns, drums, pots and pans and anything that could generate a 'racket,'" which they used to express their anger at the tragedy. The seven minutes of noise was followed by a two-minute vigil of silence. The massive turn out at the rally was evidence that the Dutch were not going to accept being bullied into keeping silent or accept the murder of those who speak their mind.

Rally in Amsterdam's Dam Square
Rally in Amsterdam's Dam Square

Around the country, it became increasingly clear that tensions against the Muslim community were at their highest since the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001. The tensions were mostly built on fear of more attacks and exacerbated by mounting prejudices against Islamic principles. Realizing this, the Muslim community was quick to condemn the murder and vowed to crackdown on militant extremists in their midst. However, the promises did little to quell the anger and fear of Dutch citizens, many of whom demanded that more be done to combat terrorism in their country.

In response, the government has taken steps to heighten security by increasing police presence on city streets, more closely monitoring those suspected to be militant extremists and tightening the security of key buildings, such as government institutions, foreign embassies and places of worship. Other more severe measures are being contemplated, such as revoking the Dutch nationality of violent offenders who have dual citizenship and closing mosques that advocate hate and violence. Moreover, the government has also initiated plans to facilitate communication between the Muslim community and local councils, help Muslim immigrants assimilate more effectively into Dutch society and provide more jobs for them, all in an effort to reduce the growing racial and religious tensions that threaten to divide the country.

However, not everyone was satisfied with the government's immediate response to the problem. In fact, many appeared to have lost faith in the system, which some complained spent more time wrangling and debating and less time actually following through on policy. According to an AP Worldstream article from November 10, 2004, a web site operated by Dutch broadcasters illustrated the current climate in the Netherlands when it revealed that 87% of those asked in a survey believed that politicians failed to sufficiently combat Islamic fundamentalism. The lethal combination of anger, fear and a growing distrust of the system eventually led some to take matters into their own hands.


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