12-Minute Dutch Film Sparks “Home-Grown Jihad”

4 Oct
Muslim Women in Kuwait City

Muslim Women in Kuwait City

While some filmmakers merely wish to entertain their audiences with scenes of epic battles or cute boy-meets-girl plots, there are other filmmakers who wish to send a political message with their work and inspire change.  Such was the motivation for Ayaan Hirsi Ali when she wrote the screenplay for Submission, a 12-minute movie that aired on Dutch television on August 29, 2004. Hirsi Ali had wanted to use the film to speak out against what she thought of as the injustices of Islam.  The film would, as seen in a 60 Minutes segment, turn the tolerant nation of the Netherlands upside-down with fire bombings, death threats, and the assassination of the film’s director, Theo van Gogh.

Even though the film was relatively short, it packed a powerful punch.  In the film, a naked woman has Qu’ranic verses painted on her bruised and beaten body. The verses chosen were those that allowed for the mistreatment and subordination of women in Islam.  Two things Hirsi Ali said she found to be “evil” and “offensive” were that a woman may be slapped if she is disobedient and should be raped if she says “no” to her husband.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Hirsi Ali was born to upper-middle class Somali Muslim parents, but she rejected Islam at a very early age and became estranged from her parents when they tried to force her into an arranged marriage. She obtained political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992 and worked medial jobs until she was able to attend Leiden University.  After earning a master’s in political science from Leiden, Hirsi Ali was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003.  Hirsi Ali spoke out in Parliament against honor killings, defined typically as the murder of a Muslim woman for bringing dishonor to her family in some way.

As someone who also unafraid to voice criticisms of society, Theo van Gogh seemed to be the perfect choice to direct Submission.  Van Gogh was known in Holland as an equal-opportunity offender, insulting anyone regardless of race, religion, or gender.  After Submission aired on the Dutch public broadcasting network, both Hirsi Ali and van Gogh received multiple death threats.  Hirsi Ali worked in Parliament under guard, but van Gogh laughed off the death threats.

On the morning of November 2, 2004, Theo van Gogh was bicycling to work when Mohammed Bouyeri shot him several times.  Van Gogh reportedly pleaded for mercy, asking “Can’t we just talk about this?”  But Bouyeri slit van Gogh’s throat, and stabbed him with a dagger, pinning a letter to his body.  The letter was addressed to Hirsi Ali, threatened her life, and called for the destruction of Holland and the United States.

According to Theodor Holman, one of van Gogh’s closest friends, van Gogh “embodied what you can do in [the Netherlands] and what you can say.”  The Netherlands is known for its “liberal” politics, especially for the legalization of marijuana, prostitution, and gay marriage.  So when van Gogh was murdered for an expression of free speech, the country went into a state of shock.

Site of van Goghs Murder

Site of van Gogh's Murder

Tens of thousands of people mourned van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam.  There were fire bombings of mosques and Muslim schools, with counterattacks on churches.  Van Gogh’s murder even inspired the creation of a “poor man’s Patriot Act” by the Dutch Parliament and dug up the buried tensions in the country due to the growing number of Muslims in Holland.

In the aftermath of van Gogh’s death, it became too difficult for Hirsi Ali to stay in Holland.  She had to resign her seat in Parliament and moved to the United States to work for the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.  And although Submission had such chaotic and shocking responses, Hirsi Ali still plans to make Submission Part II.  Not making this sequel would mean, to Hirsi Ali, that she would be giving the terrorists want they want.  And though terrorists believe Allah will reward their violence, Hirsi Ali definitely does not want to reward them submitting to their demands.


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