Thu, Nov 11, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Communal strife wracks Netherlands

RETALIATION The slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh has plunged the country into a cycle of violence between Muslims and Christians


Firefighters work to extinguish the flames at the Bedir Islamic elementary school in Uden, the Netherlands, on Tuesday. The fire at the school is suspected arson as the latest in a string of attacks in the Netherlands in the wake of the killing of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, allegedly by an Islamic extremist.


Dutch Muslims and Christians called for an end to a cycle of retaliatory vandalism of mosques and churches as slain filmmaker Theo van Gogh was cremated, a week after his killing by a suspected Islamic radical.

In a ceremony aired live on national television, friends and family told stories about Van Gogh's playful nature and his love of provoking discussion and debate.

About 150 people gathered Tuesday at the De Nieuwe Ooster Crematorium, while hundreds more watched on a screen outside and mourners left flowers, cigarettes and beer at a makeshift monument where the filmmaker was killed.

"Our country is confused and grieving," said former Rotterdam Mayor Bram Peper, calling Van Gogh's murder an attempt to silence "the power of the word."

Van Gogh, a master of irony, was cremated to the Lou Reed song "Perfect Day," with the poignant lyric "You're going to reap just what you sow."

He is survived by his parents, former wife and 12-year-old son.

"He had a big mouth but everybody liked it because he was one of a few people who said what he thought," said Hans Debrichy, a mourner.

The Netherlands has been tense in the aftermath of his death, with attacks on both mosques and churches.

Hours after Van Gogh's funeral, suspected arsonists burned down a Muslim school in the southern town of Uden where someone had scrawled "Theo Rest in Peace" on the building.

Molotov cocktails caused minor damage at churches in Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amersfoort on Monday night following a half-dozen similar incidents at Muslim buildings, including a bomb explosion at an Islamic school early Monday morning. No injuries were reported at any of the incidents.

Van Gogh, who received death threats for a movie criticizing the treatment of women under Islam, was shot and stabbed while bicycling on a busy Amsterdam street. The killer cut his throat and left a note threatening further attacks in the name of radical Islam impaled on Van Gogh's chest.

The murder prompted an outpouring of rage aimed mostly at the Muslim minority, which makes up about 6 percent of the Dutch population.

Six men are in custody on suspicion of forming a terrorist conspiracy to kill Van Gogh, including the 26-year-old alleged killer Mohammed Bouyeri, a dual Dutch-Moroccan citizen who was arrested in a shootout with police.

A newspaper reported Tuesday that a suspected terrorist network believed responsible for Van Gogh's killing had access to confidential secret service intelligence.

The NRC Handelsblad newspaper, citing an internal secret service investigation, reported that a friend of Bouyeri received an unmarked envelope last summer with information about extremist networks of which he allegedly was a member.

The Dutch secret service admitted information had been leaked when police found confidential agency information at a house in Utrecht during a terrorism-related search in September.

Bouyeri allegedly is a member of a radical Islamic group said to have ties to terrorists in Spain and Syria.

Jan-Gerd Heetderks, dean of the Netherlands' Protestant Churches, said "the violence, the aggression must stop. And that goes for people who get the idea that they should damage Muslim mosques or schools, too."

Mainstream Muslim groups condemned the killing and asked the government to protect mosques after the explosion at the Muslim school in Eindhoven on Monday.

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