I was shocked to discover that the man who doused the flames begun by self-described Al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his apparent attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over American soil was, of all people, a "Dutch video director" named Jasper Schuringa (at right in a Facebook photo). Why? Because it was another Dutch director whose untimely demise on November 2, 2004 set the current tone of cowardice in the art world toward criticism of Islamist extremism.
Director Theodor "Theo" Van Gogh, great-grandnephew of legendary painter Vincent Van Gogh, died on an Amsterdam sidewalk after being shot off of his bicycle, stabbed in the chest multiple times as he begged for his life, shot and stabbed again, and finally, having a knife plunged in his chest by his assailant.
What provoked the deadly attack? Van Gogh had directed and co-produced a 10-minute film titled Submission (which is "Islam" translated into English) from a script written by Dutch Member of Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who rejected Islam. The film portrayed a composite veiled Muslim woman (wearing a partially transparent burqa) speaking aloud the prayers of four females mistreated by faithful Muslim men in their lives in seeming accord with the Qu'ran. Passages that purportedly condone or authorize whipping as punishment for fornication, forced marriage, domestic violence and sexual molestation are written across parts of women's beaten bodies in the film.
As a prominent politician, Hirsi Ali was entitled to some sort of security. Civilian Van Gogh, on the other hand, received death threats after the film's release, but didn't take them seriously, dismissing the idea that he should employ a bodyguard. Obviously, he should have; the knife that you can see sticking out of Van Gogh's chest as he bled to death on the street was more than just the murderer's coup de grace, it attached a five-page document to him that included an open letter to Hirsi Ali. The message: You're next.
Who killed Van Gogh? A radical Muslim Dutch-Moroccan named Mohammed Bouyeri (below in mugshot), then 26, who was apprehended soon after he fled the scene of the crime. He was wearing a djelleba, a long traditional Muslim formal garment, and on his person, he had a copy of a poem anticipating his glorious death in a shootout, which, of course, didn't work out for him (sound familiar?)
Bouyeri refused to speak in his own defense at his trial because he didn't recognize the authority of the Dutch government. He did have this to say to Van Gogh's mother after he was sentenced: "I don’t feel your pain. I don’t have any sympathy for you. I can’t feel for you because I think you’re a non-believer." No regrets from Bouyeri either: "I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion ... I can assure you that one day, should I be set free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same." He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, the most severe sentence the Netherlands could have given him.
The brutal murder of Van Gogh and the deadly Islamist violence that targeted Denmark and Danish interests after the publication of political cartoons satirizing the prophet Mohammed have served to muzzle artists around the world who pride themselves on being bravely acerbic on the topic of religious fanaticism. Their generally-agreed upon standards of artistic integrity ought to have them shining a light and holding a magnifying glass over the terrorism, oppression, and violent abuses against women radical Islam tolerates. Instead, with the image of Van Gogh's corpse sprawled on a downtown Amsterdam street fresh in their minds as if yesterday (if their memories of the fatwa against novelist Salman Rushdie were forgotten), they cower and surrender the principles they want you to believe they value more than anything.
Producers and directors' fear of reprisals for treating Muslim terrorists the way they regularly target (and often slander) Christians and Jews has made itself manifest in many ways. Just a sample: The switch of the nuke-wielding Palestinian terrorists of Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears to neo-Nazis in the film version; Clancy protege Vince Flynn revealing that none of his best-selling spy novels had yet been turned into movies because he demanded that the terrorist villains remain Arab fanatics and not -- in one change proposed by a studio executive -- Filipinos (not making it up, folks); Viacom's Comedy Central cable channel allowing the animators of South Park to splatter an image of Jesus Christ in excrement, but censoring an image of Mohammed simply standing in a doorway (more on that here and here); director Roland Emmerich's admission that while St. Peter's Basilica and the massive Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro were OK to CGI-obliterate in his latest end-of-the-world flick 2012, he pulled his punch when it came to the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia.
Call it serendipity, call it synchronicity, call it karma, call it divine intervention, call it what you want. That one Dutch film director should be killed by a Muslim terrorist while another Dutch film director possibly saved at least hundreds of lives from a Muslim terrorist is a remarkable coincidence. And one that you will likely read about only in places like mine, an unremarkable blog, because the mainstream media is also caught up in the same political-correctness game as the so-called art world.