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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2006
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.
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2007
A very well-written book that takes the murder of Theo Van Gogh as its starting point for considering wider issues of tolerance and cultural diverity. It's written about the Netherlands but most of what the author says applies is highly relevent to other Western societies with significant Muslim minorities.

The old cliche of a "warts and all" portraint certainly applies to this book. The negative side of affluent Holland is certainly well detailed; the horrors of the largely Moroccan "dish cities" in Holland are vividly portrayed. Theo Van Gogh certainly doen't emerge as a great hero from this book, in fact he seems pretty obnoxious. The Islamic radicals the author interviews are pretty scary, probably rather unbalanced. The author paints a colouful picture of Pim Fortuyn, and provides a persuaive analysis of his appeal.

The author gives no easy answers but certainly makes the reader think. highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2007
Before you buy this book, you need to ask yourself just one question: am I interested in how radical Islam effects Europe in general and the Netherlands in particular? If yes, then this will be one of the most interesting books you ever read on the subject. There are very detailed and extremely revealing insights into the characters of the three main figures who have opposed radical Islam in the Netherlands, the people in question being Pim Fortuyn, Theo Van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Indeed, in each case a single event seems to have sparked their political transformation and confrontational stance towards radical Islam. In the case of Fortuyn, it was when a gay bar he was a patron of was attacked by radicalised Moroccan youths. In the case of Van Gogh, it was when he discovered that his uncle had been a resistance fighter executed by the Nazis. For Ali, it was watching a Western film where kissing and cuddling were considered normal.

The book also features interviews with a number of other figures, like a Belgian Muslim who wants to set up an explicitly Islamic political party in Europe, an Iranian Marxist refugee who cannot understand why the Dutch tolerate the radical Islam he fled from and the "foster" parents who took Ali in and taught her Dutch. There is even an interesting analysis of how radical imams may have contributed towards the death of Van Gogh, and how inter-Muslim differences exist in their experience of Dutch society, from Dutch-Turks who integrate very comfortably to Dutch-Morrocans who have more difficulties.

The book also puts forward the possibility that the Dutch values of forthrightness and decisiveness may have influenced Islamic radicals more than they care to admit, and that in the country where the Enlightenment began, there are signs that the Dutch are re-discovering these values, setting up a potentially fierce confrontation with radical Islam. The book is an entertaining read, and whilst reading almost like a travel book, the author largely keeps his own thoughts to himself, instead focussing on the key figures, as opposed to some travel writers who seem to constantly offer us their opinion. The book is a must for those interested in radical Islam in Europe.
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on 29 September 2013
This book pulls no punches as Buruma unpicks the background to the brutal killing of a provocative Dutch filmmaker by a disaffected Islamic extremist lost in the cultural gap between his parents' traditional life in the Rif mountains of Morocco and the modern laissez-faire Dutch society whose tight religious and cultural limits unraveled in the sixties. Buruam shows how Islamic extremism is often a response of individuals stuck in a society that preaches multiculturalism but does very little to build community cohesion. In their desire to escape from the constraints of the past and the guilt of doing very little to prevent the deportation of Dutch Jews during the Holocaust, naively the Dutch political elite assumed that everybody would reject their past and enter a modern liberal utopia just because the nation's leaders instructed them to do so.

Having encouraged mass immigration to deal with a shortage of people willing to perform low skilled work for low pay, the Dutch government unraveled the social structures that made the Netherlands seen tolerant so long as individuals complied with the social expectations. In this environment, second-generation immigrants seem lost as the push to individualism conflicts with the values of their parents who struggle to adapt to modern Dutch life. The emergence of a confrontational Islamic culture whose values are in sharp contrast to the cultural values of postmodern Netherlands led to conflict that the political classes simply ignored expect when they could encourage fear or criticize fear to garner votes. Surely this could not happen here?

The book is well-written and encourages you to think about a complex issue that defies simple explanation.
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on 23 June 2013
Good, quite short, honest and interesting book.

At one level it is about one high profile murder case (of Theo Van Gogh, great grand-nephew of the painter) in one small country (the Netherlands).

However, this book also covers in microcosm the problems of compatibility between Muslims who have chosen to migrate Western Europe and the European societies that accepted them in. Many of the same issues are treated in more comprehensive and general terms in Christopher Cauldwell's interesting book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West.

While we still have the freedom to do so, do watch on YouTube the short film 'Submission' by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo Van Gogh, about how cruelty to women appears to be justified by passages in the Koran. This film was the excuse for Van Gogh's murder by a Muslim citizen of the Netherlands of Moroccan ancestry, who wished to avenge this insult to his religion.

There was fault on both sides, but not equally.

It sounds as though Van Gogh, some of the time, was a pampered and obnoxious fool. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, brilliant and thoughtful though she can be (see e.g. her book Infidel), went further than was sensible, although for humanitarian reasons.

However, the Muslim fanatic who murdered Van Gogh, and wanted to kill Hirsi Ali, was not just a fool but a criminal. If he could not cope with Western ideas of free speech, he should not have chosen to live in a Western country where freedom of speech is part of the law and heritage.

Likewise in fairness we should not go to Muslim countries if we cannot accept living under Muslim laws and customs; except perhaps we may have to in parts of our own countries before long?
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 September 2014
This was a quality book, full of insight into a world that many in the West ignore - the radicalisation of largely Moroccan youth into a culture of victimhood, blame and ultimately murder. Although it has as its starting point the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the book is more a study into the experiment of multiculturalism within Dutch society, especially with regards to the Moroccan heritage community. What emerges is a picture of distrust, as neither side seems willing to meet the other in the middle. Of course, given the paranoid delusions that swirl inside these jihadists heads - that the West is at 'war' with Islam, not helped by George Bush's comments in the past - is it any wonder that some resort to violence? I found the book to be very balanced and fair in its approach to the subject, as Mr Buruma interviews countless people connected to Theo Van Gogh and, indeed, his murderer. A point not made, however, is the link between cannabis and jihadists, as I find it crops up every time one delves into the background of these fanatics - any wonder given the paranoia the drug can cause. Interestingly, the shadow of WW2 is all over this book, with frequent references to the Nazi occupation and the attitude of the population towards the Jews during the war. All in all this was a quality book and one that should be required reading for any who wish to find out why some European citizens wish to bring down our Enlightened culture.
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VINE VOICEon 27 May 2013
On my way to Holland, I heard about the murder of a soldier by two men in London. It seemed appropriate to buy this book which looks at two political assassinations which took place in the Netherlands. I thought Buruma states the complexity of the problems very well. These attacks are criminal, committed by men who have become lonely radicals. An extreme and perverted form of Islam motivates a tiny minority to commit violent acts. There are many problems facing immigrant communities, and Buruma identifies a few bourgeois hypocrisies in Dutch society.

Is religion the problem? Or a minority who use religion to create paranoid revolutionary fantasies. Buruma takes a compassionate view of the difficulties facing young immigrant men. I found this a fair and compelling analysis.
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on 1 September 2008
A fascinating critique of Dutch society - one which many of us have long-regarded as 'perfect'. Buruma strips bare what he portrays as a smug middle-class and affluent nation which has never really openly dealt with its problems. Be they decolonisation, immigration, sex, drugs and surprisingly religion. What's clear though is that of all immigrant groups, Moroccans - NOT Muslims - are the least welcome and the least integrated. Buruma lays the charge that it's not Islam that prevents their integration, but a mixture of Dutch arrogance and Moroccan village culture. The book has its faults, notably the author - himself Dutch - is quite smug and he often doesn't analyse, rather he relates. Still, this doesn't take away from an excellent account of the phenomena of political assassinations in the Netherlands.
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on 13 February 2015
A journalistic investigation about Netherlands and the problem of islamic immigration in Europe
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on 24 August 2014
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