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A ritual slaughter
An act with consequences
On 2 November 2004 filmmaker and critic Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered in Amsterdam, by a young man of Moroccan descent, who had been born in the Netherlands. He committed his crime in the name of a radical islamic ideal of a theocratic state, governed by Allah. It was a far-reaching event in many ways. Many Dutch people couldn’t help feeling that a kind of fifth column was operating, trying to violently force their backward radical islamic ideas on those that displeased him. Apparently there were subversive powers in the underbelly of the Dutch society, who did not care a fig for the basic principles of a democratic constitutional state, because to them Allah’s word was the highest commandment.
Theo van Gogh was not a univocal man. Neither an angel nor a devil, but both at the same time. A man with many friends, but with far more enemies. His furore as ‘enfant terrible’, as agitator and pain in the neck was greater than his reputation as talented filmmaker. His creative cinematic eye was —for many people— overshadowed by his monomaniac fulminating mouth. His coarse contact with friend and enemy was rewarded with scorn, appreciation, and undesired death. “I will do my utmost to insult a lot of people deeply. You can get the whole Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde story from me” [Theo van Gogh, Volkskrant 3.11.2004].
This is why ‘allochthonous’ fellow compatriots rightly feared the worst: if a political murder is committed in the name of their worshipped Allah, they could all end up deeper in the black books, where they didn’t feel quite at ease anyway. And, as we shall see, this was what happened. The once so tolerant Dutch nation was shocked, got overheated and was in danger of heading for a national disaster. Back and forth the knives were being sharpened. Lines were drawn in the sand.
The murder of Theo van Gogh led to strongly emotional and contradictory reactions. The dominant tone was one of emotional disgust and muscular condemnation. These emotions were founded on fundamentally democratic grounds: political and/or religious differences of opinion should be solved with non-violent means in a democratic constitutional state. At the same time there was a growing awareness that democratic norms and institutions should be defended: freedom has to protect itself.
Politicians of the established parties tumbled over each other in condemning this religiously inspired political murder. The cabinet immediately announced that it would fight the battle against muslim extremism the hard way and by making use of emergency legislation. The intelligence and security services would have to be expanded as soon as possible, ‘regardless of the expenses’. Civilians, who are seriously threatened on account of their opinions, should have a claim to personal security from then on. Adapting the legislation should enable the removal of terrorists from the Netherlands, after serving their sentence here. Muscular language, used to convince civilians that the government still was a reliable guarantee for the safety of all its subjects.
The tragic nature of this situation was even enhanced by opinion polls. In these polls Wilders gained 20 and even nearly 30 seats. This gain was caused —according to Maurice de Hond— mainly by the LPF (which dropped from 8 to 0 seats). At least 70 percent of the LPF-voters said they would vote for Group Wilders now. Of the seats moving to Group Wilders 7 are from the VVD, 5 from the LPF, 5 from the CDA and 3 from the left-wing parties. The VVD dropped in the polls from 27 to 16 seats.
More than half of the voters were in favour of new elections for the Lower Chamber. This was not surprising. The PvdA (Labour Party) rose from 42 to 56 seats and the SP (Socialist Party) from 8 to 13 seats (and the Christian Union from 3 to 5). Half of the voters chose Wouter Bos (leader of the Labour Party) as prime minister, and only 39 the present prime minister Balkenende.
On behalf of the cabinet vice-premier Gerrit Zalm (VVD) issued an official declaration of war.
- “It appears there is a movement active in the Netherlands, which justifies murder based on religious motives. We haven’t experienced this since the seventeenth century. This should be eradicated root and branch. The cabinet declares war to extremists.”
With this bold and militant language the government tried to convince its civilians that it was making a firm stand in defending the democratic constitutional state against terrorist attacks. At the same time the government tried to hold on to the moderate muslim organisations, by forcing them to vigorously dissociate from radical violent movements.
The metaphor of the ‘war against terrorism’ was adopted straight from the American president Bush. This ‘Bushian’ macho-talk is at best a poor metaphor for a fierce and difficult to solve political and social conflict. Such use of language only enhances the gap between muslims and non-muslims and suggests that anything is allowed in this conflict. They exactly play the islamic extremists’ game by giving them what they want: a holy war. In times of emergency a nation needs mediators, not demolitionists. Prime minister Balkenende had a better understanding and modified the declaration of war of his vice-premier. “It is the fight against terrorism that counts,” Balkenende said, and ‘war’ should be read as ‘fight’. The prime minister emphasised that “we have to continue the dialogue” and “we have to hold on to each other.”
- “Holland has always been a tolerant country. The atmosphere of violence that is now prevalent is dreadful. The situation should be checked. Those who overindulge in extremism and radicalism will be watched. But we also need a dialogue. It should not be us against them. We must not forget that most followers of islam in the Netherlands are peaceful people.”
But no discussion is possible with terrorists, warmongers and fanatics.
A heated discussion has burst forth, spreading passionate emotions and also a lot of ‘non-correct’ opinions through the media. Especially via internet many extremist opinions on islam, the immigrants and asylum seekers have been voice. On the one side we can see the populist, neo-nationalist and neo-fascist political movements and organisations. Orphaned fortuynism (the populist movement that gathered around Pim Fortuyn) tried to gain control over the ‘gut feelings’.
On the other side we see more or less deeply religious followers of islam and of traditional Arabic cultures and customs that are rather ‘strange’ to a lot of Dutch people, and often ‘not of this time’ either. Followers of islam have withdrawn in their own religious perception as a last source of their own identity. They have been torn to pieces between contradictory cultures and anxiously try to keep their heads up. By intensive internalisation of the islamic morals, there is no more room for ecumenical dialogue, let alone for discussions with disbelievers, or with democrats who wish to keep church and state strictly separate. Radical islamites consider dissidents and disbelievers to be objects who, if need be with force, have to be called to Allah’s order.
This was exactly the idea that induced Mohammed B. to liquidate Theo van Gogh. His faith in Allah was deeply offended by the, in his perception, blasphemous statements of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh. They called his Allah a cruel god, his prophets were depicted as pimps, perverts and hypocrites, and believers were dismissed as ‘goat fuckers’. To Mohammed B. this was an unbearable thought, a feeling impossible to live with. He decided to perform an act. An act he was prepared to sacrifice his own life for. He longed for a martyr’s death. His friends and fellow believers supported him in his willingness to be killed in action. He was prepared to bring the highest sacrifice. But then of course in exchange for the blessings of the hereafter, which each islamic fanatic expects from his martyrdom. However, things would go differently than planned.
The perpetrator survived his foretold murder of the famous filmmaker and criticaster. In spite of the fierce volleys of shots aimed at the arresting police officers, he was brought down in a professional way by a shot to his leg. Mohammed B. succeeded in killing Theo van Gogh, but he failed as a martyr. And he did the followers of islam in Holland a bad turn. He confined nearly all his fellow believers to a state of great distress and fear.
The murder committed by Mohammed B. was preceded by a process of radicalisation, which he documented on internet, together with his friends from the so-named Hofstadgroup. On the basis of these documents we can reconstruct with fair precision why Mohammed B. will be remembered in our national history as a political murderer (next to Balthasar G., the murderer of William I of Orange on 10 July 1584, and Volkert van der G., the murderer of Pim Fortuyn on 6 May 2002).
Refuge internet: coarsening of political culture
The murder of van Gogh swept through Holland like a shock wave. Nobody could withdraw from it, and everybody had a more or less strong opinion about it. Here we will map how these reactions came forward on internet, and what its role was in further events.
Internet is pre-eminently a place where people can express their opinion plainly and discuss anonymously.
The rise of populist fortuynism in the Netherlands went hand in hand with a strong hardening of the political debate and a coarsening in the style of discussion. It was difficult not to notice that many people who make use of the internet contributed to this polarised hardening. Many discussion forums have degenerated into refuges for people who deeply insult and slander each other, and even threaten each other with death. Democrats worry about the radical elements that weave networks of hatred. These networks make use of encrypted messages, the content of which remains hidden from police and judicial authorities.
Using modern communication media is an essential part of extreme nationalist and islamist strategies. Both the (autochthonous) right-extremist and the (allochthonous) militant islamic traffic have strongly increased on the internet in recent years. Internet also allows fairly small and relatively poor extremist political movements to make use of very powerful propaganda and recruiting instruments. Compared to other means of propaganda (such as pamphlets, brochures, newspapers, magazines, radio, television) internet is very cheap and at the same time offers the possibility to reach a huge number of people. This applies in particular to youngsters who are difficult to reach via the traditional media. All parts of internet are used by nationalist and religious extremists: they publish websites, transfer files, exchange messages via e-mail, discuss in web forums and news groups, and talk to each other via chat, instant messaging or video-conferencing. Websites containing criminally prohibited material are often moved abroad. In the United States racism, anti-semitism and other discriminating statements fall within the constitutional right of freedom of speech. But many of these websites in fact operate on servers that are located on Dutch territory and are maintained by Dutch citizens.
The internet is a free state and refuge for awkward opinions. Theo van Gogh had learned – just like his killer – how to make use of it. As a columnist he had been dumped by many newspapers and magazines, on account of his extraordinarily insulting texts. “As a writer of small pieces I was sent away everywhere or fired or censored so much that it seemed to be better to take the honourable way out” [Van Gogh]. As a reaction he opened his own site De Gezonde Roker [The Healthy Smoker], in which he took every liberty to ventilate his venom on events and persons. He didn’t do this anonymously, however, but by name. He wrote in personal capacity, showed his face and had a clear identity. Theo van Gogh understood very well that he didn’t write for a locally restricted or small public, but had a fairly large range. He didn’t utter personal opinions that died away in the air they put in motion. Now, after his death, his opinions are still on internet and can be read there.
- Theo van Gogh considered the internet to be the only medium on which he could speak freely. His website contained columns from the Metro [newspaper], but other texts as well that wouldn’t make the printed media without censorship.
The internet differs from everyday conversations situations in three ways. The identity of the author is usually unknown, a potentially world wide public is reached and uttered opinions are saved and can be read again later on.
The terrorist attacks on the WTC-towers and the rise and murder of Pim Fortuyn have thoroughly transfigured the political landscape in the Netherlands. In the meantime so much mud has come up in this process that editorial staffs of some papers have decided to close their public discussion forum or attach conditions to participation. The internet forums have always been a place where relatively extreme forms of social behaviour play an important role.
Computer mediated interactions have a disinhibiting effect. People who communicate via internet feel less inhibited [Reid 1994; Benschop 1998]. They feel free to say or ask what they have always wanted to say or ask. Internet offers us a chance to communicate anonymously with each other. To a great extent we can determine how we present ourselves or which role we would like to play. On the internet we are who we pretend to be.
In this way the traditional local mechanisms of social control are eliminated: on the internet we quite often don’t know for sure with whom we are communicating at a certain moment. Apart from a lot of disadvantages it has the advantage of feeling freer to express oneself in a disinhibited way. The most intimate and ultimate outpourings are the order of the day on internet. Communications via internet do not have immediate repercussions on the local social life of the individual participants. Thus they feel free(r) to express themselves in a disinhibited way. This is precisely the reason why internet communications are characterised by two extreme manifestations of social behaviour: being excessively and unwontedly sweet to other people (‘netslutting’ or ‘flirting’) and excessively insulting or even threatening people (‘netshitting” or ‘flaming’).
On the internet people easily fall in love with the (partial and often distorted) self-made image that other people present of themselves and this image can be further romanticised to taste. However, at the same time we notice that discussants are more quickly inclined to react to contributions that don’t please them with personal insults and threats. We are also talking about a form of stalking women here. They are stalked online with sexual harassment and perversities, quite often with drastic local repercussions. This is not a matter of ‘love’ (a more or less mistaken feeling of affection or desire), but a matter of ‘hatred’ (a more or less generalised feeling of disapproval or disgust).
Anonymous internet communication lowers the threshold to criticise dissidents in a frank and emotional way. Besides, being a global and accessible medium, internet has a great capacity to unify distributed discontent to a political opinion or even organised movement. In the more innocent initial phase of the internet many discussions on ‘flaming’ took place in discussion forums of Usenet. This molecular netshitting was often accompanied by spiteful generalisations about people with certain nationalities, ethnicities, skin colours, and religious or sexual preferences. In discussion forums this everyday netshitting frequently ended in full-blown virtual wars: ‘flame wars’.
That is the reason why in many discussion forums standards were established right from the start to prevent this kind of morbid growth. This netiquette particularly took aim against stalking women by using undesired sexual advances, against insulting or threatening persons and against discriminatory statements. By appealing to this netiquette insults and threats that got out of hand were usually appeased by the forum visitors together. The threat of ‘asocialisation’ of online interactions has been averted in most discussion forums by a virtual form of socialisation. Yet, this self-regulation hasn’t become common property yet.
In September 2001 Leefbaar Nederland (Liveable Holland) decided to close her discussion forum on account of the many discriminatory contributions. Leefbaar Nederland had insufficient volunteers to steer the derailed discussion in the right direction. After the murder of Pim Fortuyn on 6 May 2002 the tone in many public discussion forums became much more violent and vicious. They were flooded with vitriolic brawls, racist statements and provocative death threats. The Algemeen Dagblad couldn’t cope with such a massive form of forum vandalism and closed her open forum, in order to open again afterwards with a mandatory registration of visitors who wanted to participate in the discussion.
As is the case in any other community or network standards and protective mechanisms have to de developed, preventing this community from going down by uncontrollable and destructive powers. It is not only a matter of protection here against people who take a delight in disrupting and consciously frustrating a virtual community of people. It is also about the sum of netshitting and vandalising elements that jointly cannot only destroy the atmosphere, but also the community or the network itself. This is extensively analysed in the description of the network theory.
A citizen of Amsterdam has been Slaughtered
“Don’t do it, don’t do it”, he cried out.
Profile of a political murderer
On 6 May 2002 Pim Fortuyn was murdered by a radical white environmental activist. On 2 November 2004 Theo van Gogh was slaughtered in a gruesome way by a young man of Moroccan descent. Mohammed B. is a 26 year-old man, born and raised in the Netherlands. He was born on 8 March 1978 in Amsterdam-East. When he was seven the family moved to a bigger flat in the Overtoomse Veld in Amsterdam-West. Mohammed grew up in the Hart Nibbrigstraat, where his father still lives. He visited the elementary school on the August Allebéplein. He played soccer (not so well) and reluctantly followed koran lessons in the small mosque in the Jan Voermanstraat. He didn’t have many contacts and was very shy with girls.
Mohammed’s father Hamid was born in 1942 in Douar Ikhammalen, a poor Berber village in the Rif Mountains, where maize and olives are cultivated. He was the youngest of seven brothers. When his father died in 1944 the whole family was driven in financial distress. The children were starving. As a young boy Hamid tends sheep and works the land. At the beginning of the sixties he left for Paris, together with two other brothers, Abdurrahman and Abdelkadit, to work at the expansion of the metro network. In 1965 he came to Holland to work as a dishwasher at Schiphol Airport.
In 1967 Hamid returns to the Rif Mountains to marry Habiba Amyay, a woman his mother selected for him. When he saw Habiba for the first time, he immediately found her attractive. For years Hamid goes to Morocco each summer to visit his wife. Their eldest daughter Saïda was born there in 1977. Shortly afterwards the family settled in Amsterdam-East. There the eldest son Mohammed was born on 8 March 1978, to be followed by five daughters and a son. The youngest daughter Samira was born in 1987.
Mohammed’s father works very hard, makes long days and does the shopping for the whole week during the weekends. There was little time left for his children. They were raised by Habiba [NRC 9.7.05].
Mohammed B. was raised in a dreary, ghetto-like area ‘at the wrong side of the motorway’. Due to the high concentration of immigrants the area Overtoomse Veld is also popularly called ‘saucer city’ (due to the large number of satellite dishes used for watching broadcasts in Arabic). Mohammed was so successful at school that he —contrary to most of his peers— could attend higher general secondary education in 1990. He goes to the Mondriaan College, a few hundred metres away from his parental home. He didn’t distinguish himself from other pupils and was rather withdrawn. His teachers had a fairly positive picture of Mohammed. He was timid, attentive and career-minded.
In 1995 Mohammed received his diploma. His teachers and fellow pupils considered Mohammed to be a pleasant, straightforward pupil His history teacher, who was eager to hand him his certificate, regarded him as one of the ‘bright boys’ who would ‘probably succeed’.
Frustration didn’t come until later. In his area the life of many 'allochthonous' youngsters mainly takes place on the streets. Compared to the trouble-causing loitering youngsters Mohammed behaved “very obediently, as an example to his peers” [youth worker R. Heines]. He tried to show those youngsters that there were other ways to live. Since they live in Dutch society they should achieve in that society as well.
In the youth centre De Oostoever he stood out. He showed leadership, was intelligent and was characterised by the former chairman of Eigenwijks, Wim Knol, as “a born leader.” He knew how to hold on to Moroccan youngsters and to keep them off the streets. In 1994 he suffered his first major misfortune. The youth centre was demolished. The district council didn’t replace it with a new youth centre, but by a migrant centre instead, where their parents could also go. That touched on a sore spot with the Moroccan youngsters. After all, it was precisely the rigid parental control that they wanted to avoid. Besides, the centre was much too tidy with far too many restrictive rules. Together with his youngsters Mohammed ended up on the streets again. He felt conned and not taken seriously.
Something was brewing among the ethnic community in the area. In April 1998 the fat was in the fire. There were riots on and around the loitering-place on the August Allebéplein. Hundreds of – mainly Moroccan – youngsters turned against the police [Fogteloo/ Pellekaan 2003]. According to Mohammed the local authorities had left the youngsters out in the cold and the riots were the direct consequence of this.
At that time Mohammed was not a practising muslim. During the ramadan he fasted, but he didn’t go to the mosque every Friday afternoon. Mohammed was fond of beer and used soft drugs. When he was stoned he told his friends the most fantastic stories. His first relationship was with a modern Tunisian-Dutch girl, and lasted for three months. Mohammed wanted to live on his own and in 1999 he rented a house in the Marianne Philipsstraat.
Mohammed wanted to become an accountant. Together with his friend and next-door neighbour Mohammed Bouker, he decided to study accounting at the InHolland College in Diemen. But unlike his friend, this study didn’t come easily to him. He switched to business informatics. He received a student grant and earned an additional income doing administrative work. In 2002 he changed studies again. But after a study in social-pedagogical assistance of three months, he quit school once and for all. Five years of study gone and no degree whatsoever. But Mohammed had other things on his mind.
Step by step he began to develop more fanatical and aggressive behaviour. This wasn’t unnoticed by his fellow students. For a while Mohamed Taimounti studied at the same college as Mohammed:
- “He came, did his homework and that was it. Some of my friends had slightly more contact with him, but once in a while there were conflicts. At school, for instance, he addressed young muslims who drank alcohol. He got very angry and said: ‘If you drink alcohol once more, you really have a problem with me.’ This doesn’t have to mean that he really threatens with violence, but it sure was unpleasant. He didn’t seem to have any real friends at school, especially not in the end. He withdrew, together with those other people that are locked up now” [Trouw 9.7.05].
In the meantime Mohammed remained involved in the problems in his own neighbourhood. He continued pleading for their own youth centre and had discussions about it with the district council. He talked and tried to convince, but got stuck on the evasiveness of a passive bureaucracy. Mohammed’s ambitions were blocked, he became frustrated and angry. The ‘white world’ didn’t take him seriously, he felt betrayed and let down. His suppressed anger started transforming into aggression. This led to several confrontations with the police.
In the spring of 2000 Mohammed discovered that his sister was having a secret affair with Abdu A., a Moroccan boy who was a member of ‘The Daltons‘, a gang of seven brothers who frequently came into contact with the police. Mohammed thought his sister was behaving like a whore and had defiled his family’s honour. His father Hamid was in his opinion much too lax. He said: “I’ve spoken with her, but she won’t listen to me. What more can I do?” As the eldest son he felt responsible for the life his family leads. And he took this task very seriously. He took his sister prisoner: he locked her up and prevented her from leaving the parental home. In a moment he wasn’t paying attention she succeeded in calling the police. Two local policemen visited the family and tried to mediate. The matter blew over after the boyfriend in question —on the initiative of the police— officially introduced himself to the family [KRO-reporter]. The family honour had been saved.
In the summer of 2000 he had another confrontation with the police. Barely 22 years old, he was involved in a pub brawl in Diemen. On 21 July he and his friends besieged the student bar De Kooi. He punched another visitor hard in the face, and was left with a broken ankle himself. In the spring of 2001 another incident took place. On the Leidseplein in Amsterdam he came to blows with Abdu A., the Moroccan boy who had had an affair with his sister. When he met this boy in the Vondelpark again, things got out of hand. Fuming with rage he pulled a knife (his friends say he took it away from Abdu A.). Mohammed was overpowered by police officers and removed to prison. In October he was convicted for abuse and threatening and ended up in a cell for 12 weeks. In prison religion started to become important for Mohammed. In his cell he began to study the koran.
When Mohammed was released in September 2001, he was confronted with more problems at home. Due to serious back troubles his father was declared disabled and at the end of 2001 his mother, Habiba Amyay, died of breast cancer. She was buried in Oujda, a Moroccan city near the Algerian border, where his father had bought a second house in the mid eighties. A year later his father returned to Morocco to marry Fatima, Habiba’s younger sister.
On 11 September 2001 the Twin Towers and the Pentagon are attacked in the USA by a terrorist cell of al-Qaeda. His first reaction was that violence was not a solution to anything. He didn’t agree with the American policy, but he said he rejected this kind of violent action. Yet, a few days later he told his friend that according to him the jews were behind the attack.
Nevertheless Mohammed once again dedicated himself to the youngsters in the area in the beginning of 2002. He was the leader of the self-organisation of Moroccan youngsters, phrases their feelings and desires, writes columns in the neighbourhood newsletter and starts a computer club for young people. In February 2002 he organised a political café in community centre Eigenwijks. With this he earned status within the group. Time and again he emphasised that there are not enough local facilities for the youngsters in the neighbourhood, and therefore they just hung around and caused trouble. They needed a youth centre of their own.
Even so, he didn’t succeed in getting a new youth centre going. The district council did want to talk to him, but he only got vague promises. With the support of the neighbourhood association Eigenwijks Mohammed and two of his friends drew up a solid plan for a new youth centre in a few months. The plan was named Mondriaans Doenia, the World of Mondriaan. The request for subsidy was sent to The Hague, but at the ministry it ended up in the wastepaper basket. For Mohammed this was the last drop that made the cup run over. First they took his youth centre away from him, then they made promises they did not keep, and subsequently a carefully and painstakingly drawn up request for subsidy for a real youth centre was denounced with one stroke of the official pen. In December 2002 Mohammed had another meeting at the ministry, together with the coordinator of Eigenwijks, Dirk Glastra van Loon. Mohammed explained his plans. But he exploded when afterwards a female policy official asked him how he knew his plan would work. He threw his arms in the air and yelled: “Are we so clever or you so stupid?”
Mohammed B. in 2003
Mohammed was deeply disappointed: years of hard work done, but no result whatsoever. He quit college and went on social security. His criminal record of violent crimes was no recommendation for a good job. Mohammed began to resort to islam. In a room in the neighbourhood association Eigenwijks he searched for islamic texts on internet that appealed to him. He was completely absorbed in this quest for appealing islamic texts and intended to start a website of his own. Mohammed became more and more ‘fundamentalist’. This also showed in his appearance. He grew a beard and walked around in islamic clothes. He lost his joviality and openness. Mohammed grew cold.
In spite of his ever-increasing radical islamic ideas and behaviour, Eigenwijks appointed Mohammed manager of a large room. He seemed to have a good attitude for this. He was helpful, always available and could be reached day and night. But the problems soon started. On religious grounds Mohammed objected to serving alcohol in the room. Furthermore, he objected to mixed use of the room: according to him men and women had to be separated. In spite of all attempts to reach a compromise, he stood his ground. He was beyond reasoning. Mohammed’s demands were unacceptable to the management of the centre and his contract was ended.
From now on Mohammed had all the time in the world to gain more in-depth knowledge of islam. He locked himself up in his house and sat behind his computer for hours on end. He read radical islamic texts, translated them, wrote articles and distributed them via internet under a pseudonym. Mohammed revealed himself as a modern teleworking terrorist, a ‘tele-terrorist’.
In the district council Mohammed B.’s radicalisation grew into a source of concern. The police were informed, and they in their turn informed the AIVD. Mohammed B. had, however, been under the eyes of the AIVD earlier due to the articles he wrote for the neighbourhood newspaper Over ’t Veld. In this newspaper Mohammed began to disseminate his newly acquired islamic insights.
Values and norms, islam and integration according to Mohammed B.
For the AIVD Mohammed B. comes in the picture on 1 August 2002, with his article on Normen en waarden(Values and norms). In this article and based on quotations from the koran he tries to show that it is not a good thing to hang around in the streets and that one should take to heart the complaints of those who are bothered by it. “But unfortunately not everyone has this sense of responsibility and they are precisely the ones who cause these excesses.”
In Mijn maatschappelijke invulling (My social interpretation) he explains how he will put this into practice. The Workgroup Youngsters in which he participates gets “the eternal reproach” that they do not include allochthonous women in their activities. He calls it an arrogant reproach and points out that the workgroup is no professional social institution. Women are not excluded according to him, but addressed “in an appropriate way”, proceeding from his own islamic conviction. By that time he has stopped shaking hands with women.
In Jihad in Amsterdam West [28.11.02] he shows how strongly his neighbourhood activities are inspired by islam. His report on the activities of the Workgroup Youngsters is prefaced by and peppered with koran quotations and religious pieties. He pleads for a peaceful jihad against the negative imago of the neighbourhood.
In Islam en integratie [13.2.03] (Islam and integration) Mohammed B. provides us with a very personal interpretation of the concept of integration. He looked up the meaning of the word in the Prisma-dictionary: to be included in a larger whole. According to him this explains “the whole Islamic concept of submission (body and ghost) to that Sole Power who is the creator of the larger whole we call the universe and of which the human being is part.”
With a female member of the editorial staff of Over ’t Veld Mohammed argues about her interpretation of some verses of the koran. He doesn’t approve of her interpretation. He says: “I am right and you aren’t, because I’m a man and you are a woman”. Upon that the woman resigns from the editorial staff immediately.
Mohammed has found his vocation and lets everybody know: “I’m going to follow the prophet.” He alienates from his family and most of his old friends. They are replaced by many new radical islamic ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.
Mohammed not only alienated from his own family and friends, but also from the leaders of his local religious community. As a little boy he was taught the koran by imam Ahmed at the local Al-Oumma mosque on the Postjesweg. In the summer of 2003 Mohammed had become so radicalised that he even rejected the most prototypical orthodox Al Tawheed mosque as being too liberal. When he met imam Ahmed he said: “I’ve come to tell you what the real islam is.”
By then Mohammed is strongly convinced that he holds a lease of the truth. He had suddenly seen the light and the truth of islam. “You don’t tell the truth”, he said to the imam. Mohammed tried to explain to the imam that the manner in which Allah has arranged his law cannot be changed and that one cannot be a true muslim without strictly obeying these divine laws. The imam was baffled by the haughtiness of ‘this little boy‘. In his weekly Friday prayer the imam referred to his absurd confrontation with a little boy that came to haul him over the coals.
The AIVD also knows that in his home in the Marianne Philipsstraat living-room meetings were organised of radical re-islamised youngsters and that he accommodated one of the leaders of this ‘Hofstadgroup’: Nouredine El-F. More and more Mohammed disappeared from sight. His jeans were replaced by a djellaba and he prayed five times a day. He visited the controversial El Tawheed mosque where he met kindred spirits and made contact with men from Egypt, Algeria and Syria, who gave special courses and lectures. Together with Nouredine El F.Mohammed attended a lecture of the Syrian preacher Radwan al Issa —alias Abu Khaled— in a phone centre in Schiedam. They invited the charismatic Syrian to give some lectures in Mohammed’s house in Amsterdam. There the aspirant members of the Hofstadgroup met to have themselves prepared for the jihad by Radwan al Issa.
In spite of all these alarming signals the police and intelligence services misjudged the danger of Mohammed B. He was known to the police for criminal offences. Between 1997 and September 2004 he was in trouble with the police five times. He specifically offered resistance to police officers: he insulted, kicked and hit them.
He was also known by the AIVD (Dutch Secret Service). But he was not on the list of 150 persons who were followed by the service very closely. The AIVD had no indications that Mohammed B. prepared violent actions. “There were no indications that he was a risk”, said home secretary Remkes during the parliamentary debate on the murder. Mohammed B. was in the company of the group of extremist muslims who had attracted the AIVD’s attention, but was not believed to belong to the vital group. In the eyes of the AIVD he only played a minor role in the inquiry into other persons, for instance Samir Azzouz, who was arrested for the second time in the summer of 2004, on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack.
In December 2002 Mohammed had radicalised so completely that he suggested “that a bomb attack should be carried out, leading to many deaths” [Nouredine el F. in ambtsbericht AIVD]. He embraced the appeal for a holy war, the islamic jihad. Police, judicial authorities and intelligence services completely underestimated the violent potential of Mohammed B. This turned out to be a fatal error.
After midnight Mohammed takes a short walk around the Sloterplas, a lake in his neighbourhood, together with Rachid B. and Ahmed H. They use an mp3 player to listen to texts from the koran. They don’t speak a lot. Mohammed points at the sky with admiration. It is a beautiful and quiet sky. His friends also look up, but they don’t say a word.
When they return home by two o’clock Mohammed and Ahmed go straight to bed. They get up at half past five to eat and say their morning prayer. Then Ahmed goes to bed again. Mohammed leaves the house. He has an appointment with death.
The self-appointed martyr took his assignment seriously. Theo van Gogh was brutally slaughtered in broad daylight. First he was shot at (“at least twenty shots, aimed carefully”), then the gun was calmly reloaded with a new magazine. And then the victim was violently stabbed: “at least 10 times”, “full of hate”, “as if he tried to stab a car tyre”. He cuts Theo’s throat. He takes a second knife and a piece of paper from his rucksack. Writes a short text, folds it, and sticks the kitchen knife and message into the victim’s chest.
The text was an incitement to the islamic holy war. He himself carried a farewell letter: Drenched in blood (In bloed gedoopt). What many people feared turned out to be true: the murderer had acted out of radical islamic conviction. Theo van Gogh became the first victim of the islamic jihad in the Netherlands.
During the interrogations by the police and his trial in front of the judge the murderer referred to his right to remain silent. That was his right. But here we try to make him speak, and to listen to him.
Where did things go wrong for this gentle, intelligent and helpful Mohammed B.? What were the key experiences that made him go off the rails? Into which walls did he run? How can somebody who tried to adapt so much to the Dutch culture eventually commit a murder with a terrorist intent? What possessed him not only to want to destroy Theo van Gogh’s life, but also his own? Who else were informed of his murder plans?
Rest in peace — with charivari
The death of Van Gogh led to violent reactions among the Dutch population. People were shocked by the atrocity of the murder and upset by the insolence with which the basic principles of the democratic constitutional state were challenged. Even the ‘quietest’ citizens expressed their deep indignation over such a ruthless deed. They felt both threatened and challenged.
A citizen of Amsterdam had been murdered. The first reactions on the internet concentrated on the books of condolence. In these books people expressed angry emotions of sympathy. Many made use of this opportunity to present their own radical solutions. On Condoleance.nl Danier wishes the family and friends of Van Gogh a lot of courage. But he immediately added:
- “To those who don’t respect freedom of speech I would like to stay: PISS OFF AND GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY!!! You have come here to enjoy democracy, haven’t you? Then learn to deal with it. Some of you may have been brought here by your parents or grandparents, but you are free to go, so go if you don’t feel at home here!”
Many people transformed their sorrow over Van Gogh’s death into an exceptional aggressiveness towards everything experienced as ‘culturally impure’. We were too weak and we should hit back. “We cannot even express our opinion in our own country anymore” [Angelica]. Apart from huge outrage about infringement of freedom of speech and senseless violence, people cry out for more violence: revenge. “Perhaps next time we should finish off an imam when he opens his trap about Dutch society” [anonymous]. “Who sets fire to the first mosque? I hope many will go up in flames” [Dutch person]. “Dutchmen wake up!! It’s about time we take the law into our own hands! To begin with the underprivileged areas” [Henk]. “Throw that scum out of the country and close the doors!” [Leo].
Some people drew historic parallels. “First Pim, now Theo, who’s next?” [Michael]. Others emphasised the unique features of the situation. It was the first time the Dutch were practically confronted with internationally organised islamic terrorism. What had we done to deserve this?
Did Van Gogh have to die because he considered islam to be a backward culture, because he called muslims “goat fuckers” and the leader of the Belgian Arabic European League (AEL), Abou Jahjah (“the Belgian advocate of the true religion”) a “pimp of the Prophet”? Just like Ayaan Hirsi Ali he regarded the prophet Mohammed as a “perverse tyrant”. Of course Theo was pushing things too far when he forced them into the wrong corner by calling them “the religious fascists of Islam” [21.12.03]. This doesn’t only show banality, but also bad taste. On the other hand: Theo passionately wanted to say what he thought. “Violence should not be provoked by acting frightened” [Van Gogh]. Theo wanted to say what he thought. His “bald highness” (Pim Fortuyn) became his idol. The fact that freedom of speech is always restricted by rules of decency and fairness annoyed him tremendously. He simply always wanted to say what he thought, without taking responsibility for the consequences of his own actions.
He learned to understand the power of the published word. ‘Kutmarokkanen’ (cunt-Moroccans) was the word that stuck to the Amsterdam alderman Rob Oudkerk. ‘Geitenneukers’ (goat fuckers) will be indissolubly connected with the testament of Theo van Gogh. One can think of better qualifications to be remembered by as a human being. With Van Gogh it was frequently only a foolish form of playing the tough guy. “Sometimes it can be appropriate, but when often used it loses each provocative meaning” [Karin Spaink].
Theo van Gogh took up controversial viewpoints to just about anything: about the multicultural society and the position of women in islam, and of course about muslims. But he also had his own disqualifications for magistrates, wearers of headscarves, gays and the Netherlands.
- Job Cohen, generally considered to be a very competent and sympathetic mayor of Amsterdam, was written off by Theo as follows: “Of all con-men, trying to sell us this fifth column of goat fuckers as an enrichment of our so-called great multicultural society, Job Cohen is the most cunning one. He is indeed on his way to become famous amongst Allah’s butchers: as a jew you can send for a message.”
- Paul Rosenmöller, ex-chairman of GroenLinks (left-wing political party) was written off as follows: “If anyone deserves cancer, it is Paul Rosenmöller, scoutmaster of politically correct Holland. May the cells in his head shape into a jubilant tumour. Let us piss on his grave.”
- About the head scarf: “Invented by retarded mediaeval goat fuckers who restrict our liberties.”
- He called a gay man a “slobbering chocolate knight” and women were referred to as ‘slits’ or ‘boxes’.
- Van Gogh brushed aside recent threats: “They came from extremist islamic circles. It only shows how pathetic the level of civilisation is in some circles. I am not going to be silenced by those kinds of people.”
- About Holland: “I really hope I may live to be 87 here and that I can empty the cup of wrath to the bottom. But to say that I am looking forward to live in a country that is burdened down by the censorship of political correctness and where the goat fuckers are in power: no, not at all.”
- “I don’t believe in the goodness of human beings, but I do believe in my own arrogance. This is so magic that the bullet will not come for me; at least that’s what I think. I suppose they think ‘he is the village idiot, why shoot him? If it happens, it happens’,” he said in an interview with the RVU.
Theo van Gogh was more and more embraced by right-wing extremists and hated by religious muslims. And Theo was a ‘soft target’, who steadily cycled through Amsterdam, without any protection. For many muslims Hirsi Ali, being an apostate, was the main stumbling block. But even for islamic terrorists this primary target was too well protected. It led to a probably lasting disruption of her personal, social and political life. It cost Theo van Gogh his life.
Submission as bone of contentionThe film Submission, which Hirsi Ali made with Theo van Gogh, was a bone of contention for many muslims, and not only for them. In the newspaper Trouw[30.8.04] Ton Crijnen wrote that Hirsi Ali was on the warpath again and that her ‘shocking provocation’ would lead her nowhere.
By means of Submission Hirsi Ali tried to release muslims and especially muslim women from their oppressive religion. She hasn’t been very successful in this. Even with muslim women in women’s refuge centres the film evoked nothing but disgust. As a conviction politician Hirsi Ali commutes between two conflicting goals. On the one hand she, being an atheist, tries to dissuade muslims from their religion. On the other hand she wants to convert muslims to a liberal version of their religion. Ronald Plasterk rightly pointed out that the effect of her political performance is slight —if not counter-productive—, precisely because her story is not consistent [Volkskrant 3.12.04]. In spite of her militant atheism she admits not being against islam as such. And in spite of her attempts to lead muslims to a more tolerant version of their religion, she emphasises that a liberal European islam is not possible. “There is only one islam.” And that is precisely what fundamentalist and orthodox islamists claim. Her cooperation with Theo van Gogh, who insulted all muslims determinedly and rudely, did result in a provocative and most talked-about film. But it hasn’t increased her chances of convincing muslims and muslim women. If it is her goal to improve the position of muslim women, she has completely overreached herself with Submission.
The books of condolence on the internet were flooded with racist reactions immediately after the murder of Van Gogh. Ranging from “Pim was right, islam is a rotten culture!!” via “Throw those stinking muslims out of the country” to “Muslims are cunts, muslims suck. Muslims must die.” Nearly 3500 messages were deleted from Condoleance.nl, and yet the site was still full of racist language.
On condoleanceregister.com extremist reactions were numerous as well. Sometimes the tone is even relatively moderate.
- “It’s a pity that a Dutchman cannot stand up for his own fatherland anymore. We should take firmer measures against the kind of people that do not agree with our society. Holland, change something and stand up for your country” [rene p].
But quite often people draw from the darkest quarters of the right-extremist repertoire:
- “Jesus flatten all those mosques and BURN all those KORANS. They are millions of years behind …. Religion is the greatest danger there is. And people who believe in the Koran are even completely retarded. STUPID GOATFUCKERS FUCK OFF TO MOROCCO” [johnny p].
Or from the most fanatic quarters of islam-fundamentalism:
- “PRAISE THE MARTYR WHO SHOT DOWN VAN GOGH!!! THAT’S HOW THE ZIONISTS AND THEIR SERVANTS COME TO THEIR BLOODY END!” [Schietmijmaarlek (Shootmedown)].
Complaints were also pouring in with the Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI). They received texts such as:
- “With the cowardly murder of Theo van Gogh proof has been produced for the umpteenth time that especially the pukelims have to fuck off” [White Paradise].
But also radical islamic voices can be heard:
- “Good for you. Go on and play with fire. You want war. You will get war” [ali chemicali].
It was no coincidence that so many right-extremist statements could be read in the online books of condolence. The murder was committed by a Moroccan/Dutch man who legitimised his deed with islamic-fundamentalist texts. This led, for many autochthonous Dutch people, to a revival of an exclusively national sentiment towards foreigners with strange customs and religions. These spontaneous emotional reactions to the murder of Van Gogh were, however, purposefully stimulated and radicalised by racist, ethnocentric, nationalistic and ‘fortuynist’ political powers. Extreme nationalistic and racist sites invoked people to sign the books of condolence. The murder of Van Gogh was seized as an opportunity to explain to the alarmed citizens that draconian measures had to be taken immediately.
Once more it’s a MOROCCAN
Of course without a JOB
Who doesn’t INTEGRATE
But does INTIMIDATE
Our language he does not want to LEARN
But he continues to CASH IN
Our government says just CARRY ON
And an honest person doesn’t live for LONG
And the muslims go on with their SLAUGHTER
And again politics do not have WORDS
Let’s close the borders FAST
For we are fed up with those muslim MURDERS
[Anonymous contributor in onafhankelijk.nl]
The shocklog GeenStijl [NoStyle] also knew the ropes. Deluded by Pim Fortuyn they already knew much longer that the multicultural society was trash. It was an illusion that was only maintained by the leftist church. It should be ended once and for all: stop trying to keep the holes plugged — get down to the core of the problem. The best-considered solution Geenstijl can think of is: “No dialogue, it’s time to repay violence with violence. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!” [Fleischbaum, 08.11.04]. Vigorous rhetoric, threatening metaphors. Sad illustrations of the culture of the bigmouths.
Also on the site Volkomenkut [Completelyshit] the bigmouths determine the tone. “Islam forbidden religion and shut all mosques” [peut] is still moderate. “Asshole islam, all back to their own country and a little atom bomb over it” [cnn]. But more cruelty is still to come. “Time for a second Hitler and this time the muslims gassed and more than 6 million! Reopen Auschwitz, now!” [Joop]. Of course ‘the left’ has done it again. “First Pim, now Theo! The blood of the lefties will flow through the streets [perenprak]. The murder of Van Gogh is even used as a good example: “Use the muslims as a model, cut the lefties’ heads off” [dehavenkroe]. In between all this verbal violence you hardly notice that sometimes also opposite contributions are published. Such as this one: “Christian, Jew or Islamite. You simply don’t kill people” [w].
From Cyberjihad to Political Murder
Internet as a platform for violent jihad
Mohammed B. and his friends made intensive use of the internet to shape and propagate their views. They operated in several discussion forums and made their own web pages. They had their own web pages for jihad fighters — often with MSN groups, for example under the name of ‘5434’ and ‘twaheedwljihad’). Most of these websites have been removed from the internet by now. Via these sites and their satellites we gain insight in their vision on the cyberjihad in the world and in the Netherlands.
357hosting.comIn the radio 1 broadcast of 1opdemiddag (Dutch radio programme) at 2 o’clock on Monday (8 November 2004) 357hosting.com was depicted as the largest terrorists host in the world, offering accommodation to thousands of extremist and fundamentalist sites. “The Netherlands is one of the largest home bases of extreme Islamic websites in the world.” Ghaazi of 357hosting was angry with VolkomenKut, Netwerk (Dutch TV programme) and 1opdemiddag. Planet Multimedia and Netkwesties, by the way, had drawn attention to 357hosting before.
357hosting is a one-man company specialised in the anonymous hosting of extremist muslim sites. Since it offers large discounts to islamic sites, it is suspected that the company is financed by wealthy fundamentalists. The company in Nieuwegein had been discredited before, because the American Simon Wiesenthal Institute demanded from the Dutch government that the sites be closed immediately. The main target was the site Hamasonline.com, the site of the Palestinian liberation/terrorist organisation, appearing on the list of terrorist organisations drawn up by the European Union [EU groups and people, non-EU groups and people]. The Public Prosecution stated they would not come into action until a crime was reported, so that the case could be dealt with via criminal law. They saw no other procedure to close the websites of 357hosting. In May 2005 the Public Prosecution started an inquiry into 357hosting, at the request of the Swiss authorities.
Following the commotion around 357hosting the company changed hands in 2005. The ex-manager transferred his business to someone from Jordan.
This is their vision on the future of world peace:
- ”Jihad and Jihad alone saves our countries, frees the people and ultimately leads to true peace.”
This message is sold to islamic men in a special way: Jihad lessons are taught in the Abie Bakr Essadieq Mosque in Almere, and religious books are translated and provided with introductions. We also gain insight in the methodical construction of a climate in which the murderer of Theo van Gogh was recruited and trained. It is a chronicle of a political murder foretold.
Bilal L.: islamic terror via internet
Aboe Qataadah —locked up since 5 November 2004 under his detention name Bilal L.— is part of the circle of friends of Mohammed B. He had been active before in MSN-groups under the names: Al-Ansar, Shareeah, A Salafoe Saali7 and 9113. He was a regular visitor on sites as Marokko.nl and Maroc.nl (example of the difference between a Kaafir and a Muslim), and was frequently excluded (banned). He published a list of addresses of flying schools and shooting clubs and gave advice on books that could be ordered at the El Tawheed mosque.
It attracted the attention of other people as well. On 10 March, for example, Chin_Tok mentioned the Dutch jihad-sites on the VPRO-forum Tegenlicht. He mused: “I am curious to know when the AIVD is going to take action.” On 19 February 2004 Chin_Tok had already drawn attention to the Dutch jihad-site groups.msn.com/shareeah. “I think you are still asleep.” And referring to groups.msn.com/5434 he remarks in the forum of Twee-Vandaag [31.3.04]: “Look what I’ve found. Am curious to know when the AIVD will show up. I think it is only a matter of time before there is an attack in NL.”
Shooting with pure intention
Aboe Qataadah is a practical man. In his appeal in the MSN-group ‘5434’ of April 2004 he explains to his muslim brothers how to act when taking shooting lessons. He explains that also in the Netherlands it is possible to take legal shooting courses and provides addresses and telephone numbers of the shooting ranges. In order not to be too conspicuous he advises to take the courses with a partner. “Try to keep this kind of activities a secret, so that you may depart from a pure niyya (intention). At the shooting range, keep your opinions and convictions to yourself, and don’t go in conclave with the others that are present. Don’t talk about Islam and perform your salaat in secret. You are going to the shooting range as a preparation for the Jihad and not to invite people to Islam.” Certain Dutch shooting clubs allow people to take their firearms home after a year. “Don’t do this if you cannot control your aggression, or if you have problems in your personal life. Respect the Dutch legislation and avoid buying illegal firearms. There are ample opportunities to train legally, so don’t ruin your reputation by turning the illegal way. Learn most what you can learn in your own society and learn the rest when you actually arrive in a country of the Jihad.”
Aboe Qataadah (19) is an ideologist who propagated his radical-religious message on other forums as well. He is also active on islaam.nl [see overview] and on marrokko.nl [overviews: (1), (2), (3)]. His message is clear: “It really is good to encourage the young for the Jihad. For only Jihad can save these Ummah and nothing else. But first we have to invite them to TAWHEED. And this counts for us all” [2.5.04].
Aboe Qataadah is not a religious softy, but knows how to use abusive language: “And you are a part of that misery. Doing your best to report your brothers and sisters to the AIVD and give information to for example jongrechts.nl [right-wing site for young people] those grandchildren of monkeys and pigs.” Here he suggests knowledge of leaked-out AIVD-reports.
In the same tough language he reacts to someone who disapproves of the mujahedin murders: “Who are you to criticise Mujahidin from your lazy chair? You are nothing but a cockroach spitting out dirt.”
“I ask Allah the Sublime to deal with the enemies of the Mujahidin.”
Just for a short while it seems as if Aboe Qataadah still finds it hard to come to moral terms with the killing of innocent women and children. “And later I will come back to this about the kidnapping what the Sharia says about killing women and children when they kill our women and children.” But it is remarkable how quickly he is cured of these moral objections: killing women and children is morally justified, because the ‘Westerners’ also kill women and children.
From the very start the site contains a page with practical instructions for prospective jihadists: How can I develop myself for the Jihad. Here it is not only explained that military training is an islamic duty, but it also provides very practical recommendations for physical training, battle and survival tactics, the use of firearms and the military training within and outside “your country of settlement.” Abu Qataadah literally copied his recommendations for shooting lessons from this page (translated from English as a matter of fact). The text was discovered in the ruins of a terrorist training camp south of Kabul, Afghanistan at the end of 2001. The document was first published on Azzam.com, a closed site now, which dedicated itself to the propaganda for the world wide jihad.
On 9 April 2001 the site www.qoqaz.nl was taken out of the air because of the summons to participate in the ‘holy war’. On the opening page one could read: “Due to a misinterpretation by various media during the past few days we thought it would be a wise decision to close this site.” On 24 February 2004, however, the page How can I develop myself for the jihad turned up again in the MSN-group ‘5434’.
The owner of one of the ten shooting clubs, whose names are mentioned in it, called in the police. “We do not want to be associated in any way with the jihad. Now we have to put every muslim who wants to be a member on a gold scale,” Erik Jonker, chairman of Shogun told Het Parool [15.3.05]. On 14 March the site was deleted from the server by MSN [Webwereld].Killing pigs that abuse the prophet
“What I actually try to explain is that you don’t have to go to Afghanistan of Iraq to wage jihad, you can wage jihad anywhere or at any time. Jihad nafs” [30.4.04].
In the MSN-group tawheedwljihad Aboe Qataadah answers the question whether he who abuses the prophet should be killed. His answer is clear: “It is an obligation to kill he who abuses the Prophet whether he is Muslim or Kaafir. And Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh, these pigs who have abused the prophet their punishment is death and their day will come with Allah’s will..!” Even the scholars agree on this, according to Aboe Qataadah. After a small parade of all this ‘scholarship’ he ends by: “May Allah deal with the enemies of Islam …. Ameen.” The text he quotes, Verplichting van het doden van degene die de profeet uitscheld (Obligation to kill those who revile the prophet), is a collage of passages from a 14th century document, translated by Mohammed B. on 2 July 2004.
On the MSN website Jama’at Al-Tawheed Wal Jihaad (by now removed) Aboe Qataadah makes his threats more specific: “Those who combat Muslims or support the combat of Muslims in any way are regarded as one joint enemy. And unfortunately the Netherlands hasn’t learnt anything from the blessed attacks in Madrid …. We Muslims accept no humiliation!!... And geert wilders and hirsi ali and the NL-government, the Mujahidin are on their way. Oh, Allaah, let our death resurrect the Ummah again…Ameen.”
Ambassador of al-Qaeda in EuropeBilal L. borrowed his ‘nom de guerre’ from the islamic clergyman Abu Qata, the ambassador of al-Qaeda in Europe. Although he denies that he has anything to do with Bin Laden [CNN], he is considered to be one of the most dangerous islamic terrorists. Qatada —also known as Sheikh Abu Omar or Omar Mohammed Othman— is a Palestinian who was born in Jordan and who was granted asylum in England in 1994. According to the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzónis he is “the spiritual leader of the mujahedin in England.” Qatada keeps in close contact with terrorist suspects in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Spain. Many terrorists seem to dispose of his writings.
In 1999 he openly offered his services to Bin Laden. Abu Qatada is one of the 12 foreign terrorist suspects, who have been detained without trial since 2002 in the Belmarsh prison in London, called Guantánamo-on-Thames. In May 2005 he was released and he still lives in England. He is still regarded as the ideological leader of al-Qaeda in Europe. His lectures are not only published on his own website, but are distributed across a widely branched network of English and Arabic internet forums.
- “There are certain countries in which one can attend a complete Jihad training. However, we are not in the position to supply you with information on this. You could contact people you can trust and who know more about this subject.”
The future martyr, who should still doubt the value of his self-sacrifice, was not only tempted with the 11 imaginary blessings of the martyr. His fate was also relieved by a clear material advantage. The ‘Mujahideen Council of Commanders’ announces an important decision:
- “We have decided to help each family of a martyr with a financial amount of $ 1,000.”
Pizzas in the Red Light District
Bilal L., alias Aboe Qataadah, was arrested on Friday evening 5 November 2004 near the Nasr mosque in the Celebesstraat in the east of Amsterdam. As a pizza courier he roamed the red-light district in Amsterdam. This area of Amsterdam was considered to be a cesspool of vice — it was the target of an assault he could no longer make. The Syrian Radwan al-Issa was supposed to be involved in the plans for an attack on the Red Light District.
The identity of Aboe Qataadah came to light through three anonymous e-mails sent to the National Investigation Service by the aforementioned Chin-Tok (or Chin Tok3). The informer was “a concerned muslim”. In his first e-mail of 14 September 2004 he warns against a group of terrorists in Amsterdam East who were out for the Red Light District.
- “Good day, there are some terrorists in Amsterdam East I personally know and they have approached me to carry out attacks in the Netherlands. (…) Their target would be the Red Light District in Amsterdam and the Lower Chamber.”
He writes he has thought for a long time about reporting it.
- “I cannot say anything anymore, because I’m afraid. The only thing I want is that you catch them. For they spread a lot of discord here, recruit boys of their own age with video tapes and audios. Thanks in advance.”
The anonymous informer has a clear motive. “I know what the consequences are when an attack takes place here: everyone is going to hate muslims” [source: Police file]. After this first message the police ask him by e-mail for more information. In his e-mails of 27 September and 11 October 2004 Chin_Tok3 supplies the police with more detailed information on the suspects, including their addresses in Amsterdam East. First, he gives the address of Bilal L. and then more information about other terrorists.
Trial: small mistake
On Friday 11 February 2005 fifteen months’ imprisonment were demanded for Bilal L., five of which on probation. He was charged with publishing a video message, in which people were encouraged to decapitate Wilders. According to his lawyer Bilal had no intention to personally reach the member of parliament by his threat, nor had he intended to incite others to violent actions. “Everyone talks like that on the internet. I got carried away,” was Bilal’s reaction. To the judge he testified that he never meant it that way and that he regretted it. “I wanted to know what others thought of it. It has never occurred to me that Mr Wilders would read it. This I regret.”
Bilal had ‘forgotten’ that as Aboe Qataadah he had systematically preached violent jihad for months, that he had written instructions for taking shooting classes, and that he had explained in detail on every site he got access to why anyone who insulted the prophet had to be killed. Bilal L.’s lawyer compared his client’s behaviour to England’s Prince Harry’s, who put on a Nazi uniform for fun. Bilal L. would have been a bit naïve and unable to judge the scope of his death threat. The public prosecutor himself was of the opinion that the demanded punishment would have a preventative effect. It is to be hoped that he is shown to be right, but this doesn’t seem very likely.
Bilal’s lawyer reduced the systematic propaganda of his client for the terrorist jihad to pub-chat: “Threatening on the internet is like threatening with violence in a pub.” But the judge pointed out that the MSN-group was accessible to anyone and that threats aimed at politicians attract a lot of attention from the media. So Bilal could have known that his words would have a great effect. Threatening to decapitate a member of the house of representatives (as a punishment for mocking islam) was, according to the judge, done “with a terrorist purpose.” On 25 February 2005 Bilal was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment, of which six suspended, and probation for two years. On 5 March 2005 Bilal was set free again. It is to be hoped that he has learnt his lesson and that his remarkable career as Aboe Qataadah is finished, but this again doesn’t seem very likely.
Only answers on internet
In front of the judge Bilal L. declared why he had placed a call on the internet to behead member of parliament Wilders. Bilal L. thought that Wilders “wanted to forbid religion and remove the muslims from the Netherlands.” This had made him angry. He only wanted to provoke and was carried away by the style of discussion on internet forums.
- “I will not deny it. I am interested in the jihad. But eight months ago I wasn’t religious at all. I know very little about islam. Someone mailed me: ‘If you consider yourself a muslim, read this, and read that.’ And he sent me videos of the events in the Middle East and some books. I don’t know who that person is. I get this sort of thing a lot on the internet.”
This was his way of explaining why his computer was filled with texts on the holy war, instructions for making and using weapons, and with 140 pictures of Bin Laden. Inspired by the terrorist group that beheads westerners in Iraq he called his internet-site ‘tawheed wal jihad’.
- “Not until now do I understand that Geert Wilders only wants to deal with the extremists among the muslims. And I hear from the prison imam that as a muslim I have to stick to democracy. No imam in Amsterdam could tell me this. They weren’t interested in my questions. I only got answers on the internet.”
Aboe Qatadaah derived his reputation from massive dissemination of terrorist ideas and by incitement to attacks via internet. Bilal L. now tries to put all blame on the same internet, and seems to have forgotten that he himself was Aboe Qatadaah.
We will continue....
Bilal L. wouldn’t enjoy his freedom for long. On Thursday 24 March he was arrested again in his house in Amsterdam on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a terrorist crime. Even from his cell he recruited for the armed jihad and inquired after explosives here and there. Aboe Qatadaah has never left Bilal. L. Together they have hoaxed the Dutch legal system and together they can continue their holy war.
Omar A. alias Abu Nawwaar el Hossaymi points out the target
Mohammed B. and Samir A. have turned Holland upside down. There was a lot less attention for Yehya K. (17). On 27 September 2004 this student from Sas van Gent was arrested, because he had threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders to death on internet. The police discovered components for a bomb in his house. Just like other terrorist suspects he meets the profile of people who are sensitive to recruitment for the jihad, as sketched by the AIVD: young, of Moroccan descent and well-educated. According to his school Yehya was a fine student and a nice boy. Yet, he was sensitive to the arguments of muslim extremists who —also or primarily— came in contact with him via internet.
The AIVD established that an increasing number of young muslims feel rebuffed by Dutch society and have too little perspective. Young persons of Moroccan descent are more troubled by this than others. They are stuck between the traditional home front and the modern, secular and individualised society. Quite often a less strict social control applies to Moroccan boys than to boys from other ethnic groups. This makes these relatively well-educated but heavily frustrated young men susceptible to the temptations and promises of fundamentalist preachers and terrorist recruiters (who praise violence as a means to revenge the many humiliations muslims have suffered due to the West). Because of their not particularly bright future a devoted and militant philosophy of life seems to be a tempting alternative. This is how they ripen for recruitment to the jihad. “A network of extremist muslims recruits islamic youngsters in the Netherlands and mentally prepares a small group for violent battle” [AIVD 2002]. They are capable of using so much pressure, that the youngsters cannot resist it anymore.
A growing number of signals confirmed the AIVD’s diagnosis. They became alarming when the Hofstadgroup was taking shape, and started to manifest itself on internet.
After the film Submission was shown on TV, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh were threatened in the limelight of the internet. This occurred in more places, but for good reasons the MSN-group Muwahhidin/dewaremoslims (thetruemuslims) attracted the attention of the intelligence service. On 30 August ‘Abu Nawwaar el Hossaymi’ published a message saying that the ‘El Muwahhidin brigade’ had succeeded, after ‘a long search’, in tracing the secret address of the ‘disbelieving diabolic’ renegade Hirsi Ali (with picture). This attracted great alarm: the address turned out to be correct. The National Criminal Investigation Department of the KLPD raised the alarm [source]. It was suspected that jihad-militants had closely observed Hirsi Ali’s movements. This wasn’t a threat from a keyboard-terrorist; there was someone who had the motivation and information to actually threaten Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s life. In a second message Abu Nawwaar wrote: “Death will catch up with her.”
Abu Nawwaar on ErTaN
On 3 September 2003 the name Abu Nawwaar also appears on the weblog ErTaN. On this site of Ertan Kiliç Abu Nawwaar promises that the ’ Renegade Ayaan’ will be killed anyhow and that she will never be able to evade the revenge of the Muwahhidien Brigade.
However, the first message of ‘Abu Nawwaar’ contained another target: “the disbelieving diabolic mocker Theo van Gogh.” His picture was added as well, with the simple by-line: “Address unknown.” The KLPD reports this to the regional police force, but saw no reason in it to protect Theo van Gogh. On 13 September 2004 the AIVD brought their threat-assessment of Hirsi Ali up to date, after a phoned request by the Unit Surveillance and Security [Eenheid Bewaking en Beveiliging] on 3 September 2004. There was only a marginal reference to the threats against Van Gogh.
- “Especially on the internet individual expressions of verbal aggression against Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh can be found as well, apart from an appeal to ignore the film. The AIVD does not exclude that these impulsive thoughts could lead to spontaneous actions. At the moment the AIVD doesn’t have indications that muslims men and women —not to be labelled as radical by the AIVD— will actually perform these emotionally based actions. Actions, arising from and driven by emotions are seldom steered by any degree of planning. Hirsi Ali is valued as ‘medium to high’ and probably ‘high’. High applies to the short period immediately after publication. No value is given to Van Gogh and what happened gave no reason to take further actions directed at spontaneous verbal aggression” [Reconstruction of facts].
At that time the AIVD still believes that no terrorist actions will follow fundamentalist words. The presupposition of this appraisal was that people who are solely driven by their ‘emotions’ are not capable of a rational planning of their actions and of executing them with the courage of fanatical believers. The AIVD still believes they’re dealing with relatively innocent, spontaneous verbal aggression. This optimism, based on very unstable presuppositions, was crushed within six weeks, in a gruesome way.
Yet, these events on internet were enough reason for the Dutch judiciary to intervene. First the IP-addresses of ‘Abu Nawwaar’ were retrieved from Microsoft in the USA. With the help of this information three different addresses in The Hague were raided. Only the third raid was successful, although the suspect wasn’t there. When the 22-year old Moroccan Omar A. heard from his parents that detectives had taken possession of his computer during a search, he voluntarily reported to the police. ‘Abu Nawwaar’ was exposed, traced down, arrested and indicted. And he turned out to be no small fish.
As from 1 July 2004 Omar A. had posted messages in the MSN-group Muwahhidin/dewaremoslims. As the ‘assistant-administrator’ of the group he translated jihad-texts —including a statement of al-Qaeda— from Arabic into Dutch and put them on the forum. After the presentation of the film Submissionon 29 August Omar A. couldn’t control his anger anymore. Hirsi Ali had especially “hurt him” with the koran texts that were written in calligraphy on the half-naked body of a veiled supernumerary. “This can’t be done. These are the words of the creator.” In order to express this anger he not only wrote that the ‘Muwahhidin-brigade’ was ready to kill Hirsi Ali, but also revealed her secret address next to the Israeli embassy in The Hague. Motive and means were present; the occasion had to be prevented. Therefore this threat was taken very seriously by the Royal and Diplomatic Protection Service (Dienst Koninklijke en Diplomatieke Beveiliging — DKDB). With due speed Hirsi Ali was transferred to a building of the DKDB which was permanently guarded (‘a safe house’).
The Public Prosecution took the case extremely seriously and mobilised 22 detectives of the Terrorism Unit and Special Tasks (Unit Terrorismebestrijding en Bijzondere Taken — UTBT) to recover Abu Nawwaar’s identity. They were successful. Omar A. was arrested, charged and tried. In his closing speech the public prosecutor said that tracing down Omar was a case of ‘national interest’. The Public Prosecution wanted to put a stop to the growing number of threats and attacks on politicians. The combination of the threat and publication of the secret address of Hirsi Ali were considered as “an encouragement to a serious criminal fact.” On 26 October 2004 the judge sentenced Omar A. to nine months imprisonment, of which three were on probation.
Omar A. declared to the magistrate that he regrets his death threats, but mainly because of the consequences for himself. He took a free Arabic course in the Middle East. He realised he could say good-bye to the second term of his course in Syria now. “Then my studies are ruined” [NRC 27 October 2004]. Omar A. is disappointed in Dutch society and wants to leave the Netherlands as soon as he is released.
By tracing and convicting Omar A. the AIVD, police and prosecution were on a trail which would reveal itself only later. According to a spokesman of the national office of the public prosecutor the investigation of Omar A. had not shown that he maintained ties with members of the Hofstadgroup.
Rifo79 on the Warpath
After the murder of Theo van Gogh journalists and other interested citizens went to look for the perpetrator’s identity. The internet forums were full of speculations. Who was this Mohammed B. and under which pseudonym(s) did he operate on internet? The breakthrough didn’t seem to come from the internet, but from conventional and reliable media.
Two weeks after the murder [16.11.04] Radio 1 News announced with great certainty that already since 27 March 2004 Mohammed B. had been a member of the forum marokko.nl, under the username ‘Rifo79’. The editors based this scoop on information from the police file. The Public Prosecution also suspected that Mohammed B. used this name. Besides, the site manager confirmed that all messages of Rifo79 were removed by order of the police.
A dramatic image, stirring the imagination. Mohammed B. would have discussed islam on the internet until shortly before his deed. On Tuesday 2 November, the day of the murder, he would have posted a message at half past twelve at night in a discussion on jews.
Those who had the chance to read which messages Rifo79 put on the forum of marokko.nl, could hardly escape the impression that here at least a keyboard terrorist was speaking. In the months preceding the murder Rifo79 posted 266 contributions on various subjects. His contributions became fiercer and fiercer, in tone and content.
- His early messages are still quite composed. He sticks up for the authors of the rap against member of parliament Hirsi Ali. From October on his reactions become more vehement.
- After the raid in October in the house of a Moroccan family in the Bucheliusstraat in Utrecht Rifo79 writes to a pro-American contributor: “The more innocent muslims are caught the better, only then will they realise how nazi-like your kind is.”
- His contributions continuously degenerate into floods of abuse. A forum participant who writes that abuse was not allowed was given a rocket: “As long as you share your bed with a ‘kaffer’ (disbeliever) and your name isn’t Islamic, you can yell as much as you want, but this still doesn’t make you a muslim.”
- In the last days before the murder Rifo79 posted more than one hundred messages. In a discussion on foreign muslims fighting on the side of the rebels in Iraq, he reacts to someone who calls them scum: “They are coming to do your brothers and that fat pig Allawie in. And what you call scum I call men with balls, not like those little poofs who attack from Apaches and F16s.”
- A forum participant asks Rifo79 why he doesn’t take action when it angers him so much. He replies: “That is secret information, not intended for little pigs like you.”
- On the evening of 1 November through the first half hour of the next day Rifo79 posts 32 messages on the site. One of those was about western soldiers in Iraq. “I really hope they each come back as roast piglets. Without their shitty heads of course.”
- The last message was dated 2 November, half past twelve in the morning, little over eight hours before the murder. Rifo79 reacts to a contribution of ‘Kifaya’, who writes that, according to the koran, you cannot hold all jews responsible for what happens in Israel. Moslima Asma contradicts him: “It even says in the Koran that we cannot retort this. “Do you think you know more than Allah”? Kifaya answers: “Well, this is really sad. Hopefully you have read or understood it the wrong way.” Rifo79 reacts again to this: “If someone is sad it’s you. It is clearly written in the Koran.”
All 266 reactions of Rifo79 were immediately removed from the site. Rifo79’s profile still existed [screenshot], but his messages were removed by the administrators on Tuesday 16 November and handed over to the police. The owner of the Stichting Marokko Media (Morocco Media Foundation), Othman Salmoun, confirmed that Mohammed B. used the name Rifo79.
The fact that Rifo79 was still active on Marokko.nl on Friday 12 November cast the first doubt on the scoop of Radio 1 News. It was hardly probable that after his arrest Mohammed B. would still gain access to the internet or that intelligence services would have used the name Rifo79. Moreover, the date of birth in Rifo79’s profile [6-7-78] didn’t match the date of birth of Mohammed B. [8-3-78]. Those who knew Mohammed B. better also saw that the command of language and style of writing were noticeably below his level.
It turned out to be a huge mistake: Rifo79 was not a pseudonym of Mohammed B. A few days after Van Gogh’s murder the computer of the real Rifo79 was confiscated by an ‘army’ of policemen [Spits 18.11.04]. And on Wednesday evening 16 November Rifo79 appeared on marokko.nl to complain indignantly:
- “How did they get the idea that I am Mohammed B., from where do they get this information FROM. Is this the media from where we have to get our news, if that is true it is deeply and deeply sad. Accusing people for nothing because they happen to be a too intelligent to discuss with about everything and nothing. Sad…” [20:54].
Rifo79 demands rectification. And a few minutes later he reports again in his best Dutch:
- “We are hunts down both by the media and the aivd. If some nazi vents his bile, and we spit back we are immediately suspects. […] What do they think that we but have put up with, I keep giving my opinions that is my good right. And if I do this, I shouldn’t be compared with some murderer. But all right … this far the intelligence of the average Dutchman don’t reach.”
The next day he repeats —after consultation with his lawyer— his demand that the ‘ignorant ediorial staff of radio 1’ has to rectify their coverage on him: “if they do not comply i am foced to take legal action” [18:49].
Some forum participants support him in his demand; others think he should stop whining, because he is only a ‘keyboard terrorist’, who doesn’t put his spiteful words into action.
- “You may not be Mohammed Bouyeri, but considering the content of your messages you could have been him. You deserve to be marked as a persona non grata and to be kicked out of the Netherlands” [viergho].
One nick for two persons?
It is certainly not impossible that two persons make use of the same pseudonym. Also in the forum of marokko.nl this possibility was pointed out: “If I make a nick and the matching password and pass on the password of the e-mail address behind it to for instance Piglet, Piglet and I can post under one nick and nobody can see that the two of us are active” [viergho].
Radio 1 News, however, refused to rectify her coverage. The chief editors maintained that Mohammed B. left messages behind on the forum of marokko.nl as Rifo79. According to the police Mohammed B. e-mailed from the same IP address. A spokesman of the Public Prosecution in Amsterdam stated that there wasn’t any certainty that Mohammed B. hid behind this pseudonym. It was still assumed, but had to be investigated further.
Rifo79 indeed had the same first name as the murderer of Van Gogh, but he declared that he didn’t even know Mohammed B. Speculations kept doing the rounds. They might both make use of the same pseudonym, or perhaps even the AIVD would use the pseudonym, in order to catch scoundrels in an inscrutably intelligent way by using names of scoundrels.
On Tuesday night 16 November Rifo79’s messages were made accessible again by the administrators of marokko.nl. They concluded that there was nothing wrong with Rifo’s messages and only removed some because they were taken “out of context” [source: ANP].
All commotion about the internet-identity of Mohammed B. was made much of in the press. The internet played a crucial role in the cause of and consequences of this political murder. Controversies in the internet world had immediate repercussions on what happened in society.
But if Rifo79 wasn’t the pseudonym of the real killer, under which usernames or pseudonyms had Mohammed B. operated on internet? Which keyboard terrorist was hiding behind the pseudonym Rifo79? And how many of these potential terrorists make coexisting unsafe by spreading backward, resentful and violence-inciting texts, images and slogans on internet?
Mohammed Bouyeri alias Abu Zubair
The AIVD found the trail of the Hofstadgroup. They knew that “a number of members of the group are active on the internet”. Yet, according to a leaked-out progress report, the intelligence service still conducted no ‘systematic investigation’ into these cyber-terrorist activities in the summer of 2004. Had this been done, they would have discovered that there were internet sites that were directly or indirectly managed by one of the members of the Hofstadgroup. They would also have noticed that in the summer of 2004 texts of ‘Abu Zubair’ were posted in the MSN-group Muwahhidin/dewaremoslims.
The AIVD didn’t fail to notice that potentially radical islamic terrorists made intensive use of internet, but they didn’t see that these and subsequent sites were an important instrument in the construction of the Hofstadgroup. The members of this network used internet to express their process of radicalisation, to convince others —imperatively pedantic— of the blessings of the holy jihad, in order to cultivate the group feeling of the chosen ones, and to give themselves a political identity. The group was driven by totalitarian ideas, which they wanted to sell all too anxiously. The time was ripe for jihad, here and now and with terrorist violence. For the dissemination of this message they made ample use of the possibilities to articulate their islamic dogmatism and radicalisation via internet. The AIVD also didn’t fail to notice that in the period between 18 and 22 September Mohammed B. participates “in discussions on internet about the use of fertiliser as a basis for explosives and the way such bombs can be made” [Reconstruction of facts]. The AIVD was not ready yet to link the information gathered from the local world with traditional means in a systematic and inventive way to information that can be obtained from the virtual world with high-tech means.
That internet has become increasingly important in the dissemination of radical islamic thoughts and sentiments has become a cliché by now. How they use internet is a lot less clear. Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists do not operate in formally and rigidly organised groups, but rather behave like swarms of bees, capable of stinging from all directions. Due to their social discrimination and psychologically experienced lack of power they pursue a swarm-strategy, allowing them to attack a powerful enemy from all directions at the same time. They operate with ‘swords of the weak’. And due to its low costs of access, its speed and worldwide scope, internet has become the largest megaphone in the world. Besides, it is a public space where you can say what you want, without anybody noticing immediately who you really are. After all it doesn’t take long before one meets a number of people of the same mind, preventing one from finding out how small their world actually is [Pape 2005].
On internet Mohammed B. makes use of the pseudonym Abu Zubair. Under this nom de guerre he publishes several extremist books and pamphlets on internet. Parts of these online texts literally correspond to a contribution of Mohammed B. to a neighbourhood newsletter in Amsterdam-West, of which he was an editor from March 2002 to April 2003.
Who wat the real Abu Zubair?
That Mohammed B. made use of the pseudonym Abu Zubair was confirmed by the Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón, head of the investigation of militant Islamic groups in Spain [Reuters]. Before Garzón supplied this information, the Public Prosecution in Amsterdam who investigated the murder, was neither informed of the pseudonym nor of the internet texts. Abu Zubair means ‘the powerful’ in Arabic.
The real Abu Zubair is an Iraqi intelligence officer. He came in the news in 2002 when the British newspaper Sunday Telegraph [15.9.2002] published evidence for a connection between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Tony Blair revealed that two of al-Qaeda’s top men had been trained in terrorism techniques against the Kurds in Iraq: Abu Zubair and his number two Rafid Fatah.
Abu Zubair is also known as Fowzi Saad al-Obeidi and his surname ‘the bear’. Before 11 September 2001 he was in command of training camps in Afghanistan on behalf of Osama bin Laden. He is suspected of plans to blow up Nato-ships in the Mediterranean from a base in Morocco (in May 2002). American officials confirmed (in July 2002) that Zubair was arrested in Morocco [news.telegraph]. He is still in prison, presumably in the US.
At the end of July Abu Zubair makes himself known as a terrorist on the internet. In the article of 28 July on rifgate.nl Abu Zubair threatens the king of Morocco, whom he calls a whore of the American president Bush. Apart from Donner he also addresses himself to the ministers Remkes and Verdonk and member of parliament Wilders. “And hereby I indeed do make another appeal in order to recruit the young for the jihad.”
As Abu Zubair Mohammed B. also distributed e-mails inciting to jihad in the spring of 2004. World leaders, also prime minister Balkenende, are advised to submit to islam or else resign. Islam is the truth and will conquer Western society.
- “Islam has indeed come to submit the lie and her supporters to the Truth, if necessary with the sword. […] The democratic system is nothing but a system aimed at turning people into a slave of themselves, so that a few parasites can take advantage of this and submit these people to them.”
The media are regarded as the satan, manipulating people’s behaviour. As a solution he proposes integration in the sense of islamic submission. Bush, Blair, Chirac, Balkenende do not come within miles of islam with their concept of integration, so they have to disappear. In the hereafter they will taste the spirit of humiliation. “The spirit of Jihaad is walking on earth.”
As an attachment Abu Zubair added a copy of his book De ware moslim, which he had translated and introduced himself (the introduction had already been published in the MSN-group De Oase (The Oasis) on 13 March 2004 under the title Vrijheid in de Islam.
On 30 April this jihad-mail was reported to the police Haaglanden, by court interpreter and sworn Arabic translator, Hamdy Abdel Gawad. “I want this to be investigated,” he explained to the Volkskrant [VK 1.5.04]. More than two weeks after the murder of Van Gogh Gawad had still not heard from the police [Volkskrant 17.11.04], and that was end of story. The intelligence service AIVD also knew about Abu Zubair’s email. In the governmental reconstruction of facts this wasn’t reported. And even afterwards the AIVD wouldn’t say if they actually investigated it.
In April 2003 Mohammed B. wrote an article in the neighbourhood newsletter ‘Over ‘t Veld’ (Over the Field) about Islam and integration, in which he argues that human beings cannot change Allah’s laws. “Physically each living being on earth is a muslim (he who has devoted himself).” It is practically the same text as De weg naar waardigheid (The road to dignity), which was later again published in DeBasis (TheBase).
Under the name of Abu Zubair Mohammed B. left behind a whole series of articles and personal translations of works on radical islam. In this “small library” [NRC] titles can be found such as:
- [13.10.03] Democratie en Islam (Democracy and Islam).
- [22.01.04] Heersen met gemaakte wetten van de mens (Ruling with man-made law).
- [24.02.04] Ware moslim & basistermen (translation of ‘True muslim & basic terms’).
- [07.10.04] Millat Ibrahim.
- [16.03.04] To catch a wolf.
- [29.04.04] Grondwet van een fundamentalist (Constitution of a fundamentalist).
- [02.07.04] Verplichting van het doden van degene die de profeet uitscheld (translation of ‘Obligation to kill those who revile the prophet’).
- [12.08.04] Open Brief aan het Nederlandse Volk (Open letter to the Dutch people).
- [27.08.04] Brief aan de liegende 'Aalim en Imam (Letter to the lying ‘Aalim and Iman).
- [23.09.04] In bloed gedoopt (Drenched in blood).
In DeBasis other texts are added: poems by Samir A., a farewell letter and poems by Jason W.
In To catch a wolf [copy 1 | copy 2], which was written on 16 March 2004 and appeared on the internet in the summer of 2004, we are told how an Eskimo goes wolf hunting. First he rubs his knife with animal blood and then freezes the weapon. “Then he rubs another layer of blood on it, and another one, till the knife is completely covered with frozen blood. It looks just like a strawberry ice-cream.” The knife is stuck upright in the snow. The wolf smells the blood, walks to the knife and starts licking it. His desire after blood is so great that he doesn’t feel the knife in his own tongue. The wolf doesn’t realise that “his insatiable thirst for blood is being quenched by his own warm blood.” The wolf slowly bleeds to death.
In this political manifesto the wolf stands for islamic countries where ‘satanic powers’ have sown their ‘seed of evil’. “Since the fall of the Ottoman empire and the consequent fall of the Islamic Caliphate, the enemies of Islam have been engaged in realising their plans for the total destruction of Islam step by step.” The once so powerful and proud muslim community is now no more than “a dead drunk frustrated nation, begging for a piece of bread at the pavement of the West.”
- “Pride is hurt, honour is defiled and possessions and blood violated.”
Mohammed B. rants on about the many ‘diseases’ in the islamic world. This brings him to the Moroccan king Mohammed VI, in his opinion a perfidious man.
- “You should know, Miep the Sixth, that it is my greatest wish to see how your chest is torn open, to see how your beating heart is wrenched out of your body and then watch how death seizes your rotten soul to drag it to the dungeons of Hell while you are screaming and struggling.”
His line of reasoning is compelling, his use of the Dutch language is reasonable, his style of thinking is dogmatic and one-dimensional, and his visions and solutions are extremely violent and cruel.
Mohammed B. was rejected by Fatima; she was already in love with another Mohammed, who is in prison now as well as an alleged member of the Hofstadgroup. Although this Mohammed el Morabit was already married to ‘Naïma’ according to islamic law, he intended to marry Fatima as his second wife. Polygamy is good for the ummah according to muslim puritans: if a man begets children with more women, the muslim community grows faster.
The women of the Hofstadgroup had to listen to the discussions between the men and the travelling jihad preacher Abu Khaled, alias Radwan Al Issa from behind the curtain, but they are not less militant. Terrorism is compulsive for them as well. They were disappointed that Hirsi Ali hadn’t been killed. So she had to be killed by the sisters. “In order to show: she doesn’t stand up for us women.”
“Woman will kill Hirsi Ali,” were the headlines. It turned out that this was not completely fictitious, when shortly after the murder of Van Gogh a young woman reported to the Lower Chamber with the book De ware moslim — she wanted to talk about it with Hirsi Ali.
His translations of radical islamic texts are continually preceded by a preface, in which nearly exclusively works of radical islamic scholars are quoted. Also and mainly from al-Qaeda circles.
- Mohammed B. particularly translates texts of the Egyptian author Sayyid Quth (1906-1966), a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was hanged by president Nasser. His work De tekens op het pad (The signs on the path) was translated by Mohammed B. on 5 March 2004 as Dit is de weg (This is the road) [copy]. And to this he adds a personal wish: “May Allah accompany us on this road with determination and honour us for joining the long caravan of martyrs that have preceded us.”
- Between 11 April and 14 May 2004 he translates De vier basistermen in de koran (The four basic terms in the koran) by the Indian radical Sayid Abdoel-Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979), founder of Jama’ati Islami. On 15 November 2004 ‘moslimazuster’ posts a copy of this text in the discussion forum of Marokko.nl. According to Mohammed B. the most important conclusion is “that the Truth is independent of time, space and place.” And this he says precisely about islam, the only world religion whose historic birth was recorded in written sources by contemporaries. “The Koran was revealed at a time of great change in the Arab world, the 7th-century shift from a matriarchal nomadic culture to an urban patriarchal system. [...] It ought to be fascinating to Muslims everywhere to see how deeply their beloved book is a product of its place and time, and in how many ways it reflects the Prophet’s own experiences” [Rushdie 2005a].
- On 2 July 2004 Mohammed B. translates Verplichting van het doden van degene die de profeet uitscheld (Obligation to kill those who revile the prophet) from the book As Sarim AlMasloel 3la Satmie Arrasoel of the 14th century author Ibn Taymiyyah. He uses this text as an ideological legitimization to kill persons who fight islam in the Netherlands and who insult the prophet Mohammed. On the basis of this document he considered the murder of Van Gogh as a religious duty.
- Mohammed also translates texts of less well-known and less scholarly jihadists. On 29 July 2004 he translates Het slagveld: De veiligste plek op aarde [copy 1 | 2 | 3], written by Amir Sulaymaan. In the opening lines it is emphasized that these are not the words of a scholar or an imam, but of “a simple young man who is preparing himself to die.” The islamic community is attacked from many directions and should be defended. Dying in the battle field isn’t awful. After all, the martyr will not feel ‘the pain of death’: “The Mujahid doesn’t feel any pain either during death.” Moreover, Allah has so many rewards in store for the martyr that they can hardly be counted. Yet, there are “seven special things given to the martyr by Allah, which are given to no one else.” Obviously, the 72 virgins aren’t absent in this list. The fifth gift is attractive as well: “He will receive a special crown and special garments in Paradise, so that everyone will recognise him as a martyr.”
Mohammed B. not only refers to older scholars, but also to contemporary ideologists, such as the blind sheik Umar Addur-Rahman, who is in prison for involvement in the first bombing on the World Trade Centre in New York in 1993. He also refers to the Egyptian Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical imam in London. In Allah’s governance on earth he argues that democracy is the same as disbelief and that muslims who participate in elections or operate as representatives in democratic institutions are disbelievers.
In his analysis of the Dutch situation Mohammed B. overwhelmingly emphasises the topicality of the violent jihad. He thinks that all sincere muslims have to accept the responsibility for performing acts now. “Mr. Remkes, we have indeed risen to urge the people and to invite them for the Jihaad. Why? Because we cannot bear the injustice anymore.” All those values and norms of the constitutional state are only concepts “to protect your own lies with.” The appeal is clear:
- “Free yourself! Come out of that coffee shop, come out of that bar, come out of that corner. Answer the appeal of la ilaha illa allah (‘There is no god but Allah’). Join the caravan of the Martyrs. Rise from your deep sleep, rise and shake off the dust of humiliation. Rise and answer hajja al jihaad’s call” [To catch a wolf].
Of course the final victory is guaranteed.
- “It is only a matter of time before the knights of Allah march into the Binnenhof in The Hague and hoist the flag of Tawheed [recognition of God’s unity, ed.] in the central square. They will [..] rename the parliament into the Sharia Court of Justice and the chairman’s hammer will ratify Islamic verdict.”
From the tower of Kok [former Dutch prime minister] the islamic call to prayer will sound. After a prayer the pamphlet ends with a straightforward challenge:
- “Mr Donner, what will be your next bill to stop us terrorists?”
The AIVD doesn’t take this challenge seriously.
In August 2004 Mohammed B. starts writing a number of threatening letters, signed with his new battle name Saifu Deen alMuwahhied. In his threatening letters to Hirsi Ali (17 August), Aboutaleb (idem) and Wilders (13 October) he verbally nails his potential victims to the execution pole. It seems as if he hasn’t made up his mind yet who it was going to be. Because the primary targets were protected by then, he had to find a substitute target. On 23 September Mohammed writes his testament.
Choice of victim
Unlike in an ordinary political murder, in terrorist attacks the direct objects of violence are not the main targets. “The immediate human victims of violence are usually arbitrarily chosen (occasional victims), or selectively chosen (representatives of symbolic targets from a target population that can serve to pass on a message)” [Napoleoni 2004:338].
In November 2004 Fahmi B. gave editors of the NRC an explanation of the state of mind of his good friend Mohammed B. “If someone swears at the koran and the prophet we will get angry. Mohammed was really angry with Hirsi Ali. As a muslim you cannot swear, but he was so angry that he swore at her. That does mean something.” This anger was primarily aimed at Hirsi Ali, who was considered to be a renegade. “Who kills Hirsi Ali will receive the status of a martyr. Just like the nine men who attacked the Twin Towers” [NRC 9.7.05]. But Hirsi Ali was too well protected. Mohammed B. must have considered Theo van Gogh to be a good second choice.
The fatwa: they must die
In this process of radicalisation and fanaticism Mohammed B. must have come to a point were he wondered: why shouldn’t I take responsibility for this blessed task? A place of honour in the hereafter, privileges he couldn’t dream of earning on this earth, willing virgins by the dozens and eternal honour for his macho-courageous deed. And all this in one bold bang. What remained was practically dealing with that blasphemous pig. His murder could only be executed ritually and thus with dramatic symbolism.
Mohammed B. had meticulously worked out the details of his attempted murder. It was a deliberate and precise deed, which had to be executed according to a tight schedule. For weeks he observed Van Gogh’s house and his daily cycle route. He also explored the place where he intended to shoot Van Gogh off his bicycle. He wrote a political-religious manifesto to justify his murder, and a more personal message to his family members and friends. After this he gathered the berserk courage to actually execute his ritual act. We don’t know precisely what went on in Mohammed B.’s head. We do know that he purposefully approached the object of his self-liberation. His slaughter was executed according to plan.
Just as nearly every morning Theo van Gogh left his house on the last day of his life to go to his office at the production company Column in the south of Amsterdam. It was 08.30 when Van Gogh turned into the Middenweg on 2 November 2004. At the tobacconist Primera he parks his bike against the wall and drops in for a minute. Talking excitedly he puts his cigarettes and newspaper on the counter. “He was talking elaborately about a new nicotine medicine to quit smoking,” the owner of the shop remembers.
Van Gogh stays for a chat for some ten more minutes and grabs his bike again at 08.40. When he has cycled on for some hundreds of metres, Mohammed B. suddenly cycles alongside on the Linnaeusstraat. Almost immediately, near the district council office, he starts shooting at Van Gogh. The latter nearly falls off his bike and begs his murderer not to do it. Four more times Mohammed fires at his victim, who is standing upright on the cycle path. Theo flees to the other side of the street. His murderer follows him with the gun in his hand. Twice Theo runs around a car before collapsing on the cycle path. His murderer is now standing very close to him. Theo begs for mercy, imploring him not to do it. Mohammed fires his last bullets from a very close distance (half to one metre). Then he twice kicks the body of his victim.
After having slain his victim with a total of eight bullets, he takes a large chopping-knife out of his shoulder bag, a Kukri machete with a 33 cm blade. With four sawing movements he cuts Van Gogh’s throat (or tried to decapitate him, as he had seen earlier on several horror videos). Then he stabs the knife so deeply in the body that the wound reaches to the spine. And as a finale he stabs him in the chest with a thin filleting knife, to which an ‘Open letter to Hirshi Ali’ (English version) is attached.
When Mohammed B. started shooting at his victim, Van Gogh had cried out to him: ”Don’t do it, don’t do it.” But Mohammed had programmed himself to finish his slaughter. Mohammed stays with the lifeless body of Theo van Gogh. He checks if he has done his work properly. He takes the cartridge clip from his weapon and fills it with 15 new bullets. After reloading his weapon he calmly walks in the direction of the Oosterpark. In all eye witness statements the striking ease and calmness of Mohammed B. is emphasized. One of these onlookers has the courage to say to the murderer: “you can’t do this.” But Mohammed remains adamant: “Oh yes, I can, he asked for it, now you know what to expect.” His murder was a public execution. It was crowded in the Linnaeusstraat on 2 November 2004. There were 53 eyewitnesses to the murder of Van Gogh.
Mohammed B. committed his murder with a semi-automatic pistol made in Croatia — a HS (9mm) of the year 2000. It is still unknown how Mohammed B. got hold of this weapon. However, it can be easily found on the internet and on the black markets it costs between 1000 and 1500 euro. Since the nineties a lot of —usually second-hand— weapons are being smuggled to the Netherlands from the Balkans.
In all Mohammed B. fired 20 shots. Eight of these into Theo van Gogh’s body, the rest in the gunfight he entered into with the police after the murder, hoping to lose his life. The salvo that Mohammed B. fired injured a motorcycle policeman and shot holes in various police cars. Eventually Mohammed B. was hit in his leg and could be arrested.
Mohammed B. had prepared himself for his martyr’s death. Members of the special squad that accompanied Mohammed B. to the hospital told him that he was lucky that he hadn’t been killed. “That was precisely my intention,” was his reply. He exactly knew what he was aiming at: a ritual slaughtering of a pig that had insulted Allah and his prophet, and his own martyrdom.
During the meeting of the court on 12 July 2005 the public prosecutor suggested that during his gunfight with the police Mohammed B. “deliberately shot low in order not to kill anybody.” This turned out to be a misconception. At the end of his trial Mohammed B. declared that he had never wanted to spare these police officers. “I shot to kill you and to be killed.”
Misconception: out of the question. This was no ordinary murder but a ritual slaying. A murder with a message, or perhaps we should say: a message by means of a murder. The message was addressed to a “disbelieving fundamentalist,” Ayaan Hirsi Ali (consistently misspelled as ‘Hirshi’) and her “Thaghoet party VVD.” The 5-page letter has the structure of a fatwa, an islamic decree. It starts with an opening prayer, sums up the crimes for which Hirsi Ali needs to be punished and finally the death sentence was pronounced on this ‘soldier of evil.’
- Opening prayer
The fatwa begins with a usual praise to the prophet Mohammed. In name of Allah it is said that there is no aggression except against the aggressors. This means that armed conflict (jihad) is justified when the muslim community (‘ummah’) is threatened or attacked. According to fanatic muslims there is a world-wide war going on against islam. Therefore armed action is legitimate and even obligatory in the Netherlands as well. The ‘crusade against islam’ has to be turned with violence. Jihad is the crucial duty of every muslim. In pure doctrine jihad means that the faith has to be defended against critics, that its expansion and defence have to be financially supported, and that one migrates to non-muslim countries to propagate islam. In islamic history the violent jihad is a moral imperative and an empirical constant. Radical muslims use a lot of excerpts from the koran and the proverbs of the prophet Mohammed to justify their actions and to enlist new recruits. Within the theology of the armed jihad disbelievers have no human rights or human dignity.
Hirsi Ali is blamed for having turned her back on islam. As a ‘renegade’ she also spends a lot of time with “the soldiers of evil.” In the “crusade against Islam and Muslims” she supplies them all with ammunition. Due to her ‘burning disbelief’ Hirsi Ali herself even doesn’t realise that she is only an instrument in the hands of ‘the true enemies of Islam’. “You are used to spout all kinds of animosities about islam and the noblest human being Mohammed.”
Allah allows no contradictionThe VVD is called a thaghoet-party in the letter. According to the koran thaghoet means ‘everything that is distracting from the worship of Allah’. Thaghoet is the source of all evil.
In the book De ware moslim (English), written by ‘Dr. Diyaaud-deen Al-Qudsee’ and translated by ‘Abu Zubair’ (pseudonym of Mohammed B.) an extremist explanation is given of a number of koran verses. “Thaghoet can be an ideology, not derived from Allah’s book. It can also be someone who has given himself the right to set laws and boundaries.” This cannot be accepted. “Allah tells us that legislation, ruling and judging are all his and that he doesn’t accept a partner in this.” In this vision Allah tolerates no competition at all and definitely no contradiction. Democratic constitutional states or human rights always have to yield to Allah’s will (and of his prophets).
The islamic community has failed. “They haven’t picked up their task to offer resistance to this injustice and evil and are sleeping it off.” Everywhere the muslims stand with their backs to the wall, because they don’t adhere to the pure religion and do not offer violent resistance.
As is common in radical islamic circles, a picture is painted of the Dutch political scene in which ‘the jews’ dominate. Also in this case the speaker determines who is a jew. Even the leader of the VVD-party, who is protestant, is considered to be a jew. (The newspaper De Telegraaf and the TV-programme Nova are also identified as jewish by radical muslim youngsters). Only with a few quotations an attempt is made to prove the wickedness of the jews. It goes without saying that the Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, who is a jew, is evil. They blame him for supporting an ideology “in which Jews can lie to non-Jews” in order to mislead them. Just like all other fundamentalist islamic terrorists Mohammed B. wants to purify the world from all sinfulness.
- Death sentence: discussion closed
The letter to Hirsi Ali reflects the extremist ideology of Takfir Wal Hidjra. “According to this extremist ideology disloyal muslims, who side with the enemies of islam, may be killed. The letter contains a clear warning to muslims for the horrible consequences of collaborating with the enemy” [Minister of the Interior Remkes, in a letter to the Lower Chamber]. ‘Takfir’ means that you declare others to be kafir (unbeliever). When a muslim turns away from his faith or is not sound enough in his faith, the death penalty is the consequence.
Hirsi Ali is a renegade, a disbeliever who is in for “terrible tortures and torment” on judgement day. “With all these animosities you have released a boomerang and you know that it is only a matter of time before this boomerang will finish you.” Mohammed B. wants to give this inevitable fate a helping hand.
Attacks on islam will merely stir up ‘the fire of faith.’ And Hirsi Ali will break to pieces on islam. The ‘disbelieving fundamentalists’ are the ones who have started the fight. There will be no mercy for those who do wrong. “Only the sword will be raised against them. No discussion, no demonstrations, no processions, and no petitions: only DEATH will separate the Truth from the Lie.”
And Hirsi Ali will not go down alone, all disbelievers in America, Europe and the Netherlands will be swept away by the islamic flood. They will be destroyed by ‘the sword of the united faith’ (Saifu Deen alMuwahhied). The islamic unity —called Tawheed in Arabic— will triumph in all countries.
Thus judgement was passed. And Mohammed B. would execute it boldly. He said goodbye to his own life. His last deed in the here-and-now would give him the eternal fame that came with martyrdom. As it was, his political murder didn’t completely go according to plan. Van Gogh was dead, but the martyr-to-be survived his staged suicide action. The police incapacitated him by a shot in his leg. Thus he lost his chance of an intended martyrdom. Instead he made Van Gogh into a martyr. He would have liked to go down in history as the saviour and defender of islam. His atrocious deed, however, only resulted in an increase of the already huge distrust of islam and in acts of revenge, committed against mosques and islamic schools. In his open letter to Hirsi Ali Mohammed B. had prayed: “give us death to rejoice in martyrdom.” But Allah —whom he thought to represent— was not well-disposed towards him. He lost his chance of his intended one-way trip to the fancy section of islamic paradise.
Saifu Deen alMuwahhiedFrom August on Mohammed B. planned to come into action. From that month on he introduced a new pseudonym for the texts he published on internet. The open letters to Wilders, Aboutaleb, the imams, the islamic youth and the Dutch people, written from the second half of August on, weren’t signed with ‘Abu Zubair’ anymore, but with ‘Saifu Deen alMuwahhied’. He also used this pseudonym for the ‘Open letter to Hirshi Ali’, which he speared into Theo van Gogh’s body. Saifu Deen al-Muwahhied literally means ‘sword of the united faith.’ It is also the name of a fundamentalist group from North-Africa which conquered part of Spain in the Middle Ages. It was an extremely mystical form of islam, which was aimed against urban decay (such as wine shops, dancing girls, and other ‘temptations of decay’) with roots in Berber nationalism.
In his farewell letter to his kindred spirits he orders them to disseminate his religious-political texts. He warns them to be careful in doing this. He fears that in the distribution of some texts “all brothers and sisters (I think!) will get into trouble.” This would especially apply to “the letter to the Netherlands.” In this Open brief aan het Nederlandse volk [Open Letter to the Dutch people], which was written before 12 August 2004, Mohammed B. announces haphazard acts of terror in public places:
Of his countryman Murad J. (33) fingerprints were found on the cover of a cassette from the house of Mohammed B. In 1997 Murad had come to the Netherlands as a refugee. He had known Mohammed B. already for a longer time (proven by email contacts) and Murad stated that he had visited Mohammed several times and also had contact with other members of the Hofstad network. On 19 April 2005 Murad was arrested at home in Schiedam. In his house a large amount of jihadist material was found: videos on violent attacks, manuals for the construction of explosives, instructions for enduring police interrogation, and writings of ‘Abu Zubair’. In the beginning of July Murad was released again.
During the trial against Mohammed B. it became clear why this happened. In his closing speech the public prosecutor Van Straelen says: “Anyhow, there is no evidence that Murad or Bislan were accomplices in the murder of Van Gogh or that they supported the suspect in doing this.” It was known that there are operational connections between Chechenian organisations and al-Qaeda. But nothing was known about a connection between the Hofstadgroup and Chechenian terrorist organisations.
Islamic Tawhid Brigades
The internet is used to claim terrorist attacks. It seems to become a trend, which spreads all over the world. The underlying strategic logic is simple at first sight: divide your enemy and exhaust her by generating small active organisations and networks, operating under different names. This makes it more difficult for opponents to trace and pursue terrorist cells. And this undermines the effectiveness of the efforts of the intelligence services [source].
A week after the murder of Van Gogh a hitherto unknown pro-al-Qaeda group threatened to commit a series of attacks in the Netherlands, as a reaction to the bombing of an islamic school in Eindhoven and the arson of mosques in Groningen, Rotterdam and Utrecht. In a statement, published on internet, the Islamitische Tawhid Brigades (‘Islamic Tawhid Brigades’ or ‘Islamic Tawheed Brigades’) launch their threats.
- “We ask you for the last time, and you still always have the possibility, to stop the attacks on our mosques, schools and the muslim community in the Netherlands […] before you pay a high price. We shall not watch with our hands tied, we will make the Dutch government and the Dutch people pay.”
It wasn’t the first time this group threatened to attack Italy and the Netherlands, if both countries wouldn’t withdraw their troops from Iraq. “We are ready for it and we are waiting for the right time to terrify all European states that sent troops to Iraq and we advise the Dutch to withdraw their troops from Iraq, otherwise we cannot bear responsibility for what is going to happen” [mid August 2004]. The group also warns the Italian prime minister Berlusconi: “you have defied the soldiers of islam, so you can expect an Islamic earthquake.”In October 2004 the group claims an attack in Egypt. In the bombing of the Hilton hotel in Taba on the Egyptian Red seaside, right across the border near the Israeli town Eilat, 34 people were killed and 200 wounded. One of the organisations claiming the responsibility for this terrorist act calls itself the Tawhid Brigades (also Islamic Unity Brigades).
The islamic terrorist group al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad is commanded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of ‘Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia’. Al-Zarqawi directs his attacks in close collaboration with Osama bin Laden.
On 9 November 2004 a new jihad-site was launched in the digital air. As editorial board of the MSN-site DeBasis (TheBase) an illustrious party was introduced: Mohammed B., Samir A. and Jason W. According to GeenStijl (NoStyle) Abdullah Bergkamp was behind the site, a jihad fighter with a soft spot for soccer. The site contains documents, videos, pictures, letters and stories, in which the violent jihad was openly propagated. The maker of the site was familiar with the members of the Hofstadgroup and knew that Abu Zubair was a pseudonym of Mohammed B., and that he was the translator of the book De ware moslim. In Mohammed B.’s introduction of the book prime minister Balkenende is advised to integrate himself, in islam, or else resign. “The spirit of Jihaad roams over the earth.” The muslim organisations that have appointed themselves representatives of islam are diagnosed as “the largest cancerous tumour.” On DeBasis ten texts from Mohammed B. can be found. Apart from his public letter to Hirsi Ali, which was speared into Van Gogh’s body, and his ‘testament’ in verse we can also find the text Millat Ibrahim, also written in verse.
In Excuses en nog meer excuses (Excuses and still more excuses) the question is raised: “Do we need a leader for jihaad?”
- “A lot of brothers and sisters do in fact believe that jihad is essential, but are nevertheless convinced that we cannot execute this without a muslim leader, and since we do not have such a leader today, we cannot pursue jihaad according to them.”
For an answer to the question the reader is referred to Ibn Qudamaah: “The absence of a muslim leader cannot be used as an excuse to distance oneself from jihad.” Historic examples are quoted, showing that one can also wage jihad without a muslim leader. “Nowadays it is even so that a group from the ummah has already picked up their weapons.” The moehahidien in Chechenia, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Iraq, Palestine etc. have recognised important leadership qualities in our sheikh Osama bin Laden, and amir Mullah Omar.
- “These persons regarded it their responsibility to pick up their weapons against the evil of koefr, and to wave the flag of ‘La ilaha illa Allah’ high in the air, above the flags of communism, democracy, liberalism or another ideology made up by people. For this they were prepared to sacrifice their possessions, their families and even their lives.”
There is even some sympathy for people who make up ‘apologies and excuses’ in order not to take part of the violent jihad. After all it is a ‘very serious case’,
- “It is desired that you sacrifice your life for the sake of Allah, and to leave your wife and children behind.”
But for those who “have received understanding and wisdom from Allah the importance of jihaad is clear, and they do their utmost to elevate Allah’s word, and they are satisfied with both martyrdom and victory.”
In the article De weg naar waardigheid (The road to dignity) the negative image of islam is examined. “Some still make a desperate attempt to change this, and do start with a good intention, but with a beaten spirit to create an image of Islam that is slightly acceptable for the westerners.” But this is not a good solution. “Islam … cannot adapt to the ideas of people, but the people must adapt to the way of life as Allah has revealed it.” The cause of the negative image of islam “lies in the fact that the enemies of Islam are in charge of the world” and this control “has been obtained by means of war.”
- “The khilafa [government of the muslim state, of which the caliph is the head] has been overthrown by means of the sword, and this can never be repaired, except with the sword.”
The solution is clear now: “The sword, and the sword alone! We have a choice of living with dignity or in humiliation. If we want to live in dignity we will have to devote ourselves to the combat on Allah’s road.” The combat should go on till there is no more disbeliever left and religion belongs to Allah [see ch. 2 verse 193].
One should think that the websites related to the Hofstad network and propagating the violent jihad in Holland would have been taken off the air. The opposite is true. There are still various sites in which extensive legitimisation is given for the violent jihad in the Netherlands and in which straightforwardly and convincingly appeals are made to kill the ‘enemies of islam.’
A distinct example of this is the — meanwhile eliminated — site groups.msn.com/Nlmaroc. Apart from others it is one of the sites in which Abu-Qubaydah explains in detail that it is the duty of every muslim “to kill the person who abuses the prophet, Muslim or kafir.” Who still doesn’t understand gets a simple translation: “We are terrorists and terrorism is mandatory. So that the West and the East know that we are terrorists, and that we are terrifying.” Or even shorter: “So terrorism is mandatory in the faith of Allah.”
Faith in the superiority of one’s own religion can hardly be articulated in a more pure and violent way. Life-threatening religious mania. Regression to pre-mediaeval customs and prejudices. An ideology in which the ‘human laws’ are made subordinate to the basic principles derived from the koran, of an islamic state in which the sharia rules. It is a ‘constitutional state’, in which there is no room for different or non-believers, and in particular not for renegades of the true faith. Such a state is supported by people who “have to do everything to establish the divine authority on earth.” An appeal to ‘their’ democratic or constitutional system is completely out of the question; with this “we would accept their authority.” Those who accept the authority of the democratic authorities or civil constitutional systems are no muslims anymore. In this matter as well Allah of course always knows best. “This is the true religion, but most people don’t realise it” [Joessoef 12:40].
In order to get this awareness firmly into their heads, violent attacks on disbelievers and renegades are justified, and even mandatory. Whoever is not convinced by firm texts, should have a look at the photos and videos that are presented on this and similar sites. They are distressing, bloody and horrible images, in which the suffering of the international muslim society is raised in a penetrating way.
A terrorist network
The Hofstadgroup: a network of hatred
On 3 and 4 November 2004 Hendrikus Lodder, police inspector and team leader of the Regional Criminal Intelligence Unit of the police region Utrecht, took down two clear testimonies of one of his informants. His informant provided him with important information as to the murderer of Van Gogh and tells him there is a videotape of Mohammed B., on which he states that he has killed Theo van Gogh and has become a martyr.
- “The murderer of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam was a criminal of Moroccan descent who has been introduced in Amsterdam by a group of muslim extremists. [He] belonged to an extreme group that meets in the El Taweed mosque in Amsterdam. In muslim circles this mosque is known as extreme and it is reported that connections exist with al-Qaeda. This extreme group knew beforehand that this boy would kill Theo van Gogh. He had also got permission to do this. The perpetrator of the murder intended, after having committed the murder, to be killed by police bullets and thus become a martyr and end up in heaven. Months before the word had spread that extreme muslims were busy collecting money to kill Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali” [testimony 1, testimony 2a, testimony 2b].
The police officer regards his informant as reliable. He tells his story two days after the murder of Theo van Gogh. It is an important indication that Mohammed B. has not planned the murder alone.
Mohammed B. was no foolish individual who devised and executed his deed himself. He was a lonely avenger, but at the same time part of a radical islamic network, which was called the Hofstadgroup by the AIVD. The young men and women who are locked up under suspicion of participating in the terrorist network remain in custody until at least the end of September 2005. They are all suspected of taking part in a criminal organisation with a terrorist aim. Their mutual contacts and attendance of living-room meetings in for instance Mohammed B.’s house are important indications. A number of the suspects justify violence for the purpose of religion and were involved in producing and distributing writings and tapes that glorify this extreme violence. Some suspects were involved in recruiting people for the jihad. Three of them —Ismail A., Jason W. and obviously Mohammed B.— are actually guilty of extreme violence.
On 7 February 2005 four alleged members of the Hofstadgroup appear before the judge.
Ahmed H. - Computer brain and gang banker
Already on the evening of the murder of Theo van Gogh one of the central figures of the Hofstadgroup was arrested by the police: Ahmed Hamdi (26), alias Nord Holla. He was arrested near the house of Mohammed B. in the Marianne Philipsstraat in Amsterdam, where he also resided. For a year the intelligence service had regarded him as a central figure within the network. Just like Mohammed B. he is suspected of conspiracy to kill Van Gogh, Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders and others.
Working at Schiphol Airport
For the members of the Hofstadgroup Schiphol was a favourite place to work. We have seen before that already in 1998 Mohammed B. applied to a position as security guard for a security company. Due to a negative police advice he was prevented from starting at Schiphol at the last moment.
Zakaria Taybi had already been engaged as a cleaner by a company at Schiphol (ISS Aviation), but received a negative advice from the AIVD on 26 August 2002. The service conducted a security investigation, because he applied for a ‘sensitive position’. He would get access to extra secured spaces of the airport. The AIVD refused to supply a certificate of incorporation. “The suspicion of theft under aggravating circumstances, committed on 4 March 2001,” was reason enough for the AIVD to reject his certificate. In 2003 Zakaria left for a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, together with Jason W.
Also with Ismail A. letters of application were found for a job at Schiphol [Nederlands Dagblad].
Ahmed H. worked in the duty-free zone of Schiphol Plaza. Mohammed B.’s housemate also collected newspaper articles on his laptop about committing attacks on Schiphol. According to the judiciary he was the ‘computer brain’ of the Hofstadgroup. The administrator of the MSN-group Muwahhidin/Dewaremoslims made use of the computer that was found in Ahmed’s house.
Ahmed H. was also occupied with financial matters for the group. In the summer of 2004 he tried to transfer money to a member of the group who had travelled to Portugal. The transaction was blocked by the United States, where Ahmed H. is on a freeze list. International intelligence services feared that members of the group intended to commit an attack during the time of the European Soccer Championship in Portugal.
In October 2003 the police raided Ahmed H.’s house in Amsterdam-North. At the time he lived there with his wife and two children. He was only questioned by the police as a witness in view of the investigation into preparations for a terrorist attack by Samir A., who was regarded as a prominent figure within the Hofstadgroup. Ahmed H. then declared that the members of the group made use of the internet at his home.
- “Ahmed H. hadn’t been seen in his house in Amsterdam North for about a month and a half, his neighbours say. According to them he had marriage problems and his wife had started a divorce suit. In the background, they say, a process of radicalisation took place that had started about a year ago. He kept more and more to himself and started to dress according to traditional islamic custom. Friends say he was also part of the koran group guided by the Syrian inspirator Abu Khaled, a group also visited by Mohammed B.” [NRC 12.11.04].
It would turn out later that Ahmed H. was one of the persons to whom a mole within the AIVD had leaked secret information about the Hofstad-investigation of the service. On 1 November Ahmed H. and Rachid Bousana took a walk around a lake in Amsterdam. They had long discussions and listened to koran texts on an mp3-player. Later, when they visit Mohammed B.’s house, Jason W. and Ismail A. joined the company as well.
Ahmed disclosed to the police that he had never noticed anything of the preparatory actions of his housemate Mohammed B. In the extremely small house in which they lived together he had never seen Mohammed’s knives, cartridges or firearm.
Rachid Bo. - Mohammed El B. - Zine Labidine A. - Mohammed el M
On 2 November three other friends of Mohammed B. were arrested close to the Marianne Philipsstraat 27. Rachid Bousana (26) was an old friend of Mohammed B. He was impressed by the religious knowledge that Mohammed B. had acquired in a year and a half. He regularly visited the living-room meetings, “because Mohammed knows a lot more about religion than I do.” In the weekend before the murder Mohammed B. gave him four envelopes, which he had to deliver “should anything happen to him.” On the evening before the murder of Van Gogh he had a meeting with Mohammed B., together with Ahmed H. Mohammed B. had contact with Mohammed El Bouklaoui about ‘religious matters’. He was arrested when he rang the bell of Mohammed B.’s house.
Also Zine Labidine A. —alias ‘Abu Ismail’ and ‘Abu Yusuf’— is arrested, because he ‘happened’ to visit Mohammed B. on the day of the murder. He had intended to ask Mohammed B. to be his imam on the occasion of the ‘nikah’ wedding with his second wife, Oum Osama (mother of Osama). She was a pupil of Nouredine el F. and revealed herself as a fanatic muslimah, a ‘dream sister’ who was able to speak wise words. Zine is a 26 year-old Moroccan who has lived illegally in the Netherlands for six years. Many sisters considered him to be a ‘very handsome boy’. His brothers, however, doubted his straightness in faith and thought he was too macho. Besides, since 2003 he had already been married to Oum Youssef according to islamic law (in May 2005 she gave birth to his second child). The brothers —among whom Ismail A.— tried to persuade Oum Osama not to marry him, but she stuck to her guns. “If we are not destined for each other, Allah will prevent it.” When she later heard that Van Gogh had been shot that morning, she said: “It’s a beautiful day, Van Gogh has been killed and I am going to marry.” Apparently Allah had decided to give her a different destination. Together with some other brothers and sisters she took the responsibility for the distribution of the mental legacy of Mohammed B., by e-mail and the internet, and for the continuation of the koran lessons for youngsters [Volkskrant 25.7.05]. Zine had been arrested before in October 2003, but had to be released immediately.
A father with a question mark
Zine Labidine is part of the network of the Hofstadgroup. As an illegal immigrant he had to live on loans from his friends. He was a regular visitor of the meetings at Mohammed B.’s house, worked in the phone centre in Schiedam in 2004, where Abu Khaled gave his first courses, temporarily lived with Jason W. in his house in the Laakkwartier in The Hague, was a regular visitor of the internetcafé in the Willem Nakkenstraat in Amsterdam, and knows many members of the Hofstadgroup from the El Tawheed mosque. He was arrested on 2 November, when he left the Hijra mosque.
When Oum Youssef gave birth to her second child in May 2005, Zine asked his lawyer in vain to be present at the delivery. On the entrance of the judges Zine immediately got to his feet and politely answered their questions. Some brothers and sisters saw this as a confirmation of their distrust in the soundness of his conviction. After all, he showed respect for the laws of the disbelievers. Mohammed B. had drawn a question mark in the air before, right in front of Zine’s face.
During the pre-trial hearing Zine declared that he was against violence and terrorism and that he bears no malice against the Netherlands. “I have not been discriminated against.” He denied that an organised group was involved. “I was involved in my family” [Volkskrant 25.6.05].
After the fourth pre-trial hearing [22 September 2005] Zine Labidine’s custody was terminated by court. The punishment to be imposed on him threatened to be shorter than his time in custody. Because he was in the Netherlands illegally, he was, incidentally, immediately detained again.
The next day another important figure within the Hofstad-network was detained: Mohammed el Morabit (24). Earlier he travelled to Portugal, together with Nouredine El Fahtni. In his house suspicious chemical formulas are discovered. Considering the ‘unusual substances’ the prosecution takes into account that this is a case of evil intent.
As a result of this wave of arrests the question was raised how it was possible that they could suddenly arrest extremist islamites after all. Generally, in non-urgent situations intelligence services refrain from interfering in order to gather as much information as possible.
Siege in The Hague
After a siege that lasted for hours, Ismail A. and Jason W. were arrested in the Laakkwartier in The Hague on Wednesday 10 November. They are suspected of “conspiracy to murder with a terrorist intent” (not the murder of Van Gogh, but of the members of parliament Hirsi Ali and Wilders, and of the Amsterdam mayor Cohen and alderman Aboutaleb). Jason W. and Ismail A. were already bugged, their telephone was tapped and the National Investigation Bureau kept an eye on them with cameras.
This makes it all the more remarkable that the special squad of the regional police force received insufficient information. According to the superintendent of the special squad knew no more than that the men “were indirectly involved in terrorism.” In the City Council of The Hague mayor Deetman criticised the lack of ‘optimal share of information’ of the intelligence service. However, the National Investigation Bureau, the Office of the Public Prosecution and the AIVD maintain that Jason W. is an “unpredictable lunatic,” that there were weapons in the house and that both men had had a jihad-training in Pakistan.
Ismail A. — Surrender? Never
Ahmed Ismail A. (22) —alias Suhaib— has Dutch nationality, just like Jason W., and was known to the AIVD as a heavyweight of the Hofstadgroup. He is a Dutch Moroccan, and was born in Amsterdam in 1982 into a family of eleven children. According to his neighbours he had been a difficult boy from childhood. Although he was a good student, he was so unmanageable that he was expelled from his school for vocational training in Amsterdam. After this his parents allowed him to study religion in Syria. Later he found a job with the cable company UPC and O2. With increasing emphasis he presented himself as an orthodox muslim. Sometimes he was reciting the koran with kindred spirits in the porch [NRC 15.11.04].
On 18 October 2003 he was arrested together with his friend Samir A.. After his training in Pakistan he flew back to the Netherlands on 11 September 2003. The AIVD tapped his phone calls; they heard that he had been sent back by ‘the emir’ “to play a game.” According to the police this didn’t concern a taekwando-game, as Ismail claimed shortly after his arrest, but an attack. Not long after his return in Holland Ismail travelled on to Barcelona, where he had contact with the Moroccan Abdeladim Akoudad, alias ‘Naoufel’ (on 14 October 2003 the latter was arrested for his role in the bombings in Casablanca in May of that year).
Just like Jason W., the second detainee in the Antheunisstraat, he is suspected of membership of a terrorist organisation, plotting attacks on Hirsi Ali and Wilders and of the attempted murder of four police officers.
Just like his fellow fighter Jason W., Ismail wouldn’t hear of giving up during the siege. “Surrender? Never. Till my death, till my last breath I will remain here.” In a telephone conversation with his mother Ismail told her: “We have killed one of them. We have bombs. We are going to explode this house, this area.”
After his arrest he ended up in the penitentiary De Schie in Rotterdam. On 13 April 2005 he had a visit there from Samir A., who had been released on April 6. It didn’t take Ismail long to recruit enthusiastic supporters in prison. His guards say that he was worshipped to the extreme. “They literally kissed his feet.” Because he tried to recruit fellow detainees for the jihad in prison, he was transferred to another prison in Nijmegen.
Jason W.: slaughter them all and dreams of female slaves
Jason W. is 19 years old and has the battle name ‘Abu Mujahied al Amrikie’. He has both American and Dutch nationality. His parents divorced when he’s still very young. His father was an American soldier who was stationed at the Soesterberg air base. After he left service he became an alcoholic and he was admitted to an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. Jason’s mother is Dutch — she didn’t have much influence on her children. When Jason was 14 he converted to islam and soon became fanatical. Jason finished higher secondary education and read Arabic languages and islamic studies at the University of Leiden. He was, amongst other things, inspired by the ideas of the ‘youngsters-imam’ Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven. Jason was a regular visitor of the Al-Fourkaan Mosque —financed with Saudi money— in Eindhoven, where Abdul-Jabbar also gave lectures.
“Jason was always alone, was only reading books and studying. He didn’t really have any hobbies either. He was always playing soccer. […] But, oh well, he wasn’t really good at it,” says Barry Smith, who was a good friend of Jason’s brother Jermaine and knew both brothers closely. Jermaine lived with him for two years. Jason’s friends know him as a smart, but peculiar boy. “He had nobody to share his life with. […] He didn’t have anyone to have a good conversation with,” says Barry Smith. Jason was alone [Netwerk 17.11.04].
In secondary school Jason manifested himself as a fervent defender of the United States. He would tolerate no criticism of America. After his conversion to islam, he completely turned to the other extreme. He now considered his father’s country to be the “army of disbelief”. Jason had no more contact with his father. His father lived in separation from his family and he refused any form of contact with his sons.
Due to his swift radicalisation he clashed with his mother and two stepsisters. Jason thought the girls dressed too revealingly. In the meantime he himself wore a beard and traditional islamic clothes. In June 2004 they broke contact. Together with her daughters his mother left their house in Amersfoort. She fled to a women’s refuge centre from both her sons who ‘abused her mentally’.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 stirred Jason even more. Via internet he made inquiries into the islamic resistance against the American invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Via internet he also got in touch with militants of the armed jihad. He matched the actions to words and set off for a training camp in Afghanistan. He proudly told his friends that he had got ‘big calves’ from climbing high mountains. As he couldn’t find his destination, he was arrested before he could commit his heroic deeds. This only made him more extreme.
Jason W. was no stranger to the Dutch police. On 3 September 2003 Jason flew from Jalalabad (Afghanistan) to the Netherlands. On 17 October 2003 he was arrested in his house on the Graafdreef in Amersfoort, under suspicion of plotting an attack. The police found incriminating documents on his computer, including reports of his remarkable chat sessions on MSN-Messenger. Three weeks after his arrest the judge set him free again due to technicalities and lack of evidence. Shortly after his release, around the turn of the year he sets out for a terrorist training camp again —together with Zakaria T. (21). Owing to a problem with his visa —also noticed by the AIVD— he returns to the Netherlands early.
According to the AIVD Jason W. had connections with prominent persons of islamic terrorist organisations, for instance the Iraqi-Kurdish Ansar Al Islam, allied to al-Qaeda and with Mullah Kreker as the presumed leader. He often watched extremist religious videos and was especially interested in ‘lessons in decapitation’. Via internet he tried to recruit people for the jihad. He sent recruited youngsters on to Samir A.. But Samir was not very content with the quality of the recruits. In his opinion they were not serious enough. Samir forbade Jason to send him any more people [source: saved chats on computer of Jason].
Licence to Kill
The encrypted chat sessionsof Jason W. show how resolutely violent he had become. On 19 September 2003 he has, under the pseudonym Mujaheed, a conversation with Galas03, a 16 year-old boy who claims to be from Egypt. Here Jason says: “I cannot say here that I have been to pakistan and had training there, can I?” Jason tells he had a basic training there, in which he learnt to use all kinds of weapons. He suggests that the training camp he attended belonged to the extremist movement of Maulana Masood Azhar, which commits attacks in Kashmir. Because he had a problem with his visa, he was sent back, “but in the meantime I will recruit so many boys to send there.” He loses no time over it and tries to convince Galas03 that he has to go with him to the training camp in Pakistan. “Come to pakistan with me and there they will train you all the way will you learn to use weapons, make bombs simply anything.” Jason boasts about his proficiency with weapons: “I can take a kalashnikov apart with a blindfold also a seminov and all those other pistols and guns.” He can even do a somersault with a pistol and then shoot.
The police file shows another remarkable thing: Jason W. sees Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven as his source of information and as someone who can grant a religious justification —a fatwa— for attacks. Jason W. asks Galas03 to ask Van de Ven “to permit slaughtering the ‘kufaar’ [the disbelievers] and/or stealing their riches.” According to Galas03 Van de Ven replied: “Look the government, the ministries, police etc., their blood and possessions are halal because they declare war on islam in public, but before you do something think twice what happens to the ummah [islamic community].” Jason W. thanks him kindly: “This is the fatwa I needed. Now I can slaughter every police, minister, soldier, officer etc. And rob them.”
Jason W. was delighted with the fatwa of the islamic preacher. He considered his fatwa as a licence to kill disbelievers, renegades and those who are of unsound faith. “There are quite a few people on my hit list, they will certainly die.” And he specifies: “What to think of hirsi ali, jaap de hoop scheffer, matt herben, balkenende, zalm and all those fake muslims in the parties, the management of the nmo [Dutch muslim broadcast].” It was absolutely clear what had to be done: “Slaughter them all.” Galas03 suggests making videos of the slaughterings: “Say BOOOOO, everybody scared.” This pleases Jason W.: “The Prime Minister’s decapitation on video, that’s relaxd.”
Later that night, when Galas03 is back from his class with Van de Ven, the conversation is continued. As it happens Jason also sees the fatwa of the islamic preacher as a licence to rob “all banks.” Galas03 had asked the preacher for advice: “I had askt about bank, no bank … for is not of ministries.” It is a disappointment for Jason, but he submits: “so only government institutions.” But otherwise all government institutions can be attacked: ministries, police, government, army, fire brigade, and military police. Galas03 seems to have his doubts about the town hall. But this is no problem for Jason, because “town hall is government on local council scale.” Is robbing banks out of the question, the financial institutions of the government are targets indeed: “we are going to plunder the ministry of finance so you can commit fraud and all with taxes etc.” In public transport Jason had stopped paying his fare ever since his conversion. He thought he could make free use of the services of non-believers.
Van de Ven had told Galas03: “11 September is good sheik bin Laden is good Taliban good and hamas masha Allah they have the honour to fight the swines and the monkeys.” But he had also said “that if you live here stick to the rules, if it doesn’t go against islam.”
Now Jason does have the religious legitimisation to kill and rob government officials, but he wants a personal confirmation in a conversation with the islam preacher himself. On 21 September 2003 he travels to Almere in order to meet Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven. The next day he reports this in a chat session with ‘khb’. According to Jason the conversation with Van de Ven went ‘very well’. “He says that the blood and possessions of this government is halal to us. So we may rob the authorities, state, government, army, military police and other government institutions.” His discussion partner asks if he is certain about it. But Jason W. is 100% convinced. He has his licence to kill.
On the evening of 28 September Jason talks to a brother who calls himself Webamier. Webamier finds it hard to “die firmly on the road of Allah.” He can’t stand pain very well: “if someone hits me I already think stop and all but that is nothing compared to jihad.” Jason thinks he shouldn’t talk so foolishly and that he hasn’t even trained 1 day. “Now you are soft like a tangerine but soon … So hard wie Kruppstahl.” Mujaheed Jason endorses that he has grown hard due to a month of basic training. As an additional advantage he mentions the reduction of his obesity: “I have lost quite a bit of weight, haven’t I? Some 25 kilos” [Strafdossier Jason W.]. According to former fellow pupils of ’t Hooghe Landt in Amersfoort Jason W. was often pestered [Telegraaf 17.11.04]. Not only because of the simple, somewhat dopey impression he made on his classmates, but also because of his corpulence.
Jason W. was fully prepared for his martyr’s death. Before he went abroad in 2003 he wrote a farewell letter, actually directed at his mother. He lets her know that he is on his way to “the country of Jihad.”
- “To chase away the disbelievers and to help found the Islamic state. I don’t do it because I like fighting, but because the Almighty has ordained it.”
He sketches his one-dimensional world view. The muslim community is attacked from all sides —physically as well as ideologically— by “the army of disbelief and corruption, commanded by America and Israel.” Their goal is “exterminating Islam” and they do so by occupations and massacres among muslims in the whole world. Obviously he doesn’t mean the ‘yoghurt muslims’ who are only muslim in name, but “the real muslims such as for example the Taliban and other groups in pursuit of governing with the sharia.”
As a true muslim Jason thinks that he cannot and may not sit by and watch everything that happens to the muslims. For the prophet has said: “Each muslim is another muslim’s brother. He helps him, and doesn’t let him down.” Jason urges his mother not to be sad.
- “This life is only temporary and short, and the hereafter is the eternal life. God has promised in many places in the holy Koran that those who die for His cause will receive an immense reward. As it is, those who die will be martyrs, and they will go to Firdaus, signifying the middlemost and highest part of Heaven.”
The martyrs are alive with their Lord and in the hereafter they enjoy excellent facilities. They can fly freely through paradise, wherever they want to go. According to a friend Jason often fantasised about ‘little female slaves’ that he would get later.
In the site DeBasis, put on the internet after the murder of Van Gogh, one of Jason W.’s poems was published:
- “Under the black flag is where we march. We fight neither for power nor for bread.
But for the word of Allah, no one can harm us, longing for a martyr’s death.”
His longing for a martyr’s death would be put to the test on 10 November 2004, during a long-lasting siege of his house in the Antheunisstraat in The Hague.
Jason could have known that he had been permanently watched since the spring of 2003. This was actually done by the Centre for Islamic Terrorism (CIT). However, what Jason couldn’t suspect, was that his house in the Antheunisstraat was meticulously prepared by the AIVD. The building was extensively provided with tapping equipment. In September 2004 he was offered this house via an intermediary ‘Ed’ [Volkskrant 5.2.05]. Jason fell into the trap and he moved into the house that was tapped by the AIVD as an ‘anti-squatter’. His mobile phone was tapped as well.
On 8 November Jason W. and Ismail A. talk to a so far unknown person. This conversation was overheard by the AIVD. A statement was given, in which the attack on Van Gogh was claimed. In the ‘Communiqué of the Brigade of Islamic jihad’ they say:
- “We have, in accordance with the authentic Islamic manner slaughtered a lamb. From now on this will be the punishment that will be imposed, on anyone in this country who abuses and challenges Allah and his envoy. Oh, you Ayaan Hirsi, if Allah so desires it will be your turn tomorrow. Allah is the greatest of all and Islam will conquer.”
The targets are listed: the mayor Cohen of Amsterdam, his alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb, and in particular member of parliament Geert Wilders. For Wilders they have something special in store.
- “It would be exceptionally pleasing to us if the Sharia were heralded by causing mister Wilders to be dashed to pieces from the Euromast [a tower in Rotterdam]. Moreover, we will make use of this event to rename the Euromast into a building for the execution of these criminals, with the blood of mister Wilders.”
In a second conversation one of them says: “hahaha. We, we, are the group of Mohammed B. with Theo van Gogh…”
On 9 November the national counter-terror coordinator receives an official message from the head of the AIVD, Sybrand van Hulst. It says that from “a very reliable source” information has been received about the murderous plans of Jason W. and Ismail A. It was high time to take action. Enough information had been collected.
When the special police squad tried to enter his house on 10 November, Jason fended off the attack by throwing a hand grenade into the porch. The Yugoslavian M91-grenade exploded and dozens of steel bullets flew around the porch. Four policemen were wounded and the special squad immediately withdraws when he showed his intent to throw a second grenade. Jason was delighted by his bold act, started to cheer and shouted: “Come on in, you bastards. I’ve been waiting for this for twenty years.” He shouted that he would blow up the house. “I’ll chop your heads off with a sword. And we’ll blow up the whole lot. We’ve got 20 kilos. Come and get us.” Jason and Ismail ran around the house frantically. Suddenly they appeared on the balcony. Local residents heard them scream: “Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.”
Brothers in faith
His younger brother Jermaine W., alias Nordin or Nourdin (17) from Amersfoort had also converted to islam. On 10 November he was arrested near a bus stop in Amersfoort. A special investigation team searches his house in the Sagenlaan in the area Schothorst-Noordwerd for the presence of explosive material. The neighbours were evacuated from the area.
On 11 November the police received a note with unfinished drawings and badly legible scribbles from the assistant manager of the bakery Van de Kletersteeg in Leusden, where Jermaine worked at night. It was a still rudimentary plan to kill Hirsi Ali as “the chief enemy of islam” during the turn of the year. On 31-12-04 she would be slaughtered with a religious knife (sword) during the fireworks. The entries ‘Slaughtering’ and ‘Painful’ are clearly legible. The last word was underlined four times and was framed.
Jermaine W. is suspected of plotting an attack on Hirsi Ali and of being a member of a terrorist organisation. But on 4 May 2005 he was the first of the Hofstad suspects who was released due to lack of evidence. They failed to show that he himself was responsible for the incriminating material that was found on his computer. Besides, the print of the wrist that was found on the letter from the bakery didn’t match Jermaine’s.
After his release Jermaine announced by way of the media that he would claim 30.000 euro from the state for the damage he had suffered. But he wouldn’t enjoy his freedom for long. On 14 October 2005 he was arrested again in connection with an acute threat of attacks on politicians and the building of the AIVD.
Because the AIVD tapped his mobile phone too, the content of the conversation between Jason and his younger brother Jermaine during the siege has been revealed as well. They affectionately say goodbye to each other. Jason says: “They are here, they are here. The door has been smashed in, we have a hand grenade, we throw at them you know, we have killed two of them. ”Jermaine can hardly believe it. Jason proudly tells his brother that he has really chased the policemen away. I swear to Allah, they are here, the door has been smashed in, we threw a hand grenade and they ran away.” Jermaine asks him how they will go on from there. And Jason also realises that he was surrounded by an overwhelming police force that will not leave him alone. “I don’t know where they are, they will come soon, they are preparing something, you know, those disbelievers.”
The basic principle of the crisis team was that the terrorists had to be arrested alive: “suicide must be prevented.” But apparently Jason wants to pursue another scenario.
- Jason: “But dua [pray] for us, but dua for us that we become Sjahid [martyr for Allah]. But dua that we become martyrs.”
Jermaine: “With God’s will eh brother please be careful, please brother, in any case, with God’s will you become Sjahid, but please this cannot end this way, do something friend.”
Jason: “We’re going to kill them man, we’re going to finish them off, we’re going to kill them.
The conversation between the terrorist brothers has to be broken off, because Jason’s phone credit was down. There was no way back. It was the Night of the Decision, Lailat-ul-Qadr. Jason prepares himself for martyrdom.
|Arrest of Jason W. in the Antheunisstraat (Click to enlarge)|
During the night of 9 to 10 November the police still endeavoured to convince the terrorists to surrender themselves. But Jason had no intention of yielding. He roared to the police negotiator: “Just shoot me, shoot me. I am the black death.” With a samurai-sword he made cutting movements along his throat. Jason wanted war and seemed prepared to die. Around 6 o’clock in the morning the negotiations were broken off. The sharpshooters were stationed around the building and the ambulance staff ready. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon minister Donner’s management team was ordered to open the attack on the two terrorists. Teargas was shot into the house and Jason and Ismail fled to the balcony at the back of the house. Jason appears with two hand grenades and a knife, wearing a body warmer and a black-and-white chequered scarf on his head. Heavily armed members of the Special Security Unit (BBE) of the marines were lying in wait for them.
Jason describes his version of the events the day after. “The moment I stepped outside onto the balcony a policeman shot. The officer was overwrought. He was aggressive. He yelled something at me, but I couldn’t hear what. He was standing on a balcony at the other side.” Jason was shot in his left shoulder. He walks down a small staircase and puts his hands behind his back. Jason allows martyrdom to pass and was removed, stripped to the waist and blindfolded [photo]. The convert had not succeeded in dying for his Divine cause. In spite of all his heroic language and readiness to be killed his seat on the grandstand of islamic heaven would remain empty.
The siege had lasted 14 hours. “It has been a long day,” he explained that night. The immense rewards of martyrdom were not for him. Even the policemen he thought he had killed were still alive. When Jason recovered from the narcosis of his shoulder operation, the detectives asked if they could do anything else for him. Jason wanted to have a koran to stick to the ramadan. And would they please call his younger brother. He didn’t know yet that Jermaine had also been arrested the same afternoon [Volkskrant 5.2.05].
Christmas present for Geert WildersIt was almost Christmas 2004 when a remarkable and alarming video shows up on the servers of Lycos and Yousendit. It was “a present for geert wilders”. In this ‘christmas present’ Abu Zubair (Mohammed B.) was presented as a martyr. Shortly thereafter links to the video appeared on several internet sites, such as the MSN-group ‘Ahloetawheed’, but also on Marrokko.nl. On 10 February 2005, in a television documentary of Zembla, De lokroep van terreur(The call of terror) everyone's attention turned to this video.
Next ‘the leaders of disbelief’ appear on the screen: ministers Gerrit Zalm and Rita Verdonk, the members of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, the mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen and alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb. In between the lifeless body of Van Gogh is shown. Finally a special present is offered to Geert Wilders. “We have already sharpened our swords, dog.” This is accompanied by militant Arabic singing and the sound of swords that are being sharpened. The makers of this video call themselves “Lions of the Tawheed (‘the polder mujahideen’, better known as Hofstad network).” The last picture is the logo of the ‘Lions of the Tawheed’: an opened koran, with two crossed swords on which two orange Dutch lions are speared.
The name Leeuwen van Tawhied / Lions of Tawheed and the logo are probably invented and designed by Jason W.. The police found a design of the logo for an organisation with this name on his computer.
This logo and the christmas present were distributed on internet via ImageShack and YouSendit (in both cases the name ‘mal3oentheo’ was used). These are sites allowing freesharing of pictures, videos and other data with friends. The main advantage of these services is that they guarantee maximum safety and therefore privacy: the pictures and videos can only be disclosed by people one has entrusted the specific address to. These services are very useful for different purposes. However, they can also be used extremely well by criminals and terrorists who want to share information, but don’t want to get caught.
Samir A. - Allah’s poetical bailiff is prepared to do everything
Samir A. (18) was born in Amsterdam and is also from Moroccan descent, just like Mohammed B. Both grew up in the same neighbourhood. Samir A. lived round the corner of Mohammed B. in the Jan Voermanstraat. According to his father Samir A. was not raised in an particularly strict islamic way. At the age of 12 he began to wonder why muslims are fought against in so many places in the world. “Why do they always want to get at us?” Samir attends higher secondary education at the ‘Amsterdamse Cartesius Lyceum’. In fourth grade he failed and started skipping school. At the end of the year the school advised him to go to the fourth grade of general secondary education, but Samir made another choice. In the summer of 2003 he enrolled in the islamic comprehensive school Chaldoun in Rotterdam. Neither his classmates nor his teachers had ever noticed anything of his islamic radicalisation.
But Samir is already many steps ahead. In his opinion the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were ‘super just’ and he wants to die for Allah too. He made up his own nom de guerre: ‘Yassin’. When he was sixteen years old he suited the action to the word. In January 2003 he attempted to travel to Chechenia to join the jihad there, together with a kindred classmate called Jonathan (18), who had had a military training in Pakistan before. He wanted to fight against the Russians in the ranks of the muslim rebels. However, they are stranded at the border with the Ukraine, where they are detained by customs. At the time of his arrest he was in the company of Salaheddin Benyaich, whose brother Abelazziz was arrested in Algeciras in Spain under suspicion of involvement in the attacks in Morocco. In an interview in 2003 Samir says that he was disappointed that his mission to Chechenia had failed. He didn’t fear death. “I was prepared for everything, even reprisals.”
After his unsuccessful adventure in Chechenia Samir was permanently monitored by the AIVD. His telephone was tapped and all his moves are observed. On 17 October 2003 Samir was arrested by the Dutch police under suspicion of preparing terrorist attacks. Together with him Ismail A., Jason W., Mohammed Fahmi B. and their spiritual leader Radwan al-Issa are also arrested. But just like his four companions Samir was soon released, due to lack of evidence. The court decided that there had been no lawful grounds to arrest the four young men and to search their houses. The Public Prosecution had started making these arrests after receiving alarming information from the AIVD. According to the judge this was unlawful, because at that time the four men could not formally have been regarded as criminal suspects yet. Because the AIVD did not want to say how they had obtained their information, it could not be examined by the judge. Even if the rules of procedure had been followed in a correct way, the four men would have been cleared of charges anyway — the judge claimed that the Prosecution had delivered insufficient evidence.
Samir and Abida have a little son who was born shortly before his arrest. He is called Sayfuldien, ‘the sword of the faith’. When Samir was arrested for the second time, his son was one month old, and he himself was 17. Sixteen members of the Hofstadgroup collect money for ‘sister Abida’. In an intercepted sms-message Samir and Abida thank their friend Jason W. for the money. According to Mohammed El B.’s lawyer only “small sums for a poor woman” were concerned; besides, it is a duty for every faithful muslim to help needy co-religionists.
The police file of Samir A. contains photos of Abida with a machine gun at the ready. In other pictures Samir and his wife can be seen with swords in their hands. Samir’s lawyer claims that his wife is the real brain behind the terrorist activities. During searches jihad films are discovered with her name on it. After her education at the Johan de Witt College in The Hague she wants to continue studying at the university. She wants to master Arabic in order to interpret.
On 30 June 2004 Samir A. was arrested for the second time. The reason was a hold-up of a supermarket chain store on the Mathenesserdijk in Rotterdam on 8 April, where he worked as a stock boy. The two raiders threatened the shop workers with a cocked machine gun and a kalashnikov. Samir was supposed to have opened the roll-down shutter, allowing the raiders to enter the supply room of the supermarket. Samir would also have delivered automatic firearms to the two raiders. In the house of one of the chief offenders —Ibrahim B.— belongings of Samir were found, and it turned out that there had been contact. Moreover, in Samir’s house they found maps, photos and itineraries of the parliament building, Schiphol Airport, the nuclear station Borssele, the Defence Ministry and the AIVD building in Leidschendam, including personal notes and sketches of security, lengths of ladders and so on. Samir also possessed cartridge clips for automatic firearms, a silencer, and a bullet-proof vest. The plastic bag that Samir had entrusted to Fahmi B. contained parts for the production of a small bomb: ammonia, acid, a plunger, a bag of fertiliser, plastic gloves, protective goggles and an empty lemon juice bottle filled with substances and fitted with green wiring. He had acquired his knowledge in a discussion group on the making of explosives.
The discovery of Samir’s file with potential targets, weapons and other instructions from home and abroad triggered the government to proclaim a terrorism alarm. Samir was not only suspected of collaborating in or committing an armed robbery on a supermarket, but also of preparing a terrorist attack. Since the AIVD considers him as a prominent figure within the Hofstadgroup, charges for involvement in the terrorist network of the Hofstadgroup were kept in store for him. The investigation of the network structure of the Hofstadgroup was still in full swing. On 28 July 2005 Samir would hear that he wouldn’t be prosecuted for his membership of a terrorist organisation.
Samir shows no regrets and sticks to his violent convictions. From his cell he sends poems to allies in the muslim world. In these poems he makes clear that he continues his battle. He still longs for paradise (with 72 virgins, expensive gems and 80 thousand servants). The judicial system has only arranged a delay of his plans: “You have put me in a waiting room of the True Life.” But when the judge asked him during his trial if he still believed in the prospect of paradise that is held up to martyrs, he remained silent. “I appeal to my right to remain silent.” In his poem, written from behind bars, Samir was less taciturn.
- “I remain strong, and I hold on to his word.
For I know that he always hears me.
And that he will reward me.
And that some day I will live in his gardens.
In the gardens of the sincere.
Free from sinners and evil ones.
That will be my reward.
For all misery and pain” [source].
He remains silent in front of his interrogators and judges: “During each cross-examination I will keep my mouth shut, because talking is something I don’t do to a dog.”
According to the psychological report, drawn up by order of Samir’s examining judge, he shows no personality disorders. Psychologist Blauw claims that Samir shows a “certain tendency to selfishness” and insensitivity. Samir has a “strongly bloated sense of self-esteem.” More important was that on account of his attitude there was a “great chance” of future violent behaviour. Samir is an ‘offender by conviction’ (overtuigingsdader) and so the risk is high that after his release he will keep trying to commit terrorist attacks in the Netherlands. That the risk of recidivism was high was (unintentionally) confirmed by Samir himself. From the house of detention he made a number of phone calls, for instance to Jason W. and to his wife. In these tapped conversations Samir showed himself to be in the last phase of his process of radicalisation and that all he’s waiting for is to press the button.
A load of rubbish
Samir’s family was not only shocked by the accusations of the judiciary against him, but also by his self-willed behaviour. His cousin, Mohammed A., said: “He has disorganised our whole family. Everybody talked into him, from high to low. However, he wouldn’t listen. But still everyone was convinced that he is no terrorist.” This certainly held for his father, who works for the flower auction in Aalsmeer. During the trial he demonstrated a blind faith in his son’s innocence. “How can anybody believe that an 18 year-old boy is involved in terrorism? A load of rubbish, made up by the AIVD.”A small mistakeIn the plastic bag Samir had entrusted to Fahmi B. the police found materials and components for the construction of a small bomb. At least at one point Samir had made a mistake when he did his shopping: base material for explosives could never be obtained from the fertiliser he had bought. This could have been done with fertiliser based on ammonium nitrate, but not on the basis of ammonium sulphate. The fertilizer that Samir bought contained ammonium sulphate. According to the National Forensic Institute (NFI) these materials were not appropriate for the construction of a bomb. He did some experiments, but he didn’t succeed. Ammonium nitrate combined with diesel oil was for instance used for the bombing in Oklahoma (USA) in 1995, killing 168 people.
Since Samir A. was already arrested on 30 June 2004, he could not be convicted according to the Terrorist Crimes Act, effective from 10 August 2004. According to this law a person can be sentenced to life.
The Prosecution considered Samir A. to be a dangerous terrorist and demanded 7 years’ imprisonment. It also demanded disenfranchisement for at least 5 years. On 6 April 2005 the Rotterdam court judged that Samir A. had indeed a “more than average interest in religious-extremist violence”, but held as insufficiently proven the charge that he was actively working on an attack. Samir A. was only convicted for illegal possession of firearms (3 months’ imprisonment) — he was released the very same day [verdict]. The Public Prosecution took its case to a higher court.
Dressed in immaculate white, Samir listened to the judge’s verdict. With a triumphant smile on his face he turned around to the public gallery. He knew he would be set free again. He had defied the AIVD and his prosecutor.
Four hours after the court’s verdict Samir stepped out through the iron doors of Nieuwegein prison. His friends tried to keep him out of reach of photographers and camera crews. They weren’t very successful and Samir A. exploded with fury right in front of a photographer from the Telegraaf and a cameraman from the NOS. His brother-in-law Omar, who operated as one of his bodyguards, shouted that “everyone should fuck off.”
When Ayaan Hirsi Ali heard the news of Samir’s discharge from her bodyguards, the tears rushed into her eyes. “Somebody is walking around who has plans to blow up parliament, or Schiphol,” Hirsi Ali explained. She still has a high position on the death-list of the Dutch-Moroccan jihad fighters. The discharge of Samir terrifies her. Her only comfort was that the AIVD keeps calling Samir a terrorist. “The judge’s verdict doesn’t change our view. We will always be regarding A. as a person who is involved in the preparation of terrorist activities,” a spokesman of the AIVD said to the newspaper Trouw. So Samir as well will have to watch his step if he wants to satisfy his uncontrollable need to be killed in action. The road to his martyrdom is paved with defeats. Samir knows that the AIVD will keep him under close surveillance and that all his communications are monitored. “I will be tailed till I die. Only then will it end” [Parool 28.7.05].
Allah’s bailiffs never have doubts
During the third pre-trial hearing against the members of the Hofstadgroup on 27 July 2005, Samir was in the public gallery. Not to be cocky, but to find out if the Public Prosecution wanted to try him as a Hofstad suspect as well. This appeared not to be the case. He also heard that his friend Mohammed B., who had just been sentenced to life, would be prosecuted in this case. He was glad that Mohammed B. had been sentenced to lifelong imprisonment.
Allah’s vain bailiff continued on his own way imperturbably, but was meanwhile closely watched. The AIVD concluded that Samir, together with other descendants of the Hofstadnetwork, was looking for automatic firearms and explosives. The immediate cause for his arrest was a video message, in which Samir takes leave of his family and friends, and in which he refers to a deed he would have committed. The AIVD got hold of a copy of the video — 8 minutes long - and informed the National Criminal Investigation Department. On 14 October 2005 Samir was arrested in Leiden in connection with an acute threat of attacks on politicians and the building of the AIVD. The ministers of Justice and Internal Affairs stated that an attack had been thwarted with this arrest. Apart from Samir six other members of the Hofstadnetwork were arrested, including Jermaine W. His wife Abida was detained for questioning, as a witness. It is to the judge to conclude whether Samir and his friends have been slightly ‘closer to the beginning of execution’ in order to sentence them.
Ramadan 2005 — Fascinated by terrorism
In all seven terrorist suspects were arrested on 14 October 2005. Two in Amsterdam, one in Almere and four in The Hague. The Binnenhof (residence of the Dutch parliament) was closed by the police. In the surroundings of the Binnenhof — where the cabinet was present for its weekly meeting that day — people with rucksacks were stopped and asked for an identity card. Passing vehicles were stopped and checked as well. The ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs and the main building of the AIVD in Schiedam were extra secured and the security of a number of persons was enhanced.
In The Hague the Van Mierisstraat and the Moerweg were closed by special unities of the National Criminal Investigation Department, in collaboration with several regional police forces. During these arrests an intervention unit of the special forces was mobilized. Masked men with machine guns entered a block of flats on the Moerweg with force. During this invasion of the BBE-SIE star shells were fired. In the Schilderswijk (area in The Hague) the Van Ostadeschool was closed, because the school is close to the address where one of the arrests took place.
Mohammed Fahmi B.: never been in trouble
On 10 November another member of the Hofstadgroup was detained in Amsterdam: Mohammed Fahmi Boughabe (23), alias Abu Mussab. He is suspected of being a member of a terrorist organisation. He had also been arrested in October 2003. In his house in Amsterdam goods belonging to Samir A. were found. The bag that Samir A. had entrusted to him contained ammonia, fertiliser, acid and protective glasses.
Fahmi B. is a friend of Samir A. and Mohammed B. He met Mohammed for the first time in the Al Tawheed mosque and attended the meetings that were organised at his house. There he also met Radwan al Issa. Fahmi said that he knew the koran almost by heart and that he preached. Although Mohammed B. had gained an increasing knowledge of islam, he could not compete with the sheik. “The sheik was wise. The sheik had five times as much knowledge as Mohammed B.” [NRC 13.11.04]. Neither did Mohammed B. have a thorough command of Arabic.
Fahmi himself speaks Arabic very well. He learnt it at school in Morocco. In 1999 he came with his mother from Al Hoceima to Amsterdam under the terms of the family-reunification (his older brother Hassan could not come to Holland, because at that time he was older than 18). His father, a Moroccan fishmonger, came to Holland twenty years earlier [Volkskrant 9.7.05].
Fahmi worked for the construction firm Joorse, which has its seat in the Pythagorasstraat, the street where Van Gogh lived. The public prosecutor attaches great importance to the fact the Fahmi does not have a sound alibi for the 45 minutes exactly around the time of the murder.
Fahmi B. was one of the four suspects in the trial against the members of the Hofstadgroup, who tried to vindicate himself. In front of the judge and via his interpreter he declared: “I have never been in trouble.” He has nothing to do with conspiracy or preparations of attacks. “This absolutely doesn’t concern me. It is better to decapitate me than accuse me of this kind of case.”
Nouredine El-F. - An armed guru eager to marry
In the house of Mohammed B. the police found a jihad testament on 17 October 2003, signed by the Moroccan Nouredine El-Fatmi, —alias Abu KaKa, alias Abu Qaqua, alias Abu Qa’qa, alias Fuad— who lived in the Netherlands illegally. The testament was written in a booklet with study notes on the blessings of the sharia. “Don’t be sad about me. There is only one death. I want to die as a martyr for the sake of God. And I ask God to accept me as a martyr.”
According to Nouredine this testament was drawn up by Mohammed B. After his arrest on 11 June 2004 Nouredine tells “that he has lived with Mohammed B. and has attended Koran classes with him.” He also tells that he thinks Mohammed B. is “a dangerous person,” who believes in the ideology of Takfir. The AIVD doesn’t believe this, because the suspect himself was known as very radical “and has reasons to distract attention from himself and exonerate himself by charging others.” According to the AIVD members of radical islamic networks “nearly always give evasive and misleading answers” [Reconstruction of facts].
Phone centre in Schiedam
The phone centre in Schiedam acted as an operating base for the terrorist cell. The phone centre contained chemicals, enabling the production of explosives. The Turkish proprietor of the phone centre, Ibrahim Mohammed B. (22) —pseudonym ‘Abu Ahmed‘— was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment for the armed robbery of a supermarket in Rotterdam. His wife, born and raised in Holland, walks through life completely veiled and with gloves.
Nouredine lived in The Hague for some time before the murder of Van Gogh. But for months he also lived the house of his soul mate Mohammed in the Marianne Philipsstraat in Amsterdam. Nouredine also knew Samir A. A few years ago he worked together with him for a company in Schiedam, the Internet Phone Centre in the Broersvest 52/C. When Samir A. was discharged from preparing attacks on 6 April, he visited Nouredine straight away [Volkskrant 29.4.05].
On 1 November 2004 —one day before the murder of Van Gogh— Nouredine El-F. fled from the Netherlands, via Belgium to his native country Morocco, with a forged passport. From there he frequently called brothers and sisters in the Netherlands. From 2 November on the police are searching for him. At the beginning of 2005 Nouredine turns up again. On 14 February he has a ‘secret’ telephone conversation from Brussels with the Bosnian refugee Refat G. (33), whose passport was used by the Syrian Radwan al Issa (alias Abu Khaled) in order to travel from Brussels (via Greece) to Turkey, on the day of the Van Gogh murder [source: AIVD].
Nouredine was bold. Although he knew that the police were after him, he regularly visited the Netherlands, worked at the black market in Beverwijk once and while, displayed himself on the internet and just went on recruiting for the jihad.
Nouredine’s police file shows that he didn’t have his own internet and telephone connection anymore since the murder of Theo van Gogh. He forbade his friends to use his name. This makes it more difficult to prove that he is a member of a terrorist organisation. His earlier arrest in 2003 had probably made him a lot wiser as to the methods of the judiciary and police [Vincent van Steen, spokesman AIVD].
For years Nouredine had led an underground existence dominated by radical political islam. For months he had succeeded in hiding from the police, who had him high on their wish list.
On 22 June 2005 Nouredine El-F. was arrested on the platform of railway station Lelylaan in Amsterdam. He was in possession of a cocked machinegun, extra ammunition and a silencer. The young veiled woman, who had driven him by car from The Hague to Amsterdam earlier that day, was also detained. It is the 21 year-old Soumaya S., Nouredine’s new wife. In her heavy rucksack she carried Nouredine’s machine gun. According to the pursuit report of the criminal investigation department Soumaya started screaming ‘hysterically’ at her arrest: “Allah Akbar..., or words of identical meaning.” Her husband kept looking at the rucksack, lying half-open on the ground in front of him, and wanted to move into its direction [see also report of arrest]. Soumaya is also suspected of taking part in a terrorist organisation.
That very same day a second woman is arrested in Rijswijk, who had accommodated Nouredine and Soumaya. It is the Dutch convert Martine van den O., a 26 year-old fair-haired girl from Naaldwijk, an ex-police officer, who walks around in veils. After a stay in Syria she suddenly started taking in radical islamic ideas. In the past Martine had been active for the Al-Aqsa foundation, which appears on the American and European terrorism list for financing the Palestinian Hamas-movement. There she met Abida, Samir A.’s wife and spokeswoman of the Al-Aqsa foundation. She was one of the founders of the Stichting Jerusalem [Jerusalem Foundation], a new start of Al-Aqsa. In Martine’s home in The Hague several incriminating documents were found, among which a presumed a death-list with the names of prominent Dutch people. Soumaya and Martine met each other via the El Islam Mosque in the Van der Vennestraat in The Hague.
Soumaya S. and the people from the cave
Soumaya S. stems from a traditional Moroccan family in The Hague. She radicalised after she had visited Mecca together with her father. This could also be noticed by her appearance — she veiled herself in the burqa. Her father hated this. He tore up her burqa and threw it into the dustbin. In vain: after a few days she received a new burqa through the post.
Soumaya’s first statements on internet date back to May 2000. On the website Jihad in Tsjetsjenië (Jihad in Chechenia) [www.qoqaz.nl], which has meanwhile been closed but is kept in the web archive, she intervened in the discussion about the armed battle. On 24 May on the site guestbook she posted a call to fight in Chechenia. “Oh brothers who sympathise with our brothers and sisters in chechenia please go and commit jihad when you are up to it physically and mentally.” A week later she gets a reaction to it from ‘Rashid’, a Moroccan born in Al Hoceima, with an e-mail address of the College of higher education in The Hague: firstname.lastname@example.org. “To my sister Soumaya I say that I and some more brothers would do anything to go to Chechenia, but up till now we haven’t found a way to realise this. Should you have contacts, please keep me informed.”
Soumaya S. is a convinced extremist muslimah. On internet she often visited fundamentalist websites such as al-islaam, al-yaqeen and islamway.com. She thought she could find all answers there to questions about her faith. Under her own name she published an article on de rechte (duidelijke) weg (the straight path) and the vijf zuilen (five pillars) of islam. Soumaya also disseminated her ideas in mosques, for instance the As-Soennah mosque in The Hague.
At the beginning of March Soumaya received a phone call from an unknown woman, who told her that somebody was looking for her and wants to meet her very much. She didn't react, but shortly afterwards she received an e-mail from Nouredine, who indicates that he wanted to get in touch with her via MSN to discuss islam. Soumaya gave him her mobile phone number. Nouredine called her and they talked with each other about islam. He asked her to marry him over the telephone, but she refused at first. When she met him for the first time, she was not attracted to him. That didn’t happen until later “when she found his inner self more important than his looks.” She fell for ‘his character’, because he involved religion in everything. She thought this was ‘super’. At the end of April 2005 Nouredine asked her to come to Amsterdam in order to marry him there. She ran away from home, goes to Amsterdam, where he picked her up at Central Station. They went to a private house by tram, where the marriage was solemnised according to islamic law. The AIVD regards this as an indication that the two wanted to die as martyrs of the jihad (getting married counts as a final earthly obligation before jihad and martyrdom). After the wedding she goes back to Zwolle by train, where she stayed with acquaintances from 6 May onwards. Soumaya’s parents were afraid their daughter would commit an attack and her mother reported her missing to the police on 6 May.
On 20 May she took the plane to Morocco to meet Nouredine’s family. On 25 May she returned to the Netherlands and together with Nouredine stayed over with a brother in Amsterdam. Together with her husband she stayed a week with Martine van der O. in The Hague. Back in Amsterdam, she stayed in several places for two weeks, in order to go to Martine again for a week, until they were arrested by the police.
A telephone conversation, tapped by the AIVD on 20 June, proves that Soumaya S. tried to retrieve addresses of Hague politicians via a pharmacy in the Statenkwartier in The Hague, where her sister worked [source: Ambtsbericht AIVD, 23.6.05]. She asked her sister about the private addresses of politicians who work with “that black one” (Ayaan Hirsi Ali), for instance Minister of the Interior Remkes, VVD-chairman Van Aartsen and LPF member of parliament Eerdmans (“that young man of the LPF with those hare teeth”). She was also “looking for something [...] she can give to someone.” In her diary she had written for 11 September 2003: “commemoration day for WTC big party and prayer for new attacks!!!” [Police Zwolle: interrogation].
On 3 August 2005 the preventive custody of Martine was cancelled on account of “personal reasons” —with no further detail given. The very same day her friend Soumaya gave an interview by phone to BNR Newsradio, from the prison in Zwolle. In this interview Soumaya shamelessly denied all accusations: “I think it’s all a load of rubbish.” Her explanation was simple: “It is just a desperate act of the AIVD.” The Hofstadgroup doesn’t exist in her opinion; they are people from the cave. “I regard them as people from the cave. People who all worshipped God and who have secluded themselves from the worshippers of idols.” She was referring to the chapter in the koran called ‘Al-Kahf’ (the cave).
Soumaya is prosecuted for illegally possessing firearms. Since the public prosecutor couldn’t prove that she had acted with a terrorist aim, the Public Prosecution demanded on 4 October 2005 a prison sentence of one year, of which four months on probation. On 18 October 2005 the court in Rotterdam sentenced her to nine months’ imprisonment, three of which on probation.
Nadir A.: that madman ruined my life
Nadir A. (23) was a regular visitor of Mohammed B.’s house and was friends with Fahmi B. He was one of the visitors of the living-room meetings in Mohammed B.’s home. In his view these meetings were very professional. During one of them three members of the Hofstadgroup were present, all with laptops. The laptops were used to make arrangements and to draw up and exchange threatening letters. One of them was the open letter to Hirsi Ali, the one Mohammed B. stuck into the dying body of Theo van Gogh.
Nadir received extremist material from Mohammed B. His phone number was found with a main suspect of the bombings in Madrid and Casablanca.
In front of the judge Nadir explained that Theo van Gogh’s murderer had ruined his life. In poor Dutch he read a hand-written statement. In it he doesn’t deny that he knows a number of the others.
- “I may have been naïve that I associated with the others. But I am the victim of other suspects. I haven’t killed Theo van Gogh. I reject the summons to kill people like Van Gogh, Hirsi Ali and Wilders. He who wants to persecute people of another religion, should be arrested and expelled” [Nederlands Dagblad, 8.2.05].
It was of no avail to Nadir. Just like the other suspects he was locked up again for three months. After this period he was ordered further detention by another three months. On 22 September 2005 he was released because his preventive custody had probably lasted longer than the punishment that would possibly be imposed on him eventually [rechtspraak.nl].
Rachid Be. - The Zierikzee connection
Rachid Be., alias Abu Fadel, is 32 year-old Dutch muslim from Zierikzee. It was not until June 2005 that he could be arrested in London. His house had already been searched in March. On this occasion weapons, ammunition, videotapes and radical islamic recruitment material were found. Scotland Yard suspected him of recruiting people for terrorist activities, illegal possession of weapons and forging travel documents. The Public Prosecutor in Rotterdam declared that Rachid was suspected of participating in a terrorist organisation, the Hofstadgroup.
Rachid was a regular visitor of the phone centre in Schiedam, where Radwan Al-Issa taught young muslims their first lessons. One of them was Mohammed B., who later opened his home for the living-room meetings. It is quite likely that similar meetings with Radwan Al-Issa were organised for ‘Rotterdam brothers’, in Rachid’s house in Zierikzee.
After his arrest in the Netherlands in 2003 Radwan All-Issa was released due to lack of evidence and he was extradited to Germany. On this occasion Rachid travelled to Germany in a hurry, together with the Syrian Ahmed Al A. (40), alias ‘Abu Bilal’ and two other members of the Hofstadgroup — in order to ‘greet’ their leader.
In the statements Abu Bilal made to the police, Rachid comes forward as a radical and rectilinear muslim, who was behind his computer all day visiting extremist websites, promoting the violent battle. He recruited young people for the jihad and collected money for the Al-Aqsa Foundation in Rotterdam, whose assets were frozen because of ties with the Palestinian Hamas movement [NRC, 23.06.05; mirror].
Rachid accommodated Radwan Al-Issa before the murder of Van Gogh and afterwards smuggled him out of the country. Then he left for England himself, where he was eventually arrested. For ‘practical reasons’ Rachid was not prosecuted together with the members of the Hofstadgroup.
On Monday evening 11 July 2005 a 17 year-old boy was arrested in Amsterdam, who was suspected by the criminal investigation department of playing a part in the terrorist network of the Hofstadgroup. His parents are of Dutch and British descent. In his parental home a self-made bomb is discovered, qualified by the Public Prosecution as “potentially dangerous.” The bomb consists of a wrapped cardboard bar with gunpowder, small bullets and an igniter.
Michael R., who converted to islam at the age of 14 and quickly radicalised afterwards, had been active on the internet for quite a while. Under several pseudonyms (‘polder-moedjahedien’, ‘PolderMujahideen’, ‘Tallib el Ilm’) he disseminated extremist ideas via a number of MSN-groups [Trouw 14.7.05]. As the administrator of these groups, he distributed fundamentalist texts and threatening appeals, films and images. This, however, also attracted the attention of the police and judicial authorities, who kept an eye on him for months.
International connections en guidance
The members of the Hofstad network didn’t only familiarise internationally with the world-political events in Afghanistan, Iraq etc., but also maintained international connections.
The members of the Hofstadgroup were presumably guided by the Algerian Mohammed Achraf (31), while the latter was in prison in Switzerland, suspected of plotting an attack on the special Spanish court, the Audencia Nacional [Le Temps]. Achraf played a central role in a Spanish investigation into a network with the name ‘Martyrs for Morocco’, planning attacks on the supreme court in Madrid. In September 2004 Achraf called Mohammed B. several times. He transferred money to the Netherlands [El Pais]. Also his two fellow suspects, the Algerian Ziani Mahdi and the Afghan Mourad Yala (alias Abu Anas) remained in the Netherlands for a few months, where they occupied themselves with forging credit cards and identity papers. Both are in prison in Spain in the meantime. In April 2003 Mourad Yala was arrested in the Netherlands and extradited to Spain. The Afghan Mahdi had a Dutch passport with a fake name on him at the time of his arrest. In the charge of judge Garzïn Mourad Yala was accused of preparing a bombing in the Netherlands by means of explosives in a computer.
The Spanish Moroccan Abdeladim Akoudad (36) —alias ‘Naoufel’, ‘Nadufel’— was arrested by the Spanish police on 14 October 2003. They suspect him of involvement in attacks in Casablanca and he would have had contact with the Dutch Hofstad network. He was also supposed to have ties with Ansar al-Islam, a group allied to al-Qaeda, which has a role in suicide attacks in Iraq. On 15 November 2004 he was brought before the Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzïn [press agency Europapress; Estrella Digital].
Akoudad is regarded as the key figure of the terrorist networks in Europe. At first Garzïn presumed that he also commanded the Hofstad network in the Netherlands, but he retracted his statement later on. Yet, Ismail Akhnikh went to Spain to get tips from Akoudad. And Samir Azzouz (Mohammed Bouyeri’s friend) regularly spoke to this top terrorist on the phone [source: Lukor].
Akoudad denied every involvement with a Dutch terrorist group. The police force, however, found the coded telephone numbers of members of the Hofstadgroup in his diary.
The Syrian Radwan al-Issa (43) is a man of many names: ‘Redouan al Issa’, ‘Mohammed al-Issa’, ‘Sjeik Abu Khaled’, ‘Abu Issa’. Nobody seems to know his real name. In Holland he mainly operated under the name ‘Abu Khaled’. He was eager to be called sheik by his followers. Radwan acted as the spiritual leader of the Hofstad network. He recruited followers for the regressive islam, taught the koran to members of the Hofstadgroup, and incited them to perform terrorist actions. He operated in asylum seekers’ centres in Germany and the Netherlands, in a phone centre in Schiedam, and in the living room of Mohammed Bouyeri in Amsterdam.
At the end of 1994 Radwan sought political asylum in Germany. He presented himself as a refugee who was prosecuted in Syria for his membership of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. In the 70s and 80s this fundamentalist movement took an offensive against the Baath-regime of Hafez al-Assad. The Muslim Brotherhood organised many bloody assaults on government authorities. In 1982 the government struck back very hard. In a massive attack on the centre of Hama, the stronghold of the Brothers, more than twenty thousand people were killed. The centre of the city was demolished. The Muslim Brotherhood is the forefather of virtually all of today’s islamic terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Al-Qaeda.
Membership of the Brotherhood was a capital offence. Radwan’s brother, Basel, was arrested and put in prison for a long time, together with thousands of other active members of the Brotherhood. He was a prisoner for more than 10 years in the notorious prison of Palmyra. At that time, his brother says, Radwan was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Radwan dated girls and led an active social life [Volkskrant 20.7.05].
Pending the decision on his request for asylum in Germany, Radwan was placed in an asylum seekers’ centre. For years he lived in the asylum seekers’ centre in Olsberg (Germany). Later he rented a house in the centre of Olsberg. In June 1996 he was arrested at the Aachen railway station for being in possession of heroin and hashish. Radwan was a drugs dealer who sniffed cocaine, drank expensive whiskey and had a lot of women to whom he supplied heroin.
Radwan regularly travelled to Holland. After rejection of his request for asylum in Germany, he reported to the Dutch asylum seekers’ centre in Rijsbergen, on 22 June 1998. By comparing finger prints it was discovered that Al-Issa had already sought political asylum in Germany. He had to return to Germany, but took his case to a higher court, which took four years. During this period he lived in the asylum seekers’ centres in Emmen and Hoogeveen and radicalised towards Takfir wal Hidjra.
Radwan lives in the refugee centre in Borger. An Iraqi co-occupant tells that they often argued. “He called me a kafir, a disbeliever, because I drank beer and didn’t pray enough. He said: ‘Look at me, I used to go to discos in Germany and drank alcohol from early in the morning till late at night. Now I am a real muslim’.”
Soon Radwan speaks Dutch fluently, but at crucial moments he knows how to conceal this skill. As soon as he is in trouble with the authorities he asks for an Arabic interpreter. He manages to obtain a computer and a bicycle, and collects bus cards in order to travel to the western part of Holland at regular intervals. He brings in islamic literature and spends his time behind the computer for days on end. He travels to refugee centres in the region to preach his extremist message. Wherever he comes, the atmosphere changes. Men suddenly refuse to shake hands with women, one of the assistants relates. Radwan is the smartest of all; he is the leader in the small refugee centre.
Radwan provokes the others, but remains friendly most of the time. He always brings sweets for children and when he visits acquaintances he poses for pictures with a smile. But behind this mask a grim world view is hiding, offering no room for those who think differently. Sporadically he forgets his role of ‘smiling intriguer’ and reacts in such a hot-headed way that it frightens other people. In the asylum seekers’ centres in the north of Holland Radwan builds a complete network of radical muslims. He is not choosy in this process. He has contact with passport forgers, human traffickers, obscure dealers in mobile phones and acquaintances of foreign terrorists [Nederlands Dagblad, 30.4.05, Redouan al I., de man die ontsnapte (Redouan al I., the man who escaped)].
In Holland Radwan met Mohammed B. and other young muslim radicals in 2002. Together they visited the Tawheed mosque in Amsterdam and the Soennah mosque in The Hague. When they started regarding these fundamentalist houses of worship as too liberal, they exclusively organised ‘living-room meetings’. In absence of Radwan, Mohammed took the pulpit. In order to prevent these conversations from being monitored, all sim-cards were removed from their mobiles before they started the meeting. Radwan had invented a curious method to boost the group cohesion and his own authority. He made his Surinam wife, who lived in The Hague, drain breast milk. Some of his most loyal followers were allowed to drink this milk. By this symbolic action the leader wanted to prove that they were ‘his sons‘.
In 2003, with a forged passport, Radwan attempted to take the plane on Frankfurt Airport. He was caught and sent back to Olsberg. On 17 October 2003 he was arrested in Schiedam due to illegality and under suspicion of preparing an attack. In prison Radwan was visited by his pupil Mohammed B., who wanted to bring him three pizzas. When this wasn’t allowed Mohammed completely lost his cool. He called the guards everything under the sun. Mohammed was so furious that the warders felt threatened. A female guard was heavily upset. Radwan was released very soon because of lack of evidence and was extradited to Germany as an ‘unwanted person’. In vain he tried to get papers there in order to travel to Syria. The AIVD had known for a longer time who was involved, but couldn’t get hold of him. He was wanted on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organisation.
At half past three in the morning of 23 October 2004 an old Opel Omega drives through the darkness of Zierikzee. There are two men in the car. Achmad al A., a 40-year old Syrian who had been sentenced for human trafficking in Belgium is behind the steering wheel. Next to him sits Radwan al-Issa, who is wanted and hunted by the police.
The police stop the car because they suspect that the number plates have been interfered with. Their suspicion grows when the two men say that they are moving house. Achmad is asked to take a seat in the police car. He is fined for the number plate. Then both men are allowed to move on. The police officers have no idea that the man who remains seated in the Opel is a hunted jihad preacher.
This happened nine days before Theo van Gogh was murdered. Four days later Radwan arranges his flight schedule for his anticipated escape. The date of departure is 2 November.
On the morning of Van Gogh’s murder Al-Issa was smuggled out of the country by Rachid Be.(32). He took him to Zaventem Airport near Brussels by car. From there he flew via Greece to Turkey, on a forged passport, from where he travelled on to his native country Syria. A few days after the murder Al-Issa inquired by phone if anyone had been arrested. From then on nobody seems to know where the preacher of hate is staying.
Radwan was assisted in his escape by his countryman Achmad al A. (alias Abu Bilal). On 27 October Achmad had already booked Al-Issa’s journey in Zierikzee. Achmad himself was also the main suspect in the ‘Dolfijn’ (Dolphin) investigation on human trafficking and trade in forged travel documents (passport swindle). Achmad made extensive statements on Radwan Al-Issa. But he was extremely afraid of the spiritual leader, because he would not hesitate to have him and his family killed. Achmad said that Radwan had “about a hundred followers who do exactly what he says because this will lead to paradise” [Volkskrant 28.4.05]. According to him not only Mohammed B. and Samir A. belong to his followers, but also Nouredine El-F.
Radwan was arrested in Syria in April 2005 and locked up in the Fereh Palestine prison in Damascus. The Syrian security service arrested him when he was in Damascus, in order to arrange his engagement with a girl from the Syrian town Shaam. According to his sister Iman Radwan was arrested when he entered the house of his bride-to-be [Nederlands Dagblad 14.7.05]. In the Netherlands too he has a wife and child. As an unemployed person Radwan lived in Hama, the stronghold of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.
It is improbable that Radwan will be handed over to the Dutch authorities. The prison where he is held is specialised in interrogating prisoners ‘the local way’ (= heavy-handed): for months on end and in complete isolation. Afterwards they are released or moved to a more regular prison. According to the spokesman of the Human Rights Association in Syria, who was the first to report Radwan’s arrest, it is customary that the Syrian government passes on information that has been squeezed out of detainees to Western intelligence services. Radwan’s family only knows he is in Fereh Palestine. They hear nothing of him anymore and they don’t know what he is accused of. For fear of the authorities they do not dare call in a lawyer.
Moroccan sites in a fix
- “He has prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!” [Q. 48:13].
“Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them” [Q.2:191]
On Moroccan websites and discussion forums —before they curbed themselves— many contributions could be read which alleged that the godless pig had finally got what he deserved according to islamites, that Allah’s will had triumphed and that he had got a suitable taste of his own medicine. “Praise the martyr who shot down Theo van Gogh!!! That’s how the Zionists and their servants come to their bloody end!” [‘Robrecht’ in maroc.nl; the same text appeared in a book of condolence, but signed with another nickname].
Already earlier the site imaan.nl believed that Van Gogh had to be silenced. In March 2004 hundreds of muslims signed an online petition against Theo van Gogh. The reason for this was his column in the Metro (Dutch newspaper), in which he called the prophet Mohammed a ‘rapist’ and a ‘dirty uncle’. The website called for a partial writing ban for Van Gogh. “Something like this breeds hatred and ultimately leads to violence. That’s why we have to bring this to an end soon.” In the Metro Van Gogh reacted with harsh irony to the writing ban: “It only proves that I am more in the right than I have ever written. This writing ban they want, is a gift from Allah to me. I still have a lot of foreign aid to perform.”
On the Moroccan-Dutch sites there are mainly discussions on the consequences for the position of muslims. The future was awaited with fear and trembling. All the more because the platforms on which they discuss also accommodated racist and extremely nationalist statements. These statements were usually made by familiar persons, who presented themselves under a pseudonym, from extreme right-wing, racist, nationalist, neo-nazi and ‘fortuynist’ movements and sects. The tragicomic loss of party-political ‘fortuynism’ had a revival chance in a people’s revolt against terrorism motivated by the political islam.
- “Tensions between muslims and non-muslims have been numerous in the past years. Jews who are afraid to walk around with their yarmulke, gays who are not allowed in taxis, women who are felt-up in swimming pools, appeals to kill disbelievers, trouble in places of entertainment, etc. etc. Each time the politicians refrain from taking action. This is ostrich policy of many years’ standing. A matter of not recognising the problems that exist. It's only a matter of waiting until the bomb bursts” [TvB - Fok.nl].
And the bombshell had been dropped — and the splinters shot in every direction and drastically churned up the ground of Holland on which we live together. It didn’t only spread death and destruction for Theo van Gogh, but also led to a climate in which reasonableness and shades of opinions seemed to disappear. It was enough; it was too much. It was time for strict measures. A rock-hard confrontation seemed inevitable. This confrontation was raised to near-boiling point by two surpassing extremes, in fanaticism and lack of reflection. This confrontation was obviously also fought out on the internet — in a way that could not be exceeded. Those who, in the days after the murder of Van Gogh, obtained their information solely or primarily from internet, must have had the feeling of having landed in a virtual civil war. The Moroccan sites in Holland were hard pressed and were heavily criticised by two extreme sides.
The administrators of Moroccan islamic sites were confronted with a tough choice, and some with a dilemma. They had to dissociate themselves from the deed and the ideas of Mohammed B., but didn’t want to alienate themselves too much from their religious supporters either, who were still intensely offended by the blasphemous statements of renegades (Hirsi Ali) and non-believers (Van Gogh). The self-regulating power of Moroccan and islamic sites was violently put to the test. It was striking how many Moroccan sites were able to regulate themselves even in these difficult weeks. This didn’t pass off flawlessly mostly and definitely not without conflicts. But it seemed as if the self-cleaning power of Moroccan and/or islamic sites in Holland was better than many had expected.
After the murder of Theo van Gogh urgent appeals were made in the guestbook of Maroc.nl to break the taboos in one’s own faith and to accept the removal of traditional religious barriers as a fact. Right-wing extremists and ‘orphaned fortuynists’, however, also used the forum to express their xenophobia (aversion to foreigners), islamophobia (aversion to islam), racism (aversion to a different complexion, eyelid or nose shape), and ethnocentrism (aversion to different cultures). In the first days after the murder of Van Gogh the following provocative messages could be read, adorned with original capitals and exclamation marks.
- “Your time has come to go. It’s up to you; dead or to your own country, but don’t forget that you’ll go back 500 years back in time. The white race has always been superior and this will always be the same. […] Fear us! we are fed up with it, and you’ll find out! DUTCHMEN UNITE AND LET’S RECLAIM WHAT OUR FOREFATHERS HAVE FOUGHT AND WORKED SO HARD FOR! Holland must and will be clean again!” [whiteprideworldwide!].
- “Fucking muslims who do those blokes think they are. i will get them for sure just like them do simply cut a head off is most normal business with them kind of morons. well the mosque in zaandam will be the 1 BOOM” [Ruud].
- “After the murder of Theo van Gogh it is obvious to me, i wasn’t really fond of those muslims and moroccans to begin with … but this is the limit…we have to revolt, LOUD PROTEST!! Death to all muslims, the whole family of the PERPETRATOR has to be extradited right now!! i hate you moroccans including your families…WE WILL RISE IN REVOLT AGAINST IT !! LOUD PROTEST and no SILENT PROCESSION !! Death to all stinking muslims...” [Romy — with the fictitious web address www.deathtoallmuslims.nl and likewise original email-address: email@example.com].
- “Dirty sheepfuckers. Allah is the biggest queer and pig on earth. We Dutchman descendants of the superior Arian race, the ‘Herrenvolk’, have right to destroy the pigs of this world” [A. Hitler].
Nearly all of these provocative right-extremist statements were removed from the site by the web administrators.
On the forum of Maghreb.nl nobody directly legitimized the murder of Van Gogh. Yet, his insulting statements on islam and muslims are presented as some sort of cause.
- “Personally I think it’s terrible what has happened. But he did say queer things about our religion and culture. This doesn’t mean that I justify what has happened! But don’t put your hand in a wasps’ nest or you’ll be stung” [Bobo 16].
The ‘it’s your own fault’ theme frequently emerges.
- “On the one hand I think it’s sad and should not happen and then again not and I think good for him is it hz own fault he should shut hz mouth” [Riffia_Mina].
This asked for a challenge. According to Bigpete Riffia_Mina should learn Dutch first, or rather: “just go back to where you come from, because you obviously don’t have a clue of what a constitutional state is and you’ve got strange ideas.” Riffia_Mina’s reply was rude and threatening: “of all people you should shut up most i am from here i was born in Holland and anyway it isn’t the muslims’ fault it is that filthy ······ Van Gogh he should hold his trap you too or you are the second one to go.” Bigpete admits he is not a Moroccan, but Dutch and that he wants to express his opinion on this forum. “And within 1 day I’ve been threatent with death …. So if your behaviour is characteristic for the moroccan culture the moroccan culture should be ashamed indeed…. (fortunately there are still a lot of Moroccans who do think).” However, Riffia_Mina perseveres: you can say what you want, but mind your words. “Before you realise you say it to a moroccan who doesn’t swallow it and then you’ve got a heavy problem i can tell you now.”
The same tone is adopted in the proposal to restrain freedom of speech.
- “Blasphemy should be penalised, whether muslims are concerned, or christians, jews or any other religious belief” [Harmen].
The murder of Van Gogh was denounced ambiguously or merely emotionally, but there are others who condemned the murder univocally and with sound arguments.
- “In Holland we live in a constitutional state. This means that everybody is submitted to the law. And Dutch law prescribes freedom of speech. In case you experience certain statements as insulting, there is the possibility of recourse to the courts. It is forbidden to take the law into one’s own hands. If you do not share these democratic values, you may be in the wrong country. In this case Iran may have a place for you. I am a muslim myself, but I am completely fed up with those other non-tolerant muslims! If you can’t or won’t conform to the rules in the Netherlands, then what are you still doing here?” [Packet_of_self-raising_flower].
On the Maghreb-forum heated discussions are held about the differences and similarities between the Dutch and the Moroccan-islamic cultures.
- “When a Moroccan who attacks a policeman with a knife is shot to death out of self-defence riots break out on the Mercatorplein. Hundreds of Moroccan youngsters raise hell, provoke fights, and loot shops. This is no incident. More than once there were riots with Moroccans in front of the police station when the police arrested Moroccans.
Theo van Gogh is killed by a Moroccan terrorist religious maniac. The Dutch didn’t march en masse into Moroccan areas to recover losses. Moroccan shops weren’t looted. No Moroccan dolls were burnt” [Big_pete].
Hardly had Big_pete confided his words to the forum, when the first mosques and islamic schools in Holland were burnt down or bombed. Many participants of the Maghreb-forum soon realised what the implications of the murder of Van Gogh could be:
- “Suppose the consequence of this deed is that a number of right-extremist Dutch people decide to give them a taste of their own medicine and suddenly kill imans or islam scholars? Or kill someone who defends the rights of the muslim community? Then we can’t let our fathers and mothers safely go to the mosque anymore! The violence from muslims towards non-muslims growing more serious as time goes on. The fear we have caused ourselves, is turning against us and I think we can harvest it soon…” [Twinkey].
The civil war on internet had a sequel: the religious muslim-site Elqalem.nl ‘went dark’ because of threats by right-wing extremists. Since the murder of Theo van Gogh members of the editorial staff had received serious (death) threats. Editor Mohammed Maftaoui says that the makers of the site had had discussions with Van Gogh before. He thinks that internet as an outlet prevents rather than stirs up physical violence. The site was attacked by for instance Landsstorm, but also published a picture in which Van Gogh is portrayed as a target.
A week after Van Gogh’s murder the website launched an ‘Anti-Queer Manifesto’ entitled: Geen nicht in het licht (No poof in the light). This plan would have been published before, but was postponed due to the tense climate after Van Gogh’s murder. The pamphlet pleads for ‘homosexuality in one’s own set’. The Moroccans do not declare themselves against homosexuality, but against “the way some express and interpret their homosexuality.” They are disturbed by the extravagant homosexuals. They spoil the street scene with their ‘hairy behinds’, ‘purple strings’, ‘roller-skates and black leather boots’. All this ‘hurts the eyes’. In public places heterosexuality should be the norm. They would love to throw queers and lesbians who make a show of their homosexual inclination off a high roof, to loud cheers. “So poofs who make a show of it and who bother me with their stuff are not safe with me.” Was a greater threat possible? Yes there was. Deportations were the next stage:
- “Save the Gay Parade for your back yard, because it infects my Amsterdam. It’s okay to be gay, but do it in your living room.”
And here is the finale:
- “If I had been a politician, I would have chosen for a general deportation of militant homosexuals direction Virgin Island.”
One of the editors was the Amsterdam columnist Mohammed R. Jabri. On the site he ended his plea open-heartedly: “Let me get my hands on them, those faggots” [source]. A month after the murder of Van Gogh, Jabri announced that he was working on the foundation of a political party for young Moroccan muslims, with financial support of a number of islamic entrepreneurs. Contrary to the Arabic European League [AEL] the new party doesn’t aim at segregation, but at ‘total acceptance’. “The Dutch should accept that some customs, such as our religion, are simply absolutely necessary to feel a Moroccan” [Parool, 4.12.02].
The owner of the site is Hakim C. He is officially living in the Moroccan town Alhoceima, but is in the meantime actually living in Amsterdam South-East. The technical part of the website was taken care of by Flaxe Webhosting from Bochelt in Belgium [Gay Krant].
On the Moroccan site for youngsters mocros.nl Theo van Gogh had been threatened with death for months. Already in April 2004 a picture of the filmmaker was posted on a forum page of mocros.nl, with the text “When is it Theo’s turn?” In this poster, over his throat, chest and head a target was projected with seven bullet holes. “Insha Allah (God willing)” can also be read on the site, “Allah will quickly get rid of this literal and figurative swine.” The picture and the appeal were published soon after the release of the film Submission.
Spokesmen of mocros.nl, Brahim and Achmed Ahannay, say they haven’t seen the death threats and shocking images. “We do not feel responsible, however, for texts or pictures posted by visitors of the forum.” Yet, on Tuesday evening 2 November the death threats had disappeared from the site after all. The editorial staff of mocros.nl drew up three new rules for the forum: no racist statements, no offending remarks and no swearing.
What was left on the site was this somewhat awkwardly phrased declaration of support to the perpetrator:
- “is him own fault always say that one bloke from belgium abojaja says you are the pimp of allah what kind of remark is that idiot good for him and I isanllah that that one man is helped by allah but that is at least from mine interest so who is wright or wants to say what aint right mail me yes beslama but am myself muslim morocan” [tangaboy].
The contributions to the discussion in macros.nl —in spite of their emotional vehemence— increased in balance and in discussions more and more attempts were made to fight over-strong generalising and spiteful opinions.
Islam offers an identity to many young Moroccans. In their reactions to the murder of Van Gogh the deed in itself was disapproved of. Yet, there was the prompt caveat that with all his torrents of abuse on their religion Theo “has somehow asked for it.” They completely trust their own convictions and opinions and have little room for respect for dissidents. Still, the mosques cannot take away their emptiness and frustration. They are looking for something to hold on to and roam the internet and the streets. There they get in touch with radical role models. Then they withdraw in their living rooms, out of sight from everybody.
Politicians and leaders of self-organisations often don’t know what is going on among these youngsters. Precisely with their emotive reactions they cause more damage, says Ali Eddaoudi (islamic spiritual attendant in prison). Muslims with other ideas than the people in Holland want to hear are immediately labelled as ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘radical’. This also silences the youngsters. The consequence is that they feel misunderstood and withdraw from society. They are ready for islamic terrorist recruiters for the international jihad.
Haci Karacaer, president of the Turkish mosque organisation Milli Görüs (national face) is convinced that conservative muslims have to be included in the social discussion. They are presumably more capable of reaching radicals-to-be. The muslims and their organisations should take their responsibility. “Calling out that muslims are radicalising is for politicians easier and for electioneering purposes more profitable than taking measures that really matter.” These measures require efforts, patience and time. There is no magic formula preventing young muslims from radicalising.
On the site imaan.nl some attempts were made as well to silence Van Gogh, long before he was murdered. He who says that muslims are goat fuckers should bear in mind that ‘hearts’ are hurt. Also after the murder a lot of discussants remarked that if one wishes to combat extremism, one should start with Hirsi Ali and Wilders. The opposite was the down-to-earth understanding that Mohammed B.’s deed was an impetus to hatred against muslims. At the same time there was a general fear that the attacks on muslim buildings would lead to a ‘civil war’. People are frightened and sad. And meanwhile in between muslims who hope they will win the battle rebel [Seloua]. But fear is dominating. “At present we live in a society in which I, as a moroccan, have been looking behind me every other minute since last week…very quickly… to see if there is no dubious soul behind me who could do something to me” [Abdulkerim]. The most optimistic contribution came from a Dutch woman. “I think it won’t be so bad. Now the fat is in the fire, but it will go out again, I hope. There have never been more discussions and conversations” [NN].
We have seen that both Mohammed B. and his closest political circle of friends frequently made themselves heard on Marokko.nl. This also contributed to an extremely hostile attitude from the regular visitors towards Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh and others.
On 6 July 2004 a young man calling himself the AIVD-doder (AIVD-killer), publishes the following message on the forum of marokko.nl:
- “If I ever meet that cursed Hirsi Ali, I will cut her throat. Together we should create hatred towards disturbed persons like Hirsi Ali, it should become a habit that persons like Pim, Hirsi and Wilders are killed.”
On 28 August he writes:
- “Indeed, in Holland the Dutch law is valid and I know what the consequences of the murder of for example Hirsi could be. However, this doesn’t interest me, what interests me is our faith.”
On 29 August he adds:
- “I hope Alla will make an end to the lives of our enemies, I swear to God that I long for the day when I see this koefar being thrown into hell. Brothers and sisters kill these enemies of Islam when you meet them in the streets. God has given us the right to kill this kind of persons. Who do we worship? Allah the Lord or the Dutch constitutional system.”
The reconstruction of facts, which the government sent to parliament, shows that the intelligence service hasn’t missed these discussions. By order of the National Officer of Terrorism Combat in Rotterdam an internet detective carries out a preliminary investigation. He succeeds in retrieving the identity of the ‘AIVD-killer’. The National police force [KLPD] characterises the content of this message, published by “K. in Zeeland” as serious, especially because the author of the messages was also experimenting with explosive materials. According to the AIVD there weren’t sufficient indications in this case yet “that he would actually proceed to committing terrorist actions.”
Family distressYehya K. is a son of a family from Moroccan descent. His family does not understand why their son has been picked up by the police. According to his father, who has been living in Holland for 35 years, the intercepted fertiliser was meant for the garden, and he had got it when he worked for his boss in the fertiliser factory in Sluiskil. He doesn’t regard his son as a fanatical muslim. His father says that Yehya was often on internet. “Of course I don’t know all he does then, but I cannot imagine that he wants to do something bad.” Yehya performed well at school and he earned a little extra by working as a stock boy in the supermarket C1000. The family is afraid they will be pointed at as a terrorist family in Sas van Gent. “I am so ashamed. Our family will get a really bad name in the village. Terrible,” his father says. “I will have to go back to work in a while. I hardly dare go back. How will they look at me?” His wife shares his fear: “I even find it difficult to go to the shop. Afraid they will stare at me” [source: Sas van Gent.nl]
As the AIVD-killer repeatedly published threatening texts on internet and his chat sessions showed that he was making preparations for a bombing, the police decided to intervene. On 27 September the regional police Zeeland arrested two pupils under suspicion of threatening, producing/possessing explosives, making terrorist threats, and agitation. One of them was the 17 year-old Yehya K. from Sas van Gent, a grammar school pupil from the Zeldenrust Steelantcollege in Terneuzen.
By court order the magistrate imposes limitations on Yehya K., because it turned out that he was the one who, under the name of AIVD-killer, posted threatening messages on internet forums. Yehya K. occupied himself with “fundamentalist statements on the internet” and he had “tried to place a bomb.” Yehya admits to the police that he has experimented with explosives twice, although with little success. At his home the following items were seized: information on a detonator and booster charge, maps of for instance the city centre of The Hague, information on ammonium nitrate, and addresses of foreign embassies. The Public Prosecution doesn’t suspect the pupils of “terrorist activities” and there isn’t a link with the case of Samir A either. So he doesn’t seem to be part of a network.
The AIVD strongly emphasises that in the charge against Yehya K. “there is no reference whatsoever to Van Gogh. However, mrs Hirsi Ali and Wilders are mentioned.” Yet, in his appeal to kill the enemies of islam Yehya expressly mentions the name of Theo van Gogh.
- “Brothers and sisters, kill these enemies of Islam. God has given us the right to kill this kind of persons. I am concerned with the intentions of Hirsi and Theo, they do anything to put the muslims/islam in a poor light. In Holland the Dutch law is valid and I know what the consequences could be of for example murdering Hirschi. I’m not interested in this, what I’m interested in is the faith” [28.8.04, in Marokko.nl].
- According to Yehya the prophet Mohammed has ordered the execution of persons who insult him and islam. “After all, shedding blood is part of islam “[idem].
InternetFundamentalistYehya was a quiet boy and wasn’t known as a fanatical muslim. His fellow pupils’ reactions to his arrest were full of disbelief and perplexity. Also his parents, brother and sisters didn’t believe that he occupied himself with the preparation of terrorist acts. Acquaintances of his believe that he collected his radical ideas from internet. As it was, his family isn’t strictly religious at all.
Before the murder of Van Gogh the following question was raised on Marokko.nl: “Will Hirshi Ali end up just like Pim Fortuyn?” A vast majority (115 out of 171) of the respondents chose the answer: “Yes, won’t take long anymore.”
Warnings & BansThe survey of Waarschuwingen & Ban’s(Warnings and Bans) shows that Farid had been warned four times before and was banned five times in total. On 22.10.02 he was officially warned because of his anti-semitic insults. On 24.10.02 he was banned for two weeks, as he continued insulting other visitors. On 22.10.02 he received another warning: everyone should refrain from challenging/provoking or ‘re-abusing’. Farid, however, continued his insults and on 29.11.02 he was excluded for a week. On 18.2.03 he received his next warning, and on 5.3.03 another week’s ban followed. On 19.3.03 it was decided to ban Farid for an indefinite period of time. But Farid kept coming back. On 24.6.03 he was given to understand that if he kept going on he would be banned completely. He continued and on 21.9.03 merely received a ban for a week.
The site MaghrebOnline had attracted attention before when Farid Achahboun (30) from Schiedam was caught, because he had uttered threats in this forum against member of parliament Geert Wilders. The reason was that Wilders had called the then Palestinian leader Arafat a ‘terrorist leader’. Farid wrote: “Wilders really has to be punished with death for his fascist statements on islam, muslims and the Palestinian case” [30.9.2003]. And he published a picture of Wilders on the site. Although the editorial staff of MaghrebOnline had recently given him a week’s ban, they let this death threat pass.
At the beginning of 2004 Farid A. appeared in court. He was sentenced to 120 hours’ community service and a suspended sentence of a month. The prosecutor thought this punishment was unacceptable. On 19 November 2004 the Public Prosecution asked the court in The Hague for an imprisonment of three months. Solicitor general C. Strack explained: “A non-suspended punishment is appropriate here. In a democratic constitutional state politicians have to be able to express themselves freely. In this case the defendant isn’t entitled to the right of freedom of speech. (…) The punishment should be a signal to anyone who wants to stop politicians from speaking freely. In the past few weeks we have been able to see that the legal order is disrupted by people who utter these kinds of threats.”
The defendant and his lawyer weren’t present during the session. They claimed they hadn’t received a summons. Afterwards ‘Farid26’ used the MaghrebOnline forum again to expose the injustice he had been done: “it is impossible that Wilders can wish Arafat dead and that I cannot wish this nazi figurehead dead as a reaction” [19.11.04]. In the “nazi vision” of “herr national socialist strack” muslims do not have the right to freedom of speech. And in a provocative way he again utters his deepest wish: “Well here it is wilders, Drop dead you bloated nazi figurehead.”
Some forum members take his side.
- “The punishment is a clear signal that politicians can sow hatred and do this without being obstructed in any way and that the resulting emotional reactions are punished with imprisonment. OK. So you have to shut up or else a pain in the neck such as whining mister Frusto (probably didn’t get laid when he was younger and saw those ‘niggers’ hang around with girls he liked and was determined to take revenge later or something like that) and corners you by whining I'm feeling ever so threatened. Knob-end!
One day the Dutch will blush with shame because they have rewarded the frustrated hate of Wilders, who felt a fake threat (fuck off, man, threat — it is only like: I will get you ‘c*nt moroccan’), with imprisonment.
Shame on you Dutch people! That a bloodthirsty dog like Wilders abuses the law for his own purposes on the shockwaves from the death of Theo van Gogh” [ann].
One forum member goes even further:
- “so those dutch, wilders, theo and that somali hirsi can say and do anything against islam, but when a muslim rises to give his reply, hes arrested and punished right away. so you see this country is governed by jews and people who are against islam. keep on going farid, cause you’re quite right and I agree with you. those people shouldn’t think they can do and say anything about islam, cause islam is holy for every true muslim, and each muslim must fight for it with all he or she has.”
Other forum members point out that he only complicates his case with this type of comments. “A little more self-control would be in your own interest” [Simon]. People wonder why Farid26 hasn’t emigrated yet to some muslim paradise [Runny]. More importantly, people are afraid he will give the whole forum a bad name with his performance. “Our forum is mentioned by name, in an unpleasant way” [Kernheimer].
‘Mujahhid’ has found a clever solution to this problem. He gives Farid some wise advice:
- “Next time try to cover such statements. Say something and mean something else. Subtle you know and always say: I THINK because there you have the right to an opinion of your own.
I think Theo the pigf*cker had better be dead. Either by lung cancer or alcohol poisoning or by fate.
Something like that.
Death is something frightening for their kind of people. Therefore the fuss” [mujahhid].
The fuss can be avoided when you learn how to say something differently than you mean. You don’t say that Wilders deserves to die, but that he’d better be dead. You will have to learn how to disguise straightforward death threats in terms justifiable in terms of the right to freedom of speech.
Farid learns his lesson and adapts his style: now he wishes the “VVD-moron” merely “cholera or some other deadly disease.”
On 3 December 2004 the court passed sentence in the case of Farid A. It was a community service of 120 hours and a suspended sentence of two months. The major considerations were that Wilders felt seriously threatened, that this threat was a direct reaction to Wilders’ political viewpoints. Besides, the court argued that a threat on the internet was more serious than a threat via a less accessible medium, because it could inspire others to match words with deeds.
- “Moreover, the open character of the proven fact bears the risk that a third party is inspired to use violence against politicians and this further leads to an increase in the prevailing feelings of unrest and unsafety in society” [source].
Farid A. was all but impressed by the verdict. On 3 December he wrote in the forum of MaghrebOnline: “In principle I think it is not a matter of death threats and that the right-wing populist only uses the incident for his own political ends. Enough reason for me not to rest until justice has conquered” [source]. Meanwhile Farid had registered the message of forum participant ‘mujahhid’. It was true he had said: “Wilders should really be punished by death,” but he had actually wanted to write: “Wilders can drop dead for his statements and actions.” The judge can judge and convict till he drops, but Farid goes on with his death threats disguised as death wishes. The administrators of the forum MaghrebOnline don’t interfere. With his 17.430 posted messages (last count 6.12.04) Farid 26 was the absolute top dog of the MaghrebOnline forum.
The name Cyberdjihad.blogspot in itself (moved to Cyberjihad on 12.12.04) leaves no room for misunderstanding of the aims of this weblog. Immediately after the murder of Van Gogh a shocking picture was published on the site. It was a picture of the lifeless body of Theo van Gogh on the cycle path of the Linnaeusstraat, with two knives in his body. A day after the murder the picture had already been prominently published on the front page of the Telegraaf. Even more shocking were the heading and the caption, added by ‘Rahmetullah’, a pseudonym of the site administrator Ertan Kiliç.
|It’s your own fault!
Let this be a wise lesson for the enemies of islam. All praise to the brother who has given this piglet a good wash.
The picture was made by Aron Boskma. The 27 year-old man from Amsterdam made the picture with his mobile phone without knowing it was Theo van Gogh. Not until he was home he read this on teletext. Boskma took the picture in order to enforce his eyewitness report to his friends. “I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me.”
“I was waiting in my car in front of a traffic light in the Linnaeusstraat, when suddenly I heard gun shots. A few seconds later a man came stumbling in my direction, along the cycle path. He knocked down a cyclist, went past my bumper and crossed the road. By his attitude you could see this man had death on his heels. At that moment I didn’t realise yet that it was Theo van Gogh and that he already had a gaping knife wound in his neck.”
“Immediately after a man ran in front of my car to the other side of the road, following Van Gogh. He caught him on the pavement. Van Gogh tried to ward off his attacker with two outstretched arms. At that moment the man stuck a Rambo-knife in his body, near his heart.”
According to Boskma it was an enormous knife, with a blade of approximately 30 centimetres. “Straightaway he also planted the second knife in his body, a serrated kind of cook’s knife. Van Gogh collapsed. I didn’t quite realise what I was looking at. I thought it was strange that the perpetrator immediately let go of the knives, and didn’t pull them out of the body. It was a beastly slaughter. Van Gogh was killed like a bull in the arena”
According to Telegraaf editor Peter Schoonen anyone who got hold of this picture would publish it. “This picture was the story” [C|net].
Ertan Kiliç (33) is a Turkish columnist, who comments weekly on integration and islam on his own website. “Every Sunday, when the christians have a day of rest, a satirical view of the Dutch society by a muslim.” On several sites and under different pseudonyms he contributes his verbal bit to the murder of Van Gogh.
On 3 September 2003 a message was published in his ErTaN.blogspot , entitled Ongelovige duivelse mortadda [Disbelieving devilish mortadda]. The message begins with a quotation from the rap number Hirsi Ali Diss by the rap group DHC (Den Haag Connection). In this rap Hirsi Ali is abused and wished to death in unmistakable terms. Referring to the MSN-group ‘MuwahhidinDeWareMoslims’, ‘ErTaN’ reports that Hirsi Ali has been in hiding since 2 September, after this site published her secret private address in The Hague. In a reaction to the message that Hirsi Ali has gone underground, brother Abu Nawwaar (pseudonym of Omar A.) writes:
- “We would like to add and promise Ayaan Hirsi Ali that plans are made for her, and that, wherever she hides, death will overtake her! If the AIVD and other secret services want to fight terrorism in NL they have to quit supporting the ‘Renegade Ayaan’ with whom the Muwahhidien youngsters have a bone to pick. We will not allow the discrediting of the Islaam by such renegade and hungry blondes, but this time a black one. We will not allow the way Ayaan depicts the Islaam. Ayaan who was brought into the world through the gate of urine will never ever escape the Muwahhidien Brigade.”
Although the MSN-group MuwahhidinDeWareMoslims has been off the air since 30 August 2004, this unveiled terrorist rhetoric can still be found on ErTaN’s site.
Ertan himself also writes a message in the MSN-group of Abu Nawwaar. He reacts to the message that Hirsi Ali had to go into hiding in a safe house, because her secret home address had been published. Ertan writes that the message made him “dance with joy.” But in his own weblog he advises: “Next time don’t threat first but come into action straight away. Bam bam!” A visitor calls the leaking out of the address “foolish.” “There goes the ‘element of surprise’.”
Blogboss responsibleSome weblog administrators believe that they are not responsible for the contributions other people publish. However, a blogboss is indeed responsible for the violations of copyright or criminal statements on his weblog, even if the illegal material hasn’t been published on his blog by the administrator himself.
The Dutch Society of Journalists (NVJ), instituted legal proceedings against the Stichting Nieuw Rechts (Foundation New Right), on behalf of a joined photographer. A visitor had put a picture on the weblog of this foundation, as part of a reaction. The judge was of the opinion that the site administrator facilitates and tolerates the publication of this picture, and is thus responsible for it. Apart from a financial compensation, the Stichting Nieuw Rechts had to remove the picture from the site, on penalty of 250 euro per day [Villamedia.nl; Wieringa Advocaten].
What counts for breaches of photo-copyright, also counts for the dissemination of criminal statements [Regulatie en zelfregulatie van internet].
On 6.10.04 Ertan proudly reports that has succeeded in retrieving the address and phone number of Theo van Gogh, “but I will not publish it.” Ertan later regards his fellow local residents Samir A. and Mohammed B. as heroes. “It is now 19 days after THE moment and what is the score? Theo still dead and Ayaan still silenced. Mohammed, you are a topper.” Even on 20.11.04 he still publishes references to the manifesto De Ware moslim (The True muslim), introduced and translated by Mohammed B. And all this on the pretext of: “We also say what we think”.
It was remarkable that ‘Ertan’ operated so openly and didn’t take much effort to reveal his true identity. Who was interested in it could already have easily retrieved his identity in March 2003. It only needed typing his domain name, www.ertan.nl, on the site of the Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN) (Domain registration Netherlands) in order to find his full name, address, town and phone number. With a simple whois query anyone who wanted to could read that Ertan Kiliç had registered his domain officially on 18.3.03.
The true identity of ‘ErTan’ / ‘Rahmetullah’ had been known much longer. On 7 June 2004 Socrates.weblog.nl (together with the editorial staff of the Telegraaf) published his personal data. And on 8.11.04 this was once more repeated by Planet Internet [8.11.04]. That’s why it seemed strange that on 25.11.04 the editorial staff of GeenStijl announced with great pride that they had succeeded in retrieving the identity of Ertan. This ‘scoop’ wasn’t scored by asking for domain data, but by sending a ‘nice and juicy mail’ to the e-mail address on the site cyberdjihad.blogspot.com. The subject of the e-mail was: “More pictures of tacky members of the editorial staff!” The e-mail contained a link to a picture. Via the real-time statistics on the dedicated server of GeenStijl one could determine that Ertan quickly clicked on the url of the picture. This is how Ertan's IP address could be retrieved, and also his home address in Amsterdam.
The ‘scoop’ of GeenStijl seemed to be a prototypical ‘canard’. In his own weblog Ertan remarks that this revealing exercise by GeenStijl was completely superfluous. Just like others had done before, one could have asked for the data of his domain. “In short, GeenStijl hasn’t retrieved my identity, but I revealed my identity long ago.” The essence of the ‘scoop’ of GeenStijl was not showing Ertan’s address data, but prove that the person behind cyberjihad.blogspot.com was one and the same as the one behind Ertan.nl. This had also been published on 8.11.04 in the article of Planet Internet. So the ‘scoop’ had little news value.
Ertan himself reported death threats to the police. In a voicemail he was called a ‘black banana’ and threatened with death.
Preacher of the sound faith: Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven
Jilles van de Ven (25), alias Abdul-Jabbar, is an indigenous Dutchman who converted to islam when he was 14. He interrupted his grammar school for a year to study in Medina (Saudi Arabia). After his stay in ‘Hollywood of islam’ he studied the Middle-East at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. His personal life story can be read on maroc.nl.
Jilles is an islamic fundamentalist pur sang. “Even if you execute 90 percent of the sharia and 10 percent not, you are still a disbeliever.” You are not a muslim until you pursue a worldwide constitution according to islamic laws. To him the only true islamic country in the world is the Afghanistan of the Taliban, one of the most horrifying episodes of world history. He openly incites to jihad. He is the driving force behind the magazine Wij moslims, in which the same message is propagated. The preacher of the islamic ideal state is associated with the radical foundation Al Wagf Al Islam (Eindhoven), which is affiliated with the Al Fourquaan mosque, suspected of recruiting youngsters for the jihad.
He believes he is a religious king in the land of the blind. “I have a thorough command of the basic knowledge every muslim should have, but since hardly anyone has it they look up at me.” He has a lot of followers, especially among young Moroccans. One of his activities was teaching the jihad in the Abu Bakr mosque in Almere.
On al-islaam.com he presents his sermons, which he disseminates in several mosques. In a delirious-religious style the ‘internet imam’ preaches and propagates the voluntary jihad. Jilles testifies “that there is no deity apart from Allah.” His primitive texts show a presumptuous devotion. Jilles behaves in a more islamic manner than the prophet himself. “What this ‘koeffaar’ (disbeliever) still doesn’t seem to understand is that we don’t need to be recruited. When we turn on the news, we already see enough to do something on a voluntary basis.”
Look before you leap
In February 2003 Abdul-Jabbar complained about the quality of the Dutch jihadists. The reason was “all the fuss around the two brothers from Amsterdam who were stranded in the Ukraine.” Youngsters talking about the jihad often do this ‘immaturely’: “A lot of emotional cackling of headless chickens.” In his distinctive pedantic tone he points out to the young jihadists that they should prepare themselves thoroughly before they go on jihad. “Reckon with extreme cold (in Chechenia, Afghanistan and Kashmir), or extreme heat (as in the Philippines). Train your body and learn to handle weapons.” As an older man he gives them this wise advice:
“Do you really intend to go? Keep it to yourself and don’t tell everyone around you. Are you really ready to go? Talk to other mujaheddin and listen to their stories, or watch the numerous videotapes about Bosnia and Chechenia. Read as much as possible about the area you are heading for, and prepare yourself here by fasting a lot, eating very modestly, by sleeping without your duvet on the hard cold floor, training outside come rain or shine and most of all, by preparing mentally by extra prayer, doing da’wah, fasting, reading the quran, etc. It is ludicrous that you never see people with the biggest mouths collect money for good causes, do the da’wah, organise lectures or be famous for their hikma [wisdom] and taqwa [piety]. Try to live for islam first, before talking about dying for islam. I am not saying that you should study first for ten years, for that is a bid’ah many lost persons proclaim to keep youngsters away from the Jihad. But do realise what you are doing. Look before you leap.”
Yet Jilles maintained that he was not inciting to a holy war. “I am not capable of doing this at all. I am behind the jihad that is going on in Iraq and Palestine. But a jihad in the Netherlands is something completely different. Apart from the question whether it is legitimate according to islam to fight such a battle here, you should also consider whether it is wise. What does it lead to? Look at the murder of Theo van Gogh. In the polls Wilders has skyrocketed to twenty seats and the AIVD has expanded” [Rotterdams Dagblad: 21.11.04].
Jilles denies that he has inspired members of the Hofstadgroup to take terrorist actions. “It is said now that Jason W. was inspired by me. This should also be the case for other suspects. But I honestly know nothing about this” [Rotterdams Dagblad]. He only knew Jason W. “I remember him because he approached me after the service three times in all. It is a while ago, but I didn’t notice anything extremist or dangerous in him at the time” [idem].
To Jason W. Jilles was an inspirator [NRC 15.11.04]. And vice versa Jilles has an enormous admiration for Jason W. “I love him. I am ashamed that a 20 year-old boy is already so far that he can be there, whereas I, being older, older than he is anyway, haven’t reached that level yet. You leave your native country, family and loved ones behind. For islam. Perhaps you will die.” He openly declares that he wants to grow to that level. Jilles was modest; he seemed to be ashamed that was merely a writing-desk or internet terrorist.
For him the murder of Van Gogh was inevitable. “You could wait for it to happen. I haven’t mourned for him one moment. In some way or other I was even glad, Van Gogh did nothing but insult muslims in the depth of their souls. As far as I am concerned he might have been hit by a train or die of cancer. He is dead, that’s what counts. The fact that he was murdered by a muslim does mean, however, that the whole to-do has flared up again” [Rotterdams Dagblad 21.11.04]. Before this Jilles already announced that he wants to leave his country: “After 11 September I have the feeling: I don’t belong here. The hypocrisy here disgusts me.” According to him true islamic countries do not exist, apart from Afghanistan under the Taliban. “But you have a choice between cancer and the flue. Holland is the cancer” [Trouw, 21.12.01].
He caused quite a stir on 23 November 2004 when he claimed on television that he wouldn’t grieve if Geert Wilders were to die before too long [Het Elfde Uur; video]. Politicians exploded with fury. The chairpersons of all represented parliamentary parties sent a public letter to the Minister of Justice, in which they not only expressed their anxiety about and condemnation of Abdul-Jabbar’s statements, but also requested the minister to investigate whether action could be taken against it.
Not only in radical muslim circles were the reactions outraged. Wasn’t this an example of ultimate hypocrisy, of strikingly selective indignation? Hadn’t it been precisely Theo van Gogh who said far worse things about for example Paul Rosenmöller? The chairpersons of the parliamentary parties acted as if such death wishes were new in Holland and suddenly claimed that it was enough.
In a written statement Jilles explained he didn’t want to incite anyone to kill Geert Wilders. But the enemies of islam can be dealt with, as far as he was concerned. Jilles is proud of being called a fundamentalist. Yet, with his stand he revealed an ambiguity: how many autochthonous Dutch people wouldn’t be pleased to hear that Osama bin-Laden had finally been eliminated?
The day after Van de Ven’s TV-performance the spokesman of the Radboud University, Willem Hooglugt, announced that he had placed himself outside the university community with his statements. Legal action against Van de Ven was taken into consideration. “In any case we will send him a letter in which we tell him his statements are unacceptable.” Legally Van de Ven’s statements are not punishable, but “we have also got the university regulations. This doesn’t fit in with the values and norms of the university.”
In an interview with the BBC World Service Van de Ven said that he was prepared to support young Dutchmen who intend to travel to Iraq to commit attacks on British soldiers. “Well, if they want to fight abroad, then I will support them. If you ask me is it Jihad to blow up three British soldiers in the south of Iraq, I say yes, this is Jihad” [Dutch fear Muslim radicalism].
Counter-terror from the right wing
Nationalistic and racist reactions
The islam-inspired murder of Van Gogh was grist to the political mill of extremely nationalist and racist groups. They seized the event to give vent to their violent and venomous opinions. The extremist right abused the situation and made flat out incitements to hatred and violence against Moroccans, muslims, immigrants in general and against any advocate of a peaceful coexistence.
In the forum of Polinco — a politically incorrect forum “for people who think” — the tone was set by moderator ‘Brama’:
- “Nothing will change as long as the spirit and politics of the cowardly left-wing social-democratic lackeys that is everywhere in our society has free rein. There lies the responsibility for the politics of tolerance and gagging that has been preached and imposed for decades! THAT’s what is responsible for rewarding the “loonies”, for protecting murderers and rapists, for accommodating criminals and thugs, for stimulating moral decay, for destroying the standardisation of prevailing ethical values that have grown for centuries.”
The right-wing extremists consider the murder to be a dramatic turning-point in Dutch history. Mohammed B. “not only ended the life of the free speaker Theo van Gogh, but by killing him lit the fuse of the smouldering powder keg that is ‘multicultural society’” [Brama]. “War is now on ” [F101]. It is a war one welcomes and that one has helped to prepare. “I really hope that the bomb has burst now and that the tide is turning” [Fellow countryman]. Of course “for this miscarriage who carried out the execution no punishment is high enough” [Antifa hater].
They spoke in defence of Geert Wilders (ex-VVD), but warn minister Verdonk of Immigration Affairs not to lose the sympathy of the anti-islamites. She had said that the government would not only take severe action against terrorists, but also against persons threatening muslims or committing attacks on schools and mosques. “We will not tolerate the muslim community being blamed and excluded. That a divide arises. And that we end up in a spiral of fear and hatred, alienation, stigmatisation and polarisation” [Rita Verdonk, Minister of Immigration Affairs and Integration]. The right-wing extremists didn’t like this at all.
Early peakers and moderate muslims
“Murderers like Mohammed B. are young dogs, reckless early peakers, who think they can already go for the conquest of the West. The ‘moderate’ muslims prefer to wait, following the politics of the ever-imported imams from Saudi Arabia, until the proportions are more to their advantage. You may want to wait for this, but do not expect mercy for all those years you have helped them. In the eyes of Allah you will always remain the disbelieving dog who deserves to die” [aspirant Policoon ‘Sammael’ in Polinco].
Moderator ‘Brama’ thinks that all Dutch citizens and politicians should be protected, “if necessary by taking rigorous and unconstitutional measures.” But that doesn’t count for Dutch allochthonous people, or those who live in the Netherlands. Representatives of the Moroccan and muslim communities are depicted as ‘highwaymen from connected muslim clubs’ who try to make us believe that islam is a peaceful religion and that the Dutch muslim community cannot be held responsible for the violent actions of a stray lunatic. A ‘peaceful islam’ is a contradiction in terms: “basically islam is a religion of oppression and repression, and completely rests upon the foundation that disapproves of any democratic form of society and incites to destroy it, only Allah’s will (maznavic) will be law!” [Brama].
In overblown metaphors the social climate in the Netherlands was diagnosed thus:
- “Holland, the country that is considered to be a safe haven for the politically persecuted, has lost faith in itself and its political credibility and has its talents wasted by slick left-wing politics. Wasted by politically correct fools who have allowed unbridled hordes of foreigners to flood this little frog-pond country of ours, with a fake and mistaken feeling of humanity” [Brama].
Ungesundes Volksempfinden“I ... thinks setting fire to propperties of the invaders completely legitimate and right” [Anti-link(s)]. This prospective Polincoon praises “the brave resistance of courageous NL-ers” for making it clear to ‘the occupiers’ that they are no longer wanted in ‘our country’. “Slowly and with due pride we can be Dutchmen again.” The new heroes of the extremist right are folk who set fire to mosques and put bombs under islamic schools. Gesundheit.
The appropriate therapy is obvious: “Is there a mosque on fire? Extinguish it with petrol!” [Craig Montgomery, who immediately hoped the perpetrator would be a Moroccan]. Even though some attacks fail, they are a signal “that we no longer appreciate and tolerate the presence of islam” [Anti-link(S)]. The ‘NL resistance fighters’ who are responsible for this, deserve a medal and a statue.
The dominant expectation was that radical islamites should carry out further actions, “then we will automatically get enough on our side!” [Countryman]. In order to speed up this process the ‘Antifa hater’ incited ‘our youth’ to “continue the attempts to destroy mosques and islamic institutions. It doesn’t always have to succeed. Even failed attempts count. The task at hand is to get serious and force the islamite to show his true nature to the Dutch. During a premature ignition of the conflict, which has been coming up for years, there are still chances that the plague can be reversed.”
Therefore all attacks on islamic institutions were endorsed and continuation encouraged. The motto: “He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” “You can keep on snubbing, terrorising, stabbing, stealing from, cheating, telling lies to, robbing, raping or killing the Dutch, but some day there will be a reaction” [Republican].
Holland was heading for a civil war — “and then we will pay back those ‘culture enrichers’ and the blathering fools who side with them at an exorbitant rate of interest” [‘fullisfull’].
The first furious reactions to the murder of Van Gogh could be summarised in one word: “Revenge” [Kobus58]. “Cohen calls for tolerance between the different nationalities! I don’t want this at all. Cohen asks us to remain calm. And I don’t want that either! I want the government to finally protect our people from those lunatics walking around in this society” [Luna].
The forum of the Nationale Alliantie is, according to them, intended for discussion, “thus not to insult, gossip or reach someone.” All messages are removed “that promote sexual perversion, homosexual, lesbian or paedophile webspots, and all discussions that have nothing to do with common sense.” How this forum policy works out in practice, can best be illustrated with the reactions to the bombing of the islamic primary school in Eindhoven. ‘Ben Militant’ —operating in Polinco as ‘Anti-link(s)’— was proud to be a Dutchman again. “This is predominantly caused by the brave resistance of courageous NL-ers who demonstrate to the occupiers by their actions that we don’t appreciate the presence of non-European islamites any longer.”
The perpetrator(s) of the attack are praised, because they have given it careful consideration. “He did it at night when nobody was near so that there were no casualties, but the muslims do get a head-smack telling them to piss off” [‘Ginger’]. ‘Someone’ disagrees: “Think it is a good action a pity those little jihad fighters weren’t in the school and the explosion wasn’t big enough to wipe out the whole mosque at once.” The other forum members believed he was going a bit too far. “Kill innocent children? Killing children is the summit of cowardice” [angel23]. Forum administrator ‘Dura’ intervenes. “Inciting to hatred or sympathy for murder or blowing-up, we cannot permit for a diversity of reasons, the most important of which is its illegality. You may not be charged yourself, but the party may be, the administrators, or it may be the moderators who are charged, or prosecuted.” Of course it is understandable that “in the present social climate of oppression and high-handedly imposed ‘sympathy’ for our guests imposed” one expresses feelings of anger by inciting or committing violence. “However, a good activist doesn’t know blind hatred.”
The National Alliance intends to be an umbrella-organisation in which several movements meet: nationalism, conservatism, fortuynism and national-socialism. Although the National Alliance officially dissociates from racism, its web forum was filled with racist statements before and after the murder of Van Gogh [Donselaar / Rodrigues 2004: 55 ff.].
In Holland Hardcore, ‘Eigen Volk Eerst’ (Own People First), the nationalist and national-socialist forum participants do not beat about the bush. “Take action now” [Leonno] against “those fucking muslims” [Hollandsjoggie] was the mood. Specific propositions are made. “Shall we start by making the Diamantbuurt [a working-class area in The Hague (ed.)] white again” [rick]. “It is time for a big ethnic cleansing in Holland and [I] am going to start today who joins me?” [hardcore-traaie]. “From now on I consider every muslim to be my enemy, whether a ‘liberal’ muslim or not!! … All (non-European) muslims and their offspring out of Europe, to begin with out of Holland” [Ben Spandoek]. “My hate has only grown now and I really feel like taking up arms” [Mjollnir]. “We need to organise a crusade through the Netherlands and kick off every muslim head, and also those dirty wannabe-muslims” [bOmberjack]. In order to make society liveable again, suggestions are made for new government policy. “The government should shoot all those f-foreigners” [harskamphooligan].
Those on the forum who tried to put things into perspective was immediately pounced on and threatened with being shot.
Nearly all forum members condemn the murder of Theo van Gogh with muscular words. But some are so blinded by their fanatical anti-semitism that they applaud the murder. “All praise to the martyr who shot down Theo van Gogh!!! This is how the zionists and their servants come to their bloody ends! So as far as this is concerned it is precisely BONUSCH that this ZIONIST has been killed, no matter who did it. Now also Hirschi Ali, Paul Cliteur, Job Cohen, Geert Wilders, Leon de Winter, etc.” [Pascalliow].
Illustrative of the resentful extremism of Holland Hardcore were the reactions to an incident occurring a few hours after the murder of Van Gogh. On 2 November a 20 year-old woman was assaulted in the bus in Dordrecht. A 31 year-old man from Dordrecht pulled her headscarf without any reason and subsequently swore at her. When the woman protested the man pushed her head away with his foot. When the woman said she intended to warn the police the man uttered another threat. He was detained by the police on the Stationsplein. In Holland Hardcorean explanation was given for the interpretation of such an incident. The ‘militant Dortenaar’ after all ‘was absolutely right’. “Most probably this wasn’t an ordinary Islamic tourist, but a female occupier, and daughter of Allah, so each negative approach is absolutely legitimate. (…) Headscarves don’t belong in our territory” [Ben Spandoek]. “That man is a hero” [Separated]. But not all forum members agree. “Being Dutch we are different from that stinking bastard by our higher degree of civilisation and socialisation!” [weespterror].
Fortuynists smell profit
The fortuynists too saw new opportunities to bring their muddied ideals into the limelight. The peak of their political movement was turning increasingly bleak. The parliamentary and party leaders had fought each other out of the door in an amusingly revealing way since the beginning of the fortuynist movement. The new right-wing fortuynists regarded the murder of Theo van Gogh as proof that Pim had been right after all. “Islam is a dangerous religion because it inspires people to violently impose a backward culture on other people.” The orphaned fortuynists still try to reanimate Pim Fortuyn politically.
For the languishing fortuynist movement the murder of Van Gogh was a welcome straw to clutch at. Islamophobia, also (or especially) stimulated by Fortuyn, Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh, was suddenly stirred up by a ritualistic slaughter of the Dutch ‘village idiot’ (as he called himself) by a lunatic of Moroccan descent, who committed a murder out of a fanatical islamic belief.
The fortuynist forums offer ample room for racist, islamophobic and extremely nationalist ideas. The Pim Fortuyn Forum is a clear example. The time for dialogue is over. Balkenende still tries to talk the terrorists to death [Eckey76]. “Islam wants to conquer the world” [Yvonne] and wants to realise this with violence. “Islam is simply highly dangerous and can only be fought with a big stick, not with sweet buns” [Dewi Sudarsono]. Mosques should “not be sent up in flames, but be closed and those islamites out of the country” [Truth]. And “that we —from a cultural view far superior— Westerners let ourselves be screwed by retarded goat fuckers in tent dresses is a complete mystery to me” [Right-wing liberal]. We have to make a clean sweep of the ‘muslim mess’ with harsh measures: “blow up all mosques and hate-sowing schools!!!!! That is the only way to get rid of these aggressive parasites. (…) I am angry, fuck off. Christian Holland clean” [fran].
On 10.11.04 the chairman of the LPF, Sergej Moleveld (33), was detained by the police because he had threatened member of the board and member of parliament Mat Herben by fax, in the name of a self-invented islamic group. He had also made a previous false report of threat on 5.11.04. Herben regarded the threat by his own party chairman as an “unpleasant surprise,” but appreciated the swift action of the police. Moleveld —in daily life a psychiatric nurse— had succeeded chairman Belder, who had had to resign when it turned out that he had been convicted for fraud. On 11 November Moleveld was discharged from his function of chairman of the LPF. His committee tasks were passed on to a temporary management team, presided by prof. dr. Bert Snel. The LPF saw no need to give a reason for his resignation [source]. Party chairman Van As made clear that he was baffled by the stupid action of the LPF chairman. “It is a sign of a complete lack of responsibility to pour oil on the fire in this way in this terribly tense period. Besides, the islamic community is put in a bad light by this. This crazy action confirms all the more that our decision to leave the LPF party has been the correct one. The LPF-fraction wants to continue the debate on the danger of muslim extremism in a sharp, though sound and substantively correct way. Therefore we cannot but strongly condemn the action of the party chairman.”
There were heated discussions about the murder of Van Gogh on the forum of Leefbaar Rotterdam (Liveable Rotterdam). Obviously here too there was much emotion, anger and concern. “Deeply sad Holland is ill. With thanks to left-wing Holland” [Wim Dorsman]. “If you jihate it’s time you go.” And preferably a bit more muscular: “Holland its time you becomes boss in your own country again. Fuck off the whole lot that don’t belong here.” Or —without language errors— from an ‘honorary’ member of the forum: “When do those fucking islamites finally fuck out of the country?” [AU tochtonous]. And why not, at the same time “throw out those multi-cultis: The socialists have been bringing in these islamo-fascists for years” [idem].
As a result of the Thou-Shalt-Not-Kill incident in Rotterdam Hemelrijk (Leefbaar Rotterdam) wrote a column entitled: Andermans volk eerst (Other people first) in which the police are depicted as “the inquisition of the mussulmen”. By order of the mayor of Rotterdam the constitutional state would have been definitely carried to its grave. “Our government fears and distrusts its own inhabitants most. Twenty years long it has cultivated and subsidised muslim extremism in this country.” Anyone who objected to it was execrated as a neo-nazi or killed.
Extreme right on the way up?How strong is the extreme right? Has it succeeded in reinforcing itself in the confused days after the murder of Van Gogh? The Monitor racisme en extreem-rechts(Monitor on racism and the extreme right) by Jaap van Donselaar and Peter R. Rodrigues doesn’t only register the growing importance of the extreme right in the Netherlands, but also examines in an addendum the wave of racist and extreme right-wing violence after the murder of Theo Van Gogh. The general picture was rather gloomy. Extreme-right youth cultures become an increasing problem, new extreme-right parties have come up and the number of activists has grown. The internet generates a platform where extreme-right statements encounter little obstruction. The involvement of the extreme right-wing has also been seen in increased expressions of anti-semitism, violence and cases of discrimination. The extreme right seized the murder of Van Gogh with both hands.
All extreme-right political parties (Nederlandse Volks-Unie, Nieuwe Nationale Partij, Nationale Alliantie, Nieuw Rechts) showed a strong intensifying of islamophobia, yet didn’t succeed in recruiting many new members.
Lonsdale youngsters flirt with right-wing extremist views. With their xenophobia and desire for a white, islam-free Holland they provoke public opinion. They oppose the establishment and try to attract attention and gain respect from other members of their group. They feel let down.
Virtual violence: blockades and decapitations
The internet became a crucial battlefield in which political controversies were fought out. In this, the sharply opposing parties do not restrict themselves to expressing their visions and arguments on their own sites. They also fight each other on neutral sites (such as the books of condolence) and they enter the sites of the opponent. Especially right-wing extremists penetrated the web forums of Moroccan sites on a large scale. This gave rise to a virtual civil war.
The internet is an arena in which political conflicts are fought out, but in this the battle it was itself at stake. This is, for that matter, no new phenomenon. During all recent wars and main terrorist actions patriotically digital avengers took the law in their own hands and tried to shut down or disorganise the hostile information system in cyberspace. The two most used tactics are decapitating the website (stealing or modifying the opening page) and blocking access to sites by means of a DDos Attack (‘Distributed Denial of Service’). The aim of the first tactic is resolutely changing the message the opponent wants to express on his site. The aim of the second tactic is blocking access to a hostile site. Well-organised DDos-attacks can even put computers and networks out of action, effectively disrupting the virtual organisation of the target.
CyberCrackers and Ddos-kiddoes
The spokesman of the group, Eric de Vogt, stated that he had 190.000 hacked computers at his disposal to launch the Ddos-attack on the government sites (although only 4.600 hacked machines were deployed). The action was programmed for 5 days. The hackers themselves hadn’t expected that their ‘frivolous’ action would be so enormous. The spokesman also admitted that his group was responsible for shutting down GeenStijl.
De Vogt wasn’t arrested immediately, although his name and phone number had been circulating on the internet for some days. He was bothered by counter-moves though. “We are threatened by phone day and night. We get pizzas we haven’t ordered, they send people from mortuaries to us. Quite a nuisance” [Trouw]. These were mainly reactions from GeenStijl.nl, after the GeenStijl-editors had exposed him as the government hacker on 7 October.
The attacks on GeenStijl were so violent —attacks on the site from 89.000 computers— that she lost her hoster Cysonet [WebWereld 1; 2]. Since the publication of the address data phone calls and hate mails poured in to the de Vogt family. “Couriers with non-ordered pizzas came to the door and suddenly our house is for sale on internet. And to think that those boys actually had no bad intentions with their action,” his mother explained. Subsequently Eric Vogt reported slander and threats to the police.
According to the law on computer crime hacking is a criminal offence. Deliberately destroying or making data files unreachable can be punished with a maximum prison sentence of two years [compare the criminal code Article 161 sexies]. The offenders can also be civilly punished. According to ICTU, the foundation that attends to the administration and web space for regering.nl for the government, Eric de Vogt can expect a substantial insurance claim. The ICT says they have experienced “real damage.” The claim was assessed at some tens of thousands of euros.
Hacking websites of political opponents had already occurred in Holland before 2 November 2004. A recent example is the attack on the internet pages regering.nl and overheid.nl, which took place in October 2004. As a consequence of this attack the government websites were inaccessible for four days. The government pages were inaccessible due to a DDos-attack. This also made the e-mail addresses ending on @regering.nl and @cabinet.nl inaccessible. Besides, some dozens of other internet pages were attacked by the same group of hackers. According to the hacker group 0x1fe, who claimed the attack, it was a protest against cabinet policy. “People just sit and watch, we at least do something about it. Such a strike doesn’t interest the cabinet at all, this however will shake them up. The cabinet fucks things up for us, so we do it for them” [source: Fok]. The goal wouldn’t be to cause damage, but purely ‘to get back at’ the members of the cabinet. In order to recover the DDos-attackers, the Dutch police called in a computer security company. Exactly a week after the murder of Van Gogh the police force Haaglanden, together with the National Police Force, arrested two men under suspicion of having committed this attack. One of the suspects was Eric de Vogt (18) from Breda. He explained to several of the media that he was responsible for these attacks [Trouw; RadioOnline; Radio 538].
Already on 1 November a call could be read on the website of Indymedia to participate in actions to get sites of extreme-right organisations off the air. Most often mentioned were the sites of Nieuw Rechts, the Nieuwe Nationale Partij, the Nationale Alliantie, StopMartijn.nl and Stormfront. The site of Nieuw Rechts was shut down due to this action. In extreme-right circles it was suggested that Eric de Vogt was behind the action. His address was disseminated and threats poured in. “Turn yourself in and demand access to a police cell may be the best solution to survive… Or else go into hiding for the rest of your life” [source_1; source_2].
From Tuesday evening 23 November on the site maghrebonline.nl was inaccessible. Computer hackers carried out a successful attack on the site. Because other internet pages were also bothered by the computer attack, the site was closed at the request of the internet provider. The administrator of the site, M. Elmakkaoui, said he had no idea who was responsible for this attack.
On Thursday 25 November GeenStijl discovered that a picture of Mohammed B. had been published on the Cyberdjihad.blogspot of Ertan Kiliç. This shocked the editorial staff of GeenStijl so immensely, that she decided to take control. The picture of Mohammed B. was replaced by a photo depicting a kneeling muslim being ‘humped’ by a goat. The digital avengers added: “Theo was right.” A war was going on in blog country.
Spiral of violence: powder letters, threats, arsons and bombs
Throwing caution to the winds?After the murder of Van Gogh a survey of Motivaction showed that the majority of the Dutch people thought that all means were justified to deal with muslim extremists. Dutch people were prepared to give up their privacy without complaining and the government was allowed to break its own laws in this case. And VVD-member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn’t have to moderate her tone.
The raging virtual civil war on the internet seemed to overstep its own limits more and more. Muslim organisations immediately feared that islamic institutions would be the target of counter-moves. The attacks were not long in coming. In a week the attacks on islamic institutions (mosques, schools, clubs and entrepreneurs) accumulated, alternated with attacks on christian churches. The threatening shadows of a civil war loomed, fought out in religious clothes. The state monopoly on the legitimate use of physical violence was defied. The governmental duty to protect all citizens against physical violence was neglected. The intelligence and security services failed. For days the politicians in office were as confused as the Dutch population. And at first the government only sent out wrong signals: too slow, too divided and at crucial moments completely incompetent. A vice-premier who didn’t realise that he shouldn’t stir up a violently escalating conflict with muscular war language, but should instead take de-escalating measures.
This is a small selection of the actions and reactions stirred up by the murder of Van Gogh.
- 4.11.04 — Thursday night: Arson in a mosque under construction in Utrecht. The mosque suffers considerable smoke and soot damage.
- 4.11.04 — Thursday night: Burglary of the study of Fatima Elatik, district council administrator in Zeeburg (Amsterdam).
- 5.11.04 — Friday morning: seven allochthonous shopkeepers in the Van Woustraat in Amsterdam receive a powder letter in which the sender summons muslims to leave the country. The substance proved to be innocent, but the letter wasn’t. It was addressed to ‘filthy butchers’. In the Polinco forum ‘Anti-link(s)’ wrote the following comments: “Excellently done, those who sent those powder letters. It may contribute, although probably only slightly, to a climate in which non-European foreigners and muslims in particular will start to feel increasingly less at home and wanted in our country. They may not immediately comply with the ‘friendly’ request to return to their country, but the signal and green light have been given, and that’s what counts most. On to a safe, familiar and so obviously also muslim-free Europe!!!”
- 5.11.04 — Friday evening: Bomb alert at the American embassy in The Hague.
- Weekend: Arson of mosques in Rotterdam, Groningen and IJsselstein. Attempted arson of the An Nasr-mosque in Huizen (three persons were detained for possession of turpentine, paper, benzine and meths). In Rotterdam, Groningen and Veghel houses of worship were plastered with racist slogans.
- 8.11.04 — Monday morning: bombing of an islamic primary school in Eindhoven. At about three thirty in the morning an explosion took place in the islamic school Tarieq Ibnoe Ziyad. There was a lot of material damage, but no personal injuries. Two churches were set on fire by throwing in combustible material, in Utrecht (Pentecostal church) and Amersfoort (Triumphator church).
Fire fighters try to douse the flames at the Bedir Islamic elementary school in Uden (9.11.2004). The Zembla documentary on White Power in Uden gives an idea of the atmosphere at the school.
- 9.11.04 — In the night of Monday upon Tuesday a bag of excrement was thrown into the Moroccan consulate in the Calandstraat in Rotterdam. On the same night unidentified persons tried to set fire to two churches in Rotterdam. Tuesday night: arson at the Bedir islamic primary school in Uden by seven autochthonous pupils of lower secondary professional education (who co-ordinated their actions by msn). The school was burnt down completely. On the walls of the school slogans were plastered that referred to the murder of Van Gogh: “Theo R.I.P.” and a white power sign, the world wide symbol for white racists. Two months earlier a mosque in Uden was plastered with racist slogans. In Boxmeer the Pauluskerk was set on fire.
- 10.11.04 — Wednesday: In the early hours of Wednesday morning the Sefaat mosque in Heerenveen was set on fire. The police extinguished the two seats of the fire. A 25 year-old man from Joure later confesses that he has committed the arson. The police find right-extremist posters and flags in his house. In the catholic Wethouder Van Eupenschool in Eindhoven a classroom completely burned down. In Rotterdam two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the reformed church on the Breeplein.
- 11.11.04 — Thursday: During the night between Wednesday and Thursday a mosque and the town hall in Veendam were plastered with racist slogans and signs. In Venray the police prevented attempted arson.
- 13.11.04 — Saturday morning: The small mosque in the Ruijsstraat in Helden (Noord-Limburg) was largely burnt down. Muslim reactions were shocked and indignant. They were getting ready to celebrate the end of ramadan. The sugar feast was abruptly disturbed by the short and fierce fire. “Suppose someone sets fire to a church at christmas, how would the catholics react?” In Helden community tensions between ‘autochthonous’ and ‘allochthonous’ residents had already been reported for much longer. There had been an earlier attempt to burn down the mosque. And Lonsdale youngsters were arrested for plastering walls with racist slogans. According to the police the group consists of 110 to 120 youngsters. The hard core doesn’t have right-extremist views, but they are xenophobic.
A special schoolThe attack on the primary school Tarieq Ibnoe Ziyad in Eindhoven was a special case in this succession of incidents [Kafka]. On the one hand because of the vehemence (a professional bomb was used), on the other hand because it was the third time in a year and a half that the school was the target of an attack. On 15 June 2003 five boys from Eindhoven set off with Molotov cocktails to set fire to a mosque. As there were people in the mosque in question and they didn’t want to run the risk of being seen by witnesses, they went to the islamic primary school instead. The Molotov cocktails were thrown inside through a window, but the fire went out by itself and the damage was limited. The action was performed by four extreme-right ‘Gabbers’ (Blokes) who were, for instance, active on the internet platform Holland Hardcore. On this website the attack was applauded and the offenders were called heroes. The perpetrators stated that they had wanted to perform an act against foreigners. During their period of custody they said that their way of looking at foreigners had completely changed and they unanimously condemned their action. After their release they soon dismissed these healing lies. At least two of them became active again on the forum ofHolland Hardcore. One of the convicted, Maikel Krueger, remained active within extreme-right Gabber circles.
Exactly one year after this arson there was another attempt to set fire to the primary school on 15 June 2004. A window was destroyed and burning papers were put on the windowsill. The perpetrators of this attack weren’t caught. Strictly speaking it was even the fourth time: also on 20 April 1989 a Molotov cocktail had been thrown in. 20 April is Hitler’s birthday and is a traditional neo-nazi action and feast day.
Extreme-right and neo-nazi organisations and persons reacted approvingly to the bomb attack. On the official forum of the party Nieuw Rechts one could read: “The many years of terror committed by the muslims in Holland, causes this type of action. The muslims have brought this down on themselves.” […] “In order to solve a problem it may help to have it escalated first. A bit of oil on the fire may be a good thing.”
Also in circles of Fortuyn supporters the bombing can count on sympathetic reactions. Johan Wiersma, former parliament-candidate of the LPF, explains why. “The terrorist-herders, as we can call islamites, get a taste of their own medicine. Who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind, Thou shalt not kill only terrify! Great. Keep going, the Dutch people don’t have to let themselves be walked all over. The actions should be massive and take place everywhere; that is much more effective than the re-migration projects of Min. Verdonk. All Islamites out of Europe beginning with Holland!” Also on other popular internet forums, where Fortuyn supporters are active, the reactions to the attack are predominantly positive.
Most incidents occur in the urban agglomeration of Western Holland and Brabant.
Although there were no victims in these counter-terrorist actions because they predominantly took place at night, the number of attacks increased rapidly. They were each actions contributing to the creation of conditions under which new political murders become more probable. And that is precisely what terrorism aims at: stirring up fear, which goes beyond the shock of the deeds committed [NRC 6 November 2004]. This psychological warfare carries a great risk: that the government and its fearful citizens are carried away in a spiral of violence. In order to avoid this danger great determination is required, and keeping up one’s own rules.
Muslim organisations asked for extra police protection. The Union of Moroccan Mosques Amsterdam and Surroundings (Ummao) announced that there would be extra surveillance by volunteers during the services in the twenty associated houses of worship. After the bombing of an islamic school in Eindhoven the decision was made to protect all islamic buildings 24 hours per day. Also in other towns the surveillance of muslim organisations was intensified, by extra surveillance of the police.
Thou shalt not kill
The Rotterdam artist Chris Ripke painted a work of art on the window of his studio to show his disgust with the murder of Theo van Gogh. He painted a pretty (dove-like) angel that floats above the world with on it the text: “Thou shalt not kill!” To this biblical commandment he added the date 02.11.04. Ripke’s studio is right next to the mosque in the Insulindestraat. The mosque’s board believed the text was offensive and contacted Opstelten, the mayor of Rotterdam. The latter immediately sent the police and a sprayer-car to destroy the work of art.
On 3 November Wim Nottroth, journalist for the small local TV station Cineac Noord, went to the Insulindestraat to film this work of art. He was asked not to film, because it would stir up too much tension in the area. When he saw that the work of art was in danger of being destroyed by a municipal cleansing team, he posted himself in front of it as a sign of protest. “If this is removed it will lead to more misery than when it remains,” he argued. The police couldn’t be convinced. After some scuffle with the police on the spot he was arrested. His colleague Mireille was forced by the police to delete part of her shots.
The window painting was wilfully destroyed by order of the mayor. The police said the text “Thou shalt not kill!” could be understood as “a racist statement directed at the neighbours.” A liberal mayor regards an elementary bible text as a subversive racist slogan. Anxiousness to fever pitch — muslims might feel hurt by such a strange, pacifist commandment. Chris Ripke was upset. You could hardly dream of a more universal text: “Thou stands for everybody, doesn’t it?” When he, trembling with fear, had to allow the destruction of his window painting, the police made their point: he should forget about it.
Wim Nottroth had lost all understanding.
- ‘What a country. You can’t believe it. Both Chris and I have been working for years with Turkish and Moroccan children/youngsters that we try to involve in our things. What a twisted government. How beautiful the saying “Thou shalt not kill!” actually is. It can hardly be more universal. Unbelievable that you cannot put it on your own wall! I am infuriated!” [source].
The work of art has been destroyed. But there are still some rough images of Cineac Noord, not only showing the beautiful window painting, but also the unedifying performance of the police, the destruction of the work of art and Chris Ripke’s comments.
“Thou shalt not kill;
and whosoever shall kill
shall be in danger of the judgment.”
The incident drew a lot of media-attention and many citizens protested against the performance of the local authorities. The film on the removal of the bible text was quickly disseminated via several weblogs. Via e-mail and websites pamphlets with the text “Thou shalt not kill” were distributed with the request to post it on windows. Citizens were asked to take a piece of chalk to write down the sixth biblical commandment next to their front door. Under this pressure the decisive mayor of Rotterdam admitted he had made a small mistake. “The text shouldn’t have been removed,” he wrote in a letter to Wim Nottroth. He apologized to Chris Ripke for the course action against subversive biblical language.
Regulation of the internet: forms and methods
Self-regulation and government regulation
Internet is not a sanctuary for criminality. In general it is assumed that what is prohibited offline is also valid online [Memorandum Recht op de electronische snelweg (Justice on the electronic highway), 1998]. This is a logical and consistent starting point. However, the logic of the analogous world cannot be transferred to the digital world just like that. The virtual world displays a number of specific peculiarities we do not know in the analogous world. The major peculiarity is the cross-border nature of the internet (the second its anonymity). Many questions with respect to jurisdiction cannot be exclusively answered on a national level anymore.
How should a democratic constitutional state take action against its own citizens who voice criminally forbidden discriminating statements and threats via websites stationed in states where these statements fall within the constitutionally embedded right to the freedom of speech?
In December 2000 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance of the European Council enacted a general recommendation to contend racism, xenophobia and anti-semitism on the internet [ECRI - General Policy Recommendation no. 6]. These recommendations have been worked out by the study group Cybercrime in a concept for international regulation. On 23 November 2001 it was signed by 26 member states of the European Council and four non-member states that had helped with the draft (Canada, Japan, South-Africa, U.S.A.). The aim of the treaty is the harmonization of penalization and criminal jurisdiction. It is targeted on reinforcement of international cooperation.
In international legal assistance the requirement of double penalization is valid: the fact for which help is requested must have been penalized in both the requesting and the requested state. In a digital, per definition global, environment such as the internet, this principle is much harder to realize. In the first place: in many countries it is not clear yet whether what is forbidden offline is also valid online. Secondly, there are great differences in judicial culture between Europe and the United States with respect to discriminating statements. The Americans have a much more liberal tradition with regard to this type of statements than Europeans. Just like, reversely, in Europe there exists a far greater tolerance regarding pornography. The consequence is, that if racist statements are published on the internet from somewhere in the USA, the Americans will offer no legal assistance. Therefore we see that an increasing number of discriminating movements and persons accommodate their discriminating sites with American providers.
In the memorandum Internationalisering en Recht in de informatiemaatschappij(Internationalization and Justice in the information society) [May 2000], the Dutch government pleaded for an international reporting station (or complaints centre) for providers for the distribution of illegal material on the internet. People who discover illegal material can report this to the —national or foreign— provider who distributes the material. The provider itself is expected to take suitable actions, such as removing the material or informing the investigation authorities. In this case the providers are liable for facilitating a criminal offence.
Self-regulation of web forums
In the days of the bewildered confusion after the murder of Van Gogh the Moroccan web forums in particular were heavily pressured. They were in danger of being crushed between the glamorization of ‘the martyr that shot down Theo van Gogh’ and racist and extreme-nationalist expressions of islamophobia and ethnocentrism.
With great difficulty administrators of websites such as maroc.nl succeeded in keeping up the democratic preconditions of discussions in their forums. They took on new moderators to monitor the course of the discussion. New rules were drawn up that, even more specifically than before, draw the humanitarian and democratic lines within which freedom of speech first and foremost becomes possible and meaningful.
People who didn’t stick to these rules, were temporarily or permanently excluded from the discussion forums. By means of this self-regulation Moroccan websites managed to resist the suction of polarization and extremism. The most influential virtual Moroccan communities didn’t let themselves be torn apart and could dedicate themselves (by trial and error) to breaking out of the logic of escalation and pushing back the spiral of violence.
In a time with so much emphasis on the ‘perverse abuse’ of the internet by terrorists, this should be said clearly at least once — chapeau.
Islamic and allochthonous websites play an increasingly important role in the public opinion of people who gear to and regularly visit these sites. The viability of these sites depends on the extent to which visitors can say ‘everything’ they have in mind. The sustainability of these sites, however, depends on the extent to which the boundaries of the democratic debate are controlled. Radical criticism of the Dutch support of the —according to the international law— illegal American-British intervention in Iraq largely fits within these boundaries. Throwing bombs on places where many citizens are gathered doesn’t fit in. The military intervention in Iraq had been justified with falsified evidence. The weapons of mass destruction appeared not to be in Iraq. They turned up in the hearts of Europe — Madrid, Amsterdam, and London. Children, born and bred in Europe, of parents who came here to find work or seek asylum, suddenly proved prepared to sacrifice their own lives for an islamic ideal, not understood by most Western Europeans.
Civil initiatives: pushing back the circle of hatred
Apart from the self-regulation by the administrators of Moroccan web forums, several new initiatives were taken to get the dialogue going again. Everywhere in Holland citizens came into action to show that they consider tolerance, dialogue and respect to be important and that they detest violence. Wrist bands, posters, stickers, buttons and t-shirts were made, city dinners, dialogue days, neighbourhood meetings and cycling tours were organised and petitions were drawn up.
Stop de Hetze! (Stop the witch hunt!): Islam is not the enemy — Hate is no solution
The campaign Stop de Hetze! called for a demonstration against racism under the title Samen voor een kleurrijk Nederland (Together for a colourful Holland), on Sunday 29 November, starting from the Beursplein in Amsterdam. The website explained why the ‘witch hunt’ against immigrants had to be dealt with. Politicians and opinion makers have encouraged a climate in which islam is seen as the enemy of the western civilization, “in which behind each muslim a fundamentalist is suspected.” It is the intention to gather all people who are fed up with this and stand up for solidarity: “We cannot let ourselves be played off against one another.” People are urged to sign the petition and to disseminate it, take part in the demonstration and discussions of the Nederlands Sociaal Forum (NSF) [Dutch Social Forum].
Dit Pikken Wij niet (We don’t take it)
Also the initiators of the manifesto “Wij pikken het niet” (We don’t take it) understood that the murder of Theo van Gogh would have far-reaching consequences for the Dutch society. Members of various (islamic) Moroccan and Dutch organisations asked themselves: what can and/or should we do? They made an effort to organise discussions on an informal basis about all problems that were placed high on the political agenda due to the murder of Van Gogh. The manifesto “Vermoord om het woord, extremisme pikken wij niet” (Murdered for the word, we don’t take extremism) incites to an honest debate without deliberate insults, but with mutual respect. The manifesto is signed by 3459 persons [score May 2005]. The organisation emphasises that this isn’t a once-only action but a long-term initiative.
Moslim Petitie.nl from Marokko.nl: A petition for nobody in particular and therefore for all Dutch citizens. It was the initiative of a group of students from Amsterdam who wanted to improve “the image of muslims in the Netherlands” and boost “the dialogue between Dutch muslims and non-muslims.” The petition had the shape of an open letter from Dutch muslims to right-wing Holland. It was addressed to “the friends of Van Gogh, people of the LPF, VVD and group Wilders.” In an eloquent manner the students made clear what it was they were after. “We have experienced a lot of statements about islam as extraordinarily offensive.” This didn’t exclude criticism, but with respect, precision and balance of judgement. “Where mutual respect ends, mutual distrust begins. Where insult begins, constructive dialogue ends. Freedom of speech is a moral right and is very precious. A powerful means. Conflicting ideas stimulate progress in thought and action.” A hero is required to use power in an appropriate way. “Heroes succeed in doing this without it being at the expense of different values and norms.” The petition pointed out that unlimited freedom of speech was not a solution, but a problem.
After this diagnosis there was a very abstract call for “respect, trust and understanding among us all” and for not giving up “the ideal of a multicultural society.” The petition scored 743 signatures, all of almost exclusively islamic-Arabic background [score 7.12.04]. This selective and narrow basis was not surprising. The petition completely passed by the great anxiety of many Dutch people about the physical violence that is legitimized on behalf of islam. The murder of Van Gogh created a borderline. A diverging of opinions that was reinforced by such serious death threats that national and local politicians had to go into hiding and could only appear in public under strict surveillance.
On the one hand the petition stated that “discriminating insinuations of muslims” are the cause of fear and distrust in the multicultural society. On the other hand a number of problems among the muslim communities in Holland are mentioned.
More initiatives were taken. Examples are the Moroccan initiative Allemaal anders — Allemaal gelijk [Everybody different — Everybody the same], Nederland — Niet kapot te krijgen [Holland — Going on forever], Slinger door Nederland [String through Holland], Met wie leef jij samen [With whom are you living], Nederlanders uit overtuiging [Dutch out of conviction], Blusolifant —blust iedere school die brandt [Fire elephant, extinguishes all burning schools], Stichting 7 [Foundation 7], and Ben je bang voor mij? [Are you afraid of me?]. A review of these initiatives can be found on the site Zestienmiljoenmensen.
In September 2001 Jenny Goeree opened a website with anti-semitic publications, which the judge had already in 1987 considered to be an offence. As soon as this got out, her internet provider removed her website from the server right away.
In the meantime most Dutch internet providers have included restrictions in their general conditions against discriminating or resentful statements or material. Frequently they take measures themselves when they sense that illegal material has been published on their servers. The branch association of the Dutch Internet Providers (NLIP) excludes all information that is forbidden according to the current legislation. Its aim is to have illegal information removed from the internet — as much as possible and as fast as possible. In order to effectively take action internet providers and private persons have set up several tiplines. Of course, in the Netherlands action can only be taken on the basis of the Dutch legislation. Reports concerning foreign offenders or information providers are passed on to the tiplines in the country concerned.
In December 2004 the members of the NLIP concluded that their organisation couldn’t act any longer as representative of the internet providers vis-à-vis the government and other parties [source]. After Xs4all and BIT had announced that they would leave the organisation, this was an inevitable conclusion. The NLIP was officially dissolved in April 2005. In succession to this the platform ISPO (ISP Overleg) was established.
Providers played a complex double role in the build-up and reactions to the murder of Van Gogh. On the one hand they naturally play the role of neutral intermediary. They enable internet communication and as such are not primarily responsible for what their users bring up themselves. On the other hand, as legal enterprises they have to abide to the law, and accordingly have to cooperate in the prevention and combat of criminal offences. At various moments the AIVD and judicial authorities have made use of their power to gain information from internet providers on the identity of potential criminals or terrorists. Most internet providers in Holland, however, have started to watch their own sheep as well and have developed their own rules and codes of behaviour. They have an individual and collective interest in keeping the streets of their own service clean in terms of social behaviour, with boundaries determined by civil and criminal law.
Discrimination at school
In December 2000 the board of a school for intermediary vocational training in Maastricht expelled 4 pupils because they had discriminated on the internet. They published insulting texts about several fellow pupils and teachers on their site. They urged, for instance, to hit a teacher, because they believed him to be a homosexual. They also expressed discriminatory views on foreigners. The website was removed from the internet by the board.
Providers can take action against discriminatory and hatred-sowing practices. Administrators of websites or news groups in organisations or institutions can do the same. Nearly all educational institutions operate with a disclaimer, stating that it is forbidden to publish illegal material on the server of the institution and that it will be removed by return. Examples are the closure of the discussion forums of the former Minister for Urban and Integration Policy about racism in 2000, and the previously mentioned closures of the discussion forums of Leefbaar Nederland (September 2001) and of the Algemeen Dagblad (2002).
Watchdogs: complaints bureaus
Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet
Meldpunt Discriminatie Internet (MDI) [Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet] is an organisation that collects reports of discriminatory statements on the internet and, if necessary, takes action. In this they closely cooperate with the Meldpunt Discriminatie Amsterdam (MDA) [Complaints Bureau for Discrimination Amsterdam] and the Landelijk Expertise Centrum Discriminatie (LECD) [National Expertise Centre for Discrimination] of the Public Prosecution. The LECD is the knowledge centre in special charge of tracing and prosecuting discrimination.
Since 21 March 1997 the MDI has evaluated reports of statements on the internet of discrimination against fellow men on the basis of religion, descent, sexual preference, gender, skin colour and/or age and takes action if necessary. They also include in their domain those parts of the internet that are physically abroad, but have been written in Dutch, are maintained from Holland or are clearly aimed at Holland. The MDI investigates the nature of the complaint, assesses its punishability and tries to retrieve the internet address of the originator. When the MDI judges that the statement is possibly punishable, they send an urgent request for removal to the distributor or administrator and the internet service provider is informed. If they don’t proceed with removal they can in principle press charges. However, in practice this is hardly ever the case. In nearly 90 percent of the cases the very first request for removal is complied with. So the purging power of the MDI is relatively strong. The MDI also independently studies the occurrence of discrimination in news groups and advises legal assistants and local and national organisations that fight against discrimination.
The MDI didn’t fail to notice that the atmosphere on internet rapidly deteriorated after 2 November 2004. The Complaints Bureau received hundreds of reports of sites cheering the murder of Van Gogh and preaching the jihad. Far fewer reports came in on incitements to violence against muslims and Moroccans. This was noticeable, because extreme-nationalist and racist statements were published in a much higher volume. This didn’t only occur on websites of the extreme right-wing, but also on ‘normal’ sites agitation and calls for violence were of the order of the day. In a press release of the MDI [4.11.04] it was correctly noted that the extreme right-wing abused the situation and made “full-blown incitements to hatred and violence against Moroccans, muslims, immigrants in general and against anyone who is an advocate of peaceful coexistence.”
Kafka is an anti-fascist research group, investigating extreme right-wing movements and developments in the Netherlands. The results of their research are published on their own website (and in several magazines). The site contains a lot of information on extreme right-wing organisations, parties, persons and events in Holland.
Internet is a very accessible public medium. Even fascist and extreme-nationalist groups manifest themselves and associate via the internet. They also suddenly have their hands on a megaphone with which they can disseminate their message throughout the world and can associate with kindred spirits. It is often said (and feared) that right-wing extremist forces have gained a lot of influence due to this virtual aggregation of forces. Internet is a freely accessible medium for everyone and allows everybody to discuss with each other. This is not easy. But it is certainly a crucial part of each anti-terrorist strategy.
What is to be done?
The murder of Van Gogh was not the first sign that Holland harbours islamic inspired terrorist cells that are prepared to impose with death and destruction a society that is completely in defiance of the basic principles of a democratic constitutional state. The dangers of islamic terrorism had been brought up long before the attacks on 9/11. Scientists, journalists and politicians tried to draw attention to it. After 2/11 this message was brought home to all layers of the Dutch population. The murder of Van Gogh became an historic turning point. It served as an eye-opener to a much longer smouldering conflict within a failing multicultural society.
How could such a terrible thing happen in Amsterdam? Who was responsible? What action should be taken to turn the tide? How could more politico-religious murders be prevented? What was to be done?
Tracking down, charging, prosecuting and sentencing terrorist islamic individuals, cells and networks had to be co-ordinated in a better way. At the same time initiatives had to be taken to prevent the breeding ground from expanding. What preventive measures had to be taken to prevent the social-economic and political-cultural breeding ground of an unbridled violent dissatisfaction?
Earlier measures had been taken to increase the chance of tracing, arrest and criminal prosecution. Yet for many people the murder of Van Gogh was the first shocking introduction to islamic terrorism on native soil (with international implications). There was a loud call for ‘harsh’ measures and now the government too sounded that islamistic intensified terrorism should not be underestimated.
The two ministers responsible for the repressive state institutions —those of Justice and Internal Affairs— tried to get their own houses in order first. They declared that the AIVD had not been negligent in neither their surveillance of Mohammed B. nor the personal security of Van Gogh.
The government proposed a set of measures that each need to be judged on their own merits. The cabinet sent a long letter to parliament before the debate on the murder of Van Gogh. In this letter various new measures were announced: closure of mosques that incite hatred and violence, extradition of people with dual nationalities who commit serious offences, free access of the AIVD to all kinds of data files, and so on. They are all measures that, once in place, cannot easily be reversed.
With the support of CDA, VVD and Groenlinks, the PvdA proposed to stop providing foreign imams with residence permits from 2008 on. By then they must have attended a special education (‘naturalisation course’) in the Netherlands. The cabinet presented new civil and criminal laws, aimed at making the combating of international terrorism more effective. They were more forceful in their attacks on international terrorism by no longer tolerating organisations in the Netherlands that were on the terrorist lists of the European Union —such as PKK, Hamas, Stichting Al-Aqsa Nederland, Al-Takfir en de NPA (New Peoples Army)— and by penalising participation in the activities of these organisations. Other organisations could also be declared as being in breach of public order. With immediate effect, the bank accounts of organisations that appear on the EU terrorism lists were frozen. Terrorist organisations in Holland could no longer be active in any way. They were no longer allowed, for example, to recruit new members, or to appoint administrators. At the same time measures were taken against institutions and organisations that did not appear on the terrorism lists of the EU. All foreign organisations carrying out unlawful activities in the Netherlands could be dealt with, should the civil judge decide their activities to be in breach of public order.
The old slogan of the mafia fighters (‘just follow the money’) was applied anew. The assets of organisations appearing on the terrorism lists and foreign organisations that threaten the public order may be confiscated by means of a ‘procedure of payment’. By confiscating their property, the activities of foreign legal bodies in Holland can be effectively fought.
The old tribal war over public order and safety, between the departments of Justice and Internal Affairs, is crucial here. They have conflicting interests in, and points of view on the police force. For the meantime the police have been subsumed under the management of Internal Affairs. But as cabinet member responsible for the control of terrorism, the Minister of Justice (Donner) has to share tasks with the Minister of Internal Affairs (Remkes). The Minister of Justice has to deal with at least 20 institutions that are immediately involved in the strategic and operational fight against terrorism. In order to improve the cooperation between all institutions a National Coordinator of Terrorist Combat (NCTb) was appointed on 1 January 2005. It is the Dutch equivalent of the American Homeland Security Office. The NCTb is not only the ultimate person responsible for policy development and the analysis of (intelligence) information, but also for the control of measures to be taken in combating terrorism. He gives account to the Ministers of Justice and of Internal Affairs. This combination of tasks enhances the decisiveness of the government. “Information is efficiently collected, analysed and used; there are sufficient instruments for timely intervention and potential targets are adequately secured” [source].
At European level also, intensive cooperation to combat terrorism has begun. The European Union appointed a security coordinator, Gijs de Vries, who has the duty to co-ordinate the various forms of combating terrorism within the member states and looking after the proper cooperation and exchange of information between the police and the intelligence services.
The EU consists of national states with their own security organisations. Since the attacks in Madrid of 11 March 2004 it has become clear that the ‘new terrorism’ is no domestic problem anymore, but can strike anywhere. Therefore its control should be organised across borders [Volkskrant 6.7.06]. This requires at least a good division of roles of all organisations active in the field of combat of terrorism.
The analysts of Europol support investigations into crimes by national authorities and make connections between serious crimes in the various member states. In reaction to the bombings in Madrid the European Council decided to activate the closed counter-terrorist task force of Europol. Its objective is to improve exchange of information between national representatives. This can lead to a more complete picture of criminal activities of terrorist groups.
The capacity of the Joint Situation Centre (Sitcen), founded at the beginning of 2002, was expanded. Sitcen makes risk analyses of the threat within and outside of Europe. This information is passed on to the secret services of other EU-member states. It is still unclear how Sitcen fits in with the institutions of the EU and what its form and role will be. Smaller states that do not have an effective intelligence service propose to create a European intelligence organisation. But states with effective intelligence services, such as the so-called ‘Big Five’ (Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France and Spain), who at the moment participate in Sitcen together with the Netherlands and Sweden, are opposed to far-reaching changes in the present mode of cooperation of intelligence services.
Financing and Border Traffic
Apart from efforts to streamline the exchange of information between the intelligence and police services of national states, other measures were taken as well by the EU. Among other things the legislation against laundering was sharpened to complicate the financing of terrorism. Moreover, measures were taken to improve the control of border traffic. Passports of all EU-member states need to be provided with a chip with facial traits and a finger print. A European Border Agency will be set up in Warsaw.
European cooperation in the field of intelligence and security has so far been largely limited to the collection of images and analyses that make use of the Satellite Centre of the EU. More extensive exchange of signal intelligence and human intelligence is not only curbed by an appeal to national sovereignty on intelligence, but also by the fear of powerful intelligence services of losing their privileged information positions and relations. Many NATO-countries have individual agreements with the US on the exchange of information. France, however, wants to reduce its dependence on information from the US. For this purpose France has developed the Hellios system, together with Spain and Italy. The main weapon of Hellios is a series of optical identifying satellites that can produce photographic images with a resolution of approximately one metre.
Fighting islamic and otherwise-motivated political terrorism obviously isn’t only a matter of heroic infiltration and daring prosecution. The essence is that a smart anti-terrorist strategyhas to be developed. And this is not automatically achieved by expanding the intelligence and detection system (‘more of the same thing’), but more especially by improving the quality of the work and the competence of personnel [Van Hulst 2005]. The government should see to it that it deploys the best technical specialists in the field of the hardware and software of the internet. The government should recruit people who are capable of making adequate assessments of current power relations, and of the potential and mobilising ability of the adversary, and obviously of one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
The military-strategic ingenuity of militant islamic groups and networks is still underestimated, and not only by the intelligence and security services. Again and again islamic inspired terrorist networks are capable of maintaining their position in ‘the war on terror’ and it would seem that both in and through this struggle they are increasing both in number and effectiveness
Blasphemy: a victimless crime
The Landelijk Expertisecentrum Discriminatie [LECD] (National Expertise Centre for Discrimination) has been functioning since 1998. The expertise centre is accommodated within the office of the public prosecutor in Amsterdam. The aim of the LECD is to optimise criminal enforcement with regard to discrimination, involving both policy-making and tracing, prosecuting and reporting. The LECD closely cooperates with the Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination.
The LECD has contributed, among other things, towards the arrest of a man from Amsterdam in June 1999, who had published some hundreds of articles with anti-semitic statements in news groups. It was the first time in the Netherlands that someone had been arrested for discriminatory statements on the internet. In May 1999 for the first time, two right-wing extremists were picked up for incitement to hatred and discrimination on the internet and, as demanded, sentenced to a month’s imprisonment.
The murder of Theo van Gogh was, for a number of politicians, reason to demand curbs on the right to freedom of speech. During the CDA party conference, held in Utrecht on 13.11.04, prime minister Balkenende said: “Freedom of speech is very precious, but we should realise that our words can also wound.” The crucial task is to find the right balance between freedom and responsibility. At the same conference minister Donner (Justice) said: “You may neither hurt people in the depth of their conviction, nor in a rude way. Blasphemy and the insulting of groups have gone way too far in the Netherlands.” Donner pointed out that our legislation already offers the possibility to deal with ‘scornful blasphemy’, even if it doesn’t often happen now. He wanted to investigate if this could be altered. With this he intended to reassure islamites who had long felt insulted.
His statement stirred up a strong counter-reaction. Artists, media makers and other well-known Dutch people wrote fierce petitions, in which they demanded the repeal of the blasphemy law from the criminal code. In parliament Donner faced opposition from coalition partners VVD and D’66 and from the progressive parties. The sections of the law on blasphemy have to be removed. This could be enforced without too many risks. After all, there are sufficient restrictions on freedom of speech, such as the ban on discrimination and the ban on incitement to hatred or violence.
Free speech is only really free when the bounds of respect and reasonableness are guarded. These boundaries are drawn by a ban on discrimination and incitement to hatred or violence. This is also the case in the Netherlands:
- “He who in public, orally or in writing or image, incites hatred or discrimination against people or violent action against person or property on account of their race, their religion or philosophy of life, their gender or their heterosexual or homosexual inclination, is to be punished with imprisonment of at most a year or fine of the third category” [Article 137d, Penal Code].
Consequently, inciting terrorist acts is beyond the right to be able to express an opinion in all freedom. The question is, however, whether the sections of the law that penalise the sowing of hatred and incitement to violence offer sufficient weight to fight the defence or glorification of terrorist acts as well. Islamic apologists are very proficient in glorifying and theologically legitimising terrorist acts, without openly inciting violence or explicitly inciting hatred.
Exceptional to Dutch criminal law is a special provision that prohibits insulting the gods in which people believe.
- “He who publicly expresses scornful blasphemies that are offensive for religious feelings, will be punished with imprisonment of at most three months” [Article 147, Penal Code].
- “He who distributes a document or image that contains statements which are offensive to religious feelings as scornful blasphemies, will be punished with an imprisonment of at most two months” [Article 147a, Penal Code].
For atheists these sections of the law are hard to digest. Dan Barker phrased his objection quite succinctly: “You keep accusing me of blasphemy all of the time. But I cannot be convicted of a victimless crime.” Blasphemy is one of the most peculiar crimes: atheists are accused of insulting a god, whom they deny exists. With a ban on blasphemy, an effort is made to defend myths and dogmas that cannot maintain themselves by their own power. Believers shouldn’t forget that also Jesus Christ was murdered for blasphemy. “All great truths start as blasphemies” [George Bernard Shaw, Annajanska, 1919].
Freedom of speech is an essential pillar for a democratic society. It offers room for opinions, ideas and information that can be disturbing to the government or to certain groups in society. And there is also room for critical, sceptical, offensive and humorous musings over collective neuroses, glorified idols and gods, holy texts and religious traditions.
In the film Submission, which Hirsi Ali had made with Theo van Gogh, “the cruelty of islam” was literally exposed [NRC 28.8.04]. In her first interview after the murder of Van Gogh Hirsi Ali stated that she wanted to make a sequel to Submission part 1. “The theme of Submission part II is how islam oppresses the individual, with the position of women as its starting point. And apart from this I still want to abolish Islamic education” [NRC 29.11.04].
For a number of muslims this was a terrible thought. They feared that the sequel to Submission would also contain blasphemous elements, offending muslims. According to them this should be prevented. Two islamic families from Utrecht employed the controversial lawyer Robert Moszkowicz and demanded a ban on the release of the sequel to the film Submission, as announced by Hirsi Ali. Moreover, the pious muslims demanded that the judge forbid Hirsi Ali to express herself in future in a way offensive, hurtful or blasphemous to islam. The legal adviser of the concerned muslims pointed out some statements from Hirsi Ali “in which she claims once again that Islamism is highly dangerous, without even making a distinction between fundamentalist islamism and islamism in general.” With the summary proceedings Moszkowicz hopes to achieve that Hirsi Ali “is silenced.”
This is how the concerned muslims confirmed the suspicion that there are muslims in the Netherlands who drastically want to restrict freedom of speech: no criticism whatsoever of Allah, Mohammed or their religious followers. Theo van Gogh would have immediately awarded the islamic clients of Robert Moszkowicz the ‘Audacity price of The Healthy Smoker’. In order to spare the delicate muslim soul, a not yet existing statement of a free thought should have to be forbidden from the very start. Hirsi Ali had a difficult time. She was constantly threatened with death by fanatical muslims. As long as she can’t be killed, due to effective security, she should at least be silenced. What the worried muslims ask of the Dutch judiciary is quite simply a ban of statement for Hirsi Ali. A religious group that demands that their religion is lifted above criticism indicates they no longer want to live peacefully together with other and non-believers. Their lack of tolerance snubs the equality of dissidents. With this they at the least invite suspicion on themselves for paving the way for a despotic theocracy in the spirit and practice of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
In Holland everybody has the right to institute summary proceedings. This even counts for Taliban supporters who plead for the re-introduction of mediaeval preventive censorship. However, in Holland no judge can be found who wouldn’t immediately relegate such a shameless demand to the wastepaper basket. After all, in a democratic constitutional state a judge cannot tolerate a situation in which one of the most essential constitutional rights is suspended via summary proceedings.
It would be unique if a prohibition were issued of a film that has yet to be made, or if a member of the Dutch parliament was banned from speaking in public. The pillars of the democratic constitutional state of the Netherlands would be pulverised. This, however, was most unlikely. The demand was refused on 15.3.2005 [verdict], but the plaintiffs have also brought about something they didn’t have in mind: they have proven that Hirsi Ali is in the right in one respect: for a democratic constitutional state, political islam (‘islamism in general’) is a perilous threat. This is, incidentally, not the right of Hirsi Ali: it is the moral right of all citizens defending their democratic constitutional state.
The murder of Theo van Gogh wasn’t a tragic incident or anomaly, but an almost logical result of a fight that was getting out of hand between indigenous ‘kaaskoppen’ (cheese heads) who felt increasingly overrun by what they saw as a horde of maladjusted, antisocial, violent and criminal foreigners, and the ‘allochthonous foreigners’ who had emigrated or fled to Holland or were born and bred here. This conflict, which had been smouldering for years, was explosively brought to the surface by the murder of Van Gogh. The political murder of Van Gogh was not only announced in advance, but was at the same time a dark forerunner of events that were to come.
Terrorist Crimes Law
On 10 December 2003 parliament passed a bill, allowing life imprisonment for leaders of terrorist organisations. On 10 August 2004 the ‘Terrorist Crimes Law’ was put into effect. The essence of this law is implicit in the definition of ‘terrorist intent’, which is recorded in article 83a of the Penal Code:
- “Terrorist intent is understood to mean the aim of seriously frightening the population or part of the population, or unlawfully force a government or international organisation to do something, not to do or allow something, or seriously disrupt or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country.”
Crimes committed with a terrorist aim are more heavily punished. Temporary imprisonment is increased by half. Where a crime has been punished with a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment, a lifelong sentence can be imposed.
Minister Donner (Justice) wanted to restore the balance between constitutional rights and safety, which had been disrupted by terrorists. He introduced a complete series of anti-terrorist measures, which was characterised as a “very dangerous set” by some prominent Dutch judges [NRC 11.2.05]. One of those measures was that information from the intelligence services should count as evidence during trials. At the moment, information obtained by the AIVD has to be presented to the judge. The bill Afgeschermde getuigen (Protected witnesses) makes this judicial review superfluous. From now on, the AIVD employee involved can be interrogated behind closed doors by the magistrate alone. The danger is that nobody has an insight in how this predominantly anonymous information is incorporated in the record. Besides, in this new procedure the contribution of the defence is limited and primary reports may remain a secret. And finally, according to Ybo Buruma there is a real danger “that AIVD employees are less inclined to record ‘soft information’ in official communications to prevent the risk of this information turning up again in criminal files” [NRC 4.3.05].
Another measure is extension of custody. At this moment someone can be taken into custody on grounds of a suspicion for six days. After this period there should be ‘serious objections’ and more evidence should be advanced in order to detain a suspect any longer. This is put to the test every three months; first by the public prosecutor, then by the magistrate and finally by the chambers. In Donner’s proposals a suspect can be detained longer (with a maximum of 16 days). After this period the custody can last two years at most.
Judges fear that the cabinet plans to deal with terrorism via criminal justice may lead to an infringement of criminal justice and of the liberties of the individual. G. Corstens, councillor at the High Court, believes that politicians go too far and this leads to a sharpening of relations between politicians and the judiciary. His colleague of the Amsterdam court of justice, J. Peeters, even goes a step further. The terrorist plans of the government lead to “jeopardising the achievements of two centuries of rule of law and infringement of constitutional rights” [NRC 11.2.05].
Apology for terror
Minister of Justice Donner wants to enable the prosecution of persons who glorify, smooth over, trivialise or deny war crimes, genocide or terrorist attacks. Those who are guilty of this can be punished with a sentence of one year at the most. People who make their profession from or habit of this crime, or commit it with others, risk a sentence of two years. As an additional punishment someone can —even as ‘a first offender’— be discharged from office. The bill was sent for advice to several institutions on 12 July 2005.
This measure is aimed at the better protection of society against statements that by far exceed all bounds of the admissible. The government should better defend these bounds in order to support the public debate in Holland. The new measure is presented as an addition to crimes such as agitation, discrimination and incitement to hatred or violence. They are “crimes that, on account of their nature, seriousness and scope, gravely shock society and her citizens or groups of citizens in particular. This first and foremost counts for surviving victims, the next of kin and the population of the country in which the crime has been committed” [Explanatory Memorandum]. By justifying, glorifying or denying terror, groups are set against each other and feelings of discomfort in society are fuelled. This may lead, as we have seen before, to “a dangerous downward spiral of coarsening in the public debate” [idem].
Minister Donner sees the criminal law as: “The last link in the approach of people who abuse their constitutional privileges at the expense of others” [idem]. Freedom of speech is not invaded: extreme and radical opinions can still be freely uttered. The new bill, however, dictates explicit bounds. For example, it makes it possible to deal with ‘hate imams’ or ‘hate sites’ in a better way. Also justifying, denying or glorifying war crimes and genocide fall under the bill. This way denying the holocaust is explicitly punishable in the Netherlands for the first time.
Minister Donner is seriously worried about “the way in which public debate is held in the Netherlands.” His proposal to improve this with a bill, in which apology for international crimes and terror is penalised, is not only superfluous, but also dangerously vague. After all, there are already penalty clauses against agitation, discrimination, incitement to hatred, violence and insulting behaviour. People who incite to terrorism in the Netherlands can already be sued with these existing articles. The fundamental objection is that the bill is so broadly phrased, that it could block the discussion on causes and mechanisms of terrorism. It should remain possible in this discussion to raise some tricky questions. One of these questions is: are the people who supported the ‘struggle for freedom’ of the Afghan Taliban against the Russian occupants suddenly punishable when they keep on supporting their resistance against the American invasion afterwards as well? After all, ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. It is dangerous to leave the judgement of such questions to the whim of the judiciary authorities.
Criminal investigation: digital detective
AIVD-logoLiving fish swim against the current, only the dead ones are carried along.
How difficult is it to track down hate groups and fundamentalist extremists on internet? And how effective are our intelligence and security services in mapping terrorist networks and detecting islamistic or nationalist inspired persons that are inciting hatred and violence?
In their representation of the AIVD the media are predominantly critical and negative. On the one hand they have a somewhat blundering image of a cloak-and-dagger service. On the other hand politicians and society have high hopes of the service. Yet, even the best security services can never guarantee 100% safety. Such absolute safety presupposes intelligence services knowing exactly who the subversive actors are, what their plans are and where they are. This, however, is not realistic. Intelligence is, almost by definition, incomplete and this is precisely why safety risks remain. These risks can be limited indeed, but hardly ever eliminated completely.
For years the AIVD have investigated islamic-terrorist networks and the linked processes of radicalisation and recruitment for the violent jihad. They were already doing this before the attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001.
In June 1998 the BVD, the predecessor of the AIVD, published a report on De politieke Islam in Nederland [The political Islam in the Netherlands], which was offered to the Dutch parliament. It sketches the various political organisations that are based on islam. “Most of them are characterised by a form of aversion to western society and thus a certain resistance to integration. Yet, only few muslims hold really radical points of view and are prepared to bring their ideals of an islamic state or world order closer with (or giving support to) violence.” Their attention is mainly aimed at the struggle for an islamic revolution in their countries of origin. For this fight they try to attract followers with anti-western, anti-integrative and isolationist discourses, including in the Netherlands. Identifying and combating these radical islamists is tricky, because they usually operate in secret. They don’t organise themselves in organisations which are recognisable as such, but “they nestle in larger bona fide organisations or umbrellas, in order to gain followers and strength from the inside.”
At that time the secret service thought that these radical islamic groups in the Netherlands would not gain strength and influence in the short run. Unlike in Germany, there were as yet no signs in the Netherlands of an increasing radicalisation among muslims. However, the BVD did warn “that in the long run such movements will reap profit from social-economic malaise, marginalisation and exclusion of groups of muslim immigrants. In such a situation there is a threat of polarisation and disturbance of the integration process.”
The BVD-report emphasises that the emancipation and integration process doesn’t develop autonomously, but is strongly influenced by political forces at home and abroad. Here, mosques play a crucial role: they make up a political arena “in which various forces are active, each operating with their open or hidden agendas.” Apart from politico-religious organisations there are also foreign powers —for instance Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia— which directly or indirectly interfere in the state of affairs in Dutch mosques. Within the walls of the houses of worship governments of various motherlands also try to exercise their influence. “This struggle for political influence also affects domains such as islamic education, organisation formation and integration.”
In 2001 the BVD paid attention to the possibility of cyberterrorism for the first time. Terrorist attacks via the computer could result in a large-scale disruption of the (inter)national infrastructure, for example of gas or electricity. When such a disturbance persists, this could be “very disruptive and cause potential victims” [p. 26-6]. The BVD concludes that there have not been any victims yet as a direct consequence of the use of information technology. The secret service believes that the risk of effective terrorist actions using the constantly further connected informational infrastructure cannot be estimated. “Anyway, as far as we know no terrorist has risen yet who has plans in that direction.” Nevertheless the service pleads for “a thorough analysis of the vulnerabilities of the infrastructure that is increasingly dependent on computer control.”
In 2001 the BVD re-calibrated its activities on the political, societal and technological actuality and readjusted its policy. In March of that year an outline was given of the actual threat picture in the report Terrorisme aan het begin van de 21ste eeuw [Terrorism at the beginning of the 21st century]. It was the first time the risks of large-scale terrorist attacks in the Netherlands were mapped. The main threat did not seem to be home-grown terrorism, but “a terrorist threat which comes to the Netherlands from outside.”
- “Unlike most surrounding countries forms of home grown terrorism have no topical meaning. On the longer run, however, it cannot be excluded beforehand that an unhoped-for social divide along ethnical lines materialises, causing frustrations that can form a breeding ground for radicalism and extremism.”
It is conceivable that there is a certain continuum between failing integration, strengthened segregation, increasing polarisation and violent confrontation. But the BVD said that at that time “there is absolutely no indication in the Netherlands that such a development could result in the darkest scenario, the one of terrorism.” Holland is not an important terrorist target, although as a logistic junction it does appeal as a —temporary or permanent— residence and hiding place for terrorists. Therefore it is concluded “that at the threshold of the 21st century there is not a large risk that society will be confronted with terrorist attacks on Dutch soil in the near future.”
In the Jaarverslag 2001 [annual report] it was repeated once more that among the members of islamic community there are small groups of youngsters that are prepared to join the violent islamic struggle, and that they are preparing themselves for it. The international security situation has seriously deteriorated on account of the attacks of 9/11 in the USA. In a few years the transnational network of muslim extremists has rapidly expanded and has developed “an inconceivable striking power”.
- “In the combat against the extensive terrorist network its strong international branching and its diffuse character constitute a big problem. Drifting on the stream of massive migration and using the expanding transport and communication facilities, members of the network have been scattered all over the world in the past decades, keeping their mutual connections in tact. This is why they can prepare and execute a violent action at any desired moment. In the course of 2001 the Netherlands proved to be an operation base for this kind of terrorism. On notification of the BVD part of an international terrorist cell was rounded up in Rotterdam, a cell which made preparations for an attack on an American target in Paris.”
Kamikaze in KashmirIn the early morning of 13 January 2002 two young boys of Moroccan descent from Eindhoven, Ahmed el Bakiouli en Khalid Hassnoui, were brutally killed. During a kamikaze action they were shot to death in Srinager, the capital of the Indian state Kashmir [Zembla 9.8.2002]. The AIVD could trace “that both young men were recruited for the violent jihad in Holland and that their death in Pakistan should be seen against that background” [Reconstruction of Facts].
So there are active networks of muslim extremists in the Netherlands too. This became clear, for instance, by the death of two young Moroccans from Eindhoven, who died in January 2002 in the Indian state of Kashmir. Extreme religious ideas get a growing hold on parts of the Dutch muslim community. This not only yields a security risk, but also the danger of polarisation between population groups and of the continuation of imported conflicts. The integration process is hereby seriously disturbed. This escalation of inter-ethnic relations threatens the cohesion in our society.
The BVD pleaded for a broad and differentiated approach of political extremism, in which the accent is on the aimed prevention of radicalisation processes — cutting off the oxygen for the development of terrorism.
- “With this broad approach political organisations of groups that propagate extreme, intolerant and undemocratic aims, are contained within the borders of the democratic rule of law. This approach can vary from dialogue to judicial methods of coercion. The goal of this approach, which is not only applied to radical islamic organisations but also to other radical groups, is among other things preventing radicalisation processes from bolting to terrorism.”
On the other hand organisations that cross the border between radicalism and terrorism have to be tackled with resolute repression. In order to enable this, the intelligence and security services have to be reinforced.
AIVD hunting the Hofstad network
The AIVD broadly investigates radical muslims in Holland. In the course of 2002 it turned out “that Islamic terrorism and extremism increasingly find a breeding ground in our own country” [Reconstruction of Facts].
One of the groups the AIVD concentrates on is “a group of young muslims of North-African descent, which appears to gather round a leader and attracts attention by their apparently increasing orthodox religious perception and religious statements” [idem]. From 26 September 2003 this group was referred to as the Hofstad network.
The first time the AIVD’s attention was drawn to the name of Mohammed B. is on 1 August 2002. His discussion of values and norms —based on koran texts— in the neighbourhood newspaper, drew attention. When the AIVD searched for the radical muslim Nouredine El-F., they arrived at the house of Mohammed B. in the Marianne Philipsstraat 27 in Amsterdam for the first time. Nouredine El F. explained to the AIVD that in December 2002 Mohammed B. had already suggested “that a bomb attack had to be carried out, causing many deaths” [Office Memo AIVD]. In December 2002 it came to light that living-room meetings were organised in Mohammed’s home (observed by the RID Amsterdam-Amstelland).
In the spring of 2003 the AIVD received stronger indications that a radicalisation process was taking place within the Hofstad network. The AIVD didn’t only conclude “that within this network a leader is making himself known,” but also that during this period this person, Radwan al Issa alias Abu Kahled, regularly stayed in the house of Mohammed B. in the Marianne Philipsstraat. In this house and at other locations in and outside of Amsterdam persons of this network frequently met
- “to listen to radical sermons of a preacher. He has a charismatic appearance and has a lot of influence on youngsters in the network who are looking for identity and meaning. They are given answers in the form of religious interpretation and leadership. This way the participants reinforce their radical islamic ideas. In this context the subject of violent ‘jihad’ is often brought up” [idem].
But at this stage Mohammed B. still didn’t stand out clearly to the AIVD and they underestimated his role. “He plays a supportive role: he is used by others because he has a place to stay and a car.”
In September-October 2003 a growing number of messages was received about ‘conspiratorial behaviour’. This accelerated the investigation into the Hofstad network. Because the risks grew bigger, even more means “to gain and keep operational insight in the core of this specific network in particular” were brought into action. Nearly all intelligence means were deployed.
Yet, Mohammed B. still wasn’t regarded as a core member of this network. It was noticed, however, “that Mohammed B. is showing external features of ongoing radicalisation.” On 8 October 2003 the AIVD received further information about radicalised muslims in Amsterdam from the RID-Amsterdam-Amstelland. Here the name of Mohammed B. was mentioned as well. He stood out for his increasingly radical behaviour, which became evident in for instance “shouting out Koran texts.” It was established that the network environment in which he was operating had to an increasing degree influenced Mohammed B.
Arrests of core membersThe AIVD suspects that attacks are prepared and “that in various places, among which Amsterdam, suspects have to be detained and searches have to be conducted.” On 17 October 2003 house searches are conducted in different locations, including the house of Mohammed B. Five members of the Hofstadgroup are taken into custody (though not in the Marianne Philipsstraat 27). One of the detainees was Samir A., one of the two missing muslim youngsters who were arrested in the Ukraine, at the Russian border.
In September-October 2003 the AIVD discovered that a number of members of the group were in Pakistan, probably for jihad training. And they learned that Abdelhamid Akoudad — alias No’vel— gave orders to a number of members of the group. On 14 October 2003 Akoudad was arrested in Spain, under suspicion of involvement in the suicide attacks in Casablanca. This was sufficient reason for the AIVD to detain “the most important persons in the network.” Mohammed B., however, didn’t belong to this group. “The information we have at our disposal at this moment doesn’t indicate that Mohammed B. is an important player.” He wasn’t involved in the jihad journeys to Pakistan, and he wouldn’t have contact with Akoudad. Yet, in his home a hand-written Arabic document was found. It turned out to be “a so-called martyr letter or jihad testament, written under the name of one of the not yet detained Hofstad members, the radical muslim E.” (Nouredine El-F.). The AIVD still wasn’t convinced that Mohammed B. was an important actor in the terrorist network.
This opinion wasn’t altered on 22 October 2003 either, when the AIVD tapped a telephone conversation of Mohammed B., in which he tells Nouredine El-F. that the police have searched his house and that it is a good thing that he has taken away ‘those documents’ on time.
On 28 October 2003 all arrested key figures of the Hofstad network were released again, due to lack of evidence. However, the AIVD continued its investigation of the Hofstadgroup. They mapped the operational peculiarities of the group. On 4 November 2003 they were able to offer ‘a detailed picture’ of “the ideology, the hierarchical structures, the whereabouts of the members of the network, the names, the aliases and addresses.”
On 7 April 2004 the AIVD received a message, in which Mohammed B. is characterised as “a person who is sensitive to the radical interpretation of islam, wears ‘fundamentalist clothes’ and finds it hard to take a distance.” At that time the AIVD also had his picture. On 2 May 2004 the AIVD decided to obtain more detailed information on the residents of Mohammed B.’s house. As a consequence of this the service discovered that the radical muslims they are watching “more and more avoid mosques and resort to house meetings.”
In May-June the AIVD acquired more information about the Hofstad network. They were especially interested in the increasing activity of the Syrian Radwan al Issa, who is considered to be “the spiritual leader of the Hofstad network.” As he frequently stayed in the home of Mohammed B., the latter’s name came up again as well.
In June 2004, shortly before the beginning of the European soccer championships in Portugal, a number of persons of the Hofstad network (including Nouredine El-F.) travelled to Porto. From there they went to the airport daily, in order to collect ‘substantial’ amounts of money in a post office (money sent from the Netherlands by for instance Ahmed H.). The AIVD didn’t trust it and informed the Portuguese authorities. The Portuguese considered the presence of extremist muslims from Holland to be a possible threat for the sports event and detained the group on 11 June. Due to lack of evidence the three Hofstad members were extradited to the Netherlands. “After arrival the AIVD and UTBT have spoken to a number of them.” On of them was Nouredine El-F. Although he made very incriminating statements about the danger of Mohammed B., the AIVD didn’t change its mind — they put the statements aside as ‘unreliable’.
On 30 June Samir A. was arrested for the second time after robbing a supermarket. In his house the police found pictures, maps and itineraries indicating that he was preparing an attack. The AIVD investigated this case, but nothing pointed to the involvement of Mohammed B., who was a personal friend of Samir A.
Gaining in-depth knowledge
On 21 September 2004 the mayor of Amsterdam receives written information from the AIVD about the results of the partial inquiry into the Al Tawheed mosque. In this report “the observed tendency that radical muslims stay away from the mosques” is noted as well. The AIVD writes “that there is an undercurrent of some extremists and dozens of (mostly younger) persons who sympathise with the violent jihad. This undercurrent has also partly come into being, due to the attraction of the ultra orthodox message which is preached within the mosque (El Tawheed).” Since the extremists partly shift their working space to meetings outside the mosque, the AIVD and RID are compelled to investigate their activities more thoroughly. “The AIVD, in collaboration with the RID Amsterdam-Amstelland, investigates the operational possibilities in order to gain in-depth knowledge, enabling them to penetrate precisely those groups and persons who form a direct threat for the democratic order.”
This, however, didn’t imply that Mohammed B. wasn’t watched. On 21 July 2004 the AIVD decided to tap the phone number of Mohammed B.’s home address. The immediate cause was that the investigation into Samir A. had revealed that he operated in a network in which Mohammed B. acted as well. His telephone was tapped, because the AIVD wanted to know who guided Samir A. But the taps didn’t lead to ‘relevant results’. The members of the Hofstadgroup were warned after the arrests in October 2003. They only scarcely made use of the telephone. Because Mohammed B. appeared to be in contact with several members of the Hofstadgroup, the AIVD decided on 9 August to tap his mobile phone as well. Since Mohammed B. didn’t use his mobile phone anymore, the tap was ended on 21 October. Although the AIVD knew that the members of the terrorist network frequently met in Mohammed B.’s house, he was still regarded as a ‘secondary person’, as someone who was “in the periphery of Samir A.”
All traces point in one directionIn October-November, together with the RID-Amsterdam-Amstelland, the AIVD tries to map the immediate environment of the target group and gain insight in the members of the Hofstadgroup. Once more and each time several traces lead to the home of Mohammed B. in the Marianne Philipsstraat.
More than a month before the murder of Van Gogh the intelligence service received a last indication. On 29 September 2004 Mohammed B. was charged for fare-dodging in public transport. He was arrested, because he went berserk on the occasion. The police handed over copies of the papers to the AIVD, which he carried with him when he was arrested. These papers contained numerous telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. It was obvious that most of his contacts are acquaintances from the Hofstad investigation. Two lists of personal possessions were found as well; lists later recovered as annexes to his testament. More than a month before the murder Mohammed had already been active arranging his last earthly obligations. The signals were there, but they seemed not to be understood.
Explanations of a misappraisal
The AIVD had great difficulty in admitting its mistake. The head of the AIVD, Sybrand van der Hulst, provided a clear vision on muslim terrorism in the Netherlands, but also declared that his service had made no mistakes in the case of Mohammed B. “We feel bad about this without being at fault” [Netwerk 28.4.05]. Two days later, however, the deputy head of the AIVD, Theo Bot, admitted that the AIVD had made a completely mistaken assessment of Mohammed B. “Having to acknowledge that you are wrong in that respect, is something which gives this service a stomach ache over and over again. As subsequently appears, you have simply made a wrong assessment of someone” [KRO-Reporter 30.4.05]. A spokesman of the AIVD tried to stop the seemingly difference of opinion between Van Hulst and Bot with the statement that the AIVD has made the wrong assessment with their present knowledge. “This leaves intact the judgement that was made at the time, that given the knowledge they had at the time, the AIVD cannot be held to blame.” It is a rather defensive and sparing reaction to the appropriate criticism that the AIVD ignored and wrongly interpreted crucial information on Mohammed B.
A partial explanation for this misappraisal is that at that time the frame of reference of the AIVD was predominated by the risks of large-scale attacks such as the one in Madrid. Nobody considered the possibility of someone from the Hofstad network planning a politico-religious inspired murder of an individual — this had not occurred in Europe before. All efforts of the AIVD were aimed at identifying preparations for a large-scale attack. From this perspective the other members of the network —Samir A. and Nouredine el F.— attracted much more attention. Seen from the outside it seemed as if Mohammed B. did not play a central role in this network, because he was not spotted as a ‘conspirator’. Therefore the AIVD did not get a clear view of his crucial —facilitating, ideological and leading— role in the Hofstad network. What’s more, from this perspective his individual potential for violence was underestimated.
The second explanatory factor is that the AIVD had gained insufficient insight in the internet activities of Mohammed B. and his comrades in terror. Although the AIVD still insisted that Mohammed B. merely operated “in the periphery of the so-called Hofstadgroup” [Annual Report on 2004, p. 19], this self-critical insight was breaking through in the assessment of the case. The AIVD now recognises that the internet played a “very important” role in the ideological and religious development of the Hofstadgroup.
- “Many discourses that can be found in the letters of Mohammed B. had been circulating considerable time in news groups and chat rooms or originate from international websites, where one can find treatises on the ‘true’ islam. The Hofstadgroup was not only nourished ideologically via the internet, but in the same way also made contact with young people who were open to the mental world of the group.”
As a tele-terrorist Mohammed B. remained largely out of sight of the AIVD. As a consequence it was not noticed that the whole network of the Hofstadgroup had been built around Mohammed B., and that he played an inspiring and leading role in this network.
“A terrorist is in no hurry”
In an interview in the NRC [22.10.04] Johan van Kastel, head of the national criminal investigation department, compares normal organised criminality and terrorism. “Criminal organisations are small companies: they are in pursuit of profit. We see travelling movements, financial transactions, we trace the communication between the suspects and know: they are going to strike now. They show normal criminal behaviour, giving us something to hold on to.” It’s different with terrorists. “To them time is an important factor. They take months to prepare an action. They aren’t after money, they have an ideological goal. It takes the police quite an effort to sustain such an investigation.”
Finally, we also have to take into account that the AIVD is always forced to make decisions based on sometimes rather vague indications. Their predictions and assessments are therefore inescapably characterised by considerable margins of uncertainty. ‘Predictions are difficult, especially when they concern the future’. It is especially difficult if one has to deal with informally organised terrorist networks and with nomadic jihad preachers, who regard the world as their scene of battle. The AIVD operates in an unremitting virtual and foot-race with opponents that make every effort to remain unnoticed as long as they can, in order to strike at unexpected moments. Furthermore, they are opponents who have an extraordinarily long breath at their disposal, because they see their actions in the light of eternity. And last but not least, they are also very clever opponents, who are able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and who learn from their experiences with intelligence and security services. In his Willem van Oranjelezing the head of the AIVD, Sybrand van Hulst, pointed out that a security service has to put patience at the opposite side, “and wait for the rare moments when the other side is inattentive or give their hands away.” So it is extremely difficult to acquire reliable information from the environment the AIVD has to monitor. The interpretation of the obtained information is even more problematic. It’s not a science, but an art. Intelligence work is most and for all “the art of combining many small jigsaw pieces to a coherent prediction of future threats” [Van Hulst 2005].
Citizens should be aware that the predictions of the intelligence and security services are always imperfect and that therefore not all attacks can be prevented. Personnel and management of the AIVD have of course known this by profession for years. In this respect one cannot really blame the AIVD. Year after year they issued alarming warnings, in a time that almost nobody would listen. And in the case of the Hofstadgroup the AIVD was on top of it. With almost all available means the AIVD was hunting down the Hofstadgroup (see the Laakkwartier), committed various interventions (see arrests), saw the public prosecutor go down in juridical procedures and was completely surprised by quite a different attack than expected. It hit the employers of the AIVD at their hearts and led to deep frustrations.
Applying with the AIVDSince the murder of Van Gogh and the announcement of vice-premier Zalm (5.11.04) that the intelligence service would expand, the AIVD received dozens of open applications. This was quite remarkable, because in the past only sporadically letters came in of people who wanted to work for the service. For a vacancy for an operational assistant, which was still open on 2 November 2004, the AIVD received 1450 reactions, most of them non-specific. Before this time the service usually received 300 reactions. There was such a run that the AIVD summoned the public on her website not to send open applications anymore and to await new vacancies. They also asked to stop calling the recruitment and selection office of the service. The AIVD was enabled to expand with some hundreds of new positions.
After the death of Van Gogh the government decided to broaden the observation of persons related to terrorism. There would be a more intensive search for yet unknown radicalised or extremist persons. The AIVD had to analyse its intelligence more intensively and formulate indicators, allowing for a better calculation of the risks. On this basis other governmental organisations and the local government could take their own responsibility in the combat of terrorism and radicalisation. In order to reach this the national criminal investigation department was expanded with a terrorism unit.
However many powers the AIVD are granted, an effective way to deal with muslim terrorism cannot succeed without data from islamic world itself [Balkenende at a CDA-congress in Utrecht, 13.11.04], nor without data from the European Union.
At the beginning of December 2004 the intelligence and security services in Europe decided to provide the European Union with more information, allowing for a more effective collective battle against international terrorism. This decision was taken by the Contra Terrorisme Groep (Counter Terrorism Group - CTG) of the EU, which was established in 2002 after the attacks of 11 September in the United States. The cooperation within the intelligence community in Europe was expanded. This was implemented for instance by the aggregation of the information flow of intelligence and security services to a collective unity within the EU: the Joint Situation Centre. Another measure was recruiting analysts specialised in counter-terrorism and realising technical facilities that enable a quick and safe exchange of data with the Joint Situation Centre.
Infiltration, moles and steganography
The investigation into the murder of Theo van Gogh revealed that confidential AIVD-information had fallen into the hands of several extremist muslims, and also in the hands of friends of Mohammed B., the terrorist suspects Samir Azzouz and Nouredine El-F. An AIVD employee had leaked secret information to suspects in a terrorist case in Utrecht, in which his brother-in-law Nadir B. (26) was suspected of fencing AIVD-documents. The AIVD-employee was arrested on 30 September 2004. The national department of criminal investigation examined these leaks.
The man who leaked the AIVD-information to friends of Mohammed B., was the 34 year-old Outman Ben Amar. At least for a year he distributed observations and reports of telephone taps among muslim extremists. The Moroccan man had only been working for the AIVD for a short time, but immediately had to work on difficult cases. This was surprising for him as well. “I didn’t get a proper induction and I was set to work at once,” he said to the inspectors of the National detective department. Outman had access to extremely confidential information and “performed actions to obtain information.” Due to a great need of Moroccan/Dutch interpreters, he was thrown in at the deep end [Reformatorisch Dagblad 11.11.04]. Against all AIVD-rules he was only screened once, instead of twice, before he was employed on 1 October 2003. Before that time he had been working as an Arabist for the Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst (IND) [the organisation for entry into the Netherlands].
Centre of Islamistic TerrorismOutman caused a public scandal that was unique in the history of the AIVD. After the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, the AIVD set up a new department which was assigned the task to investigate if an islamic terrorist attack was also to be expected in the Netherlands, and how to prevent this. It was precisely in this department, the Centre of Islamistic Terrorism (CIT) where Outman started his work as an audio editor, under the code name AB1BE. Here he worked in a team of operators and editors. Outman was employed to translate the dialects radical muslims use.
; In July 2004 Outman was set to work on the Vuursche-investigation, also called the Utrecht terrorist case. The investigation revolved around Hassan O. (34). In his conversations, tapped by the AIVD, Hassan was talking about explosives he would use for the jihad and about a bomb he would have deposited: “Once BOOM! and a big city gone” [AIVD-transcript, Utrechts Nieuwsblad]. When Hassan was arrested on 26 September he was in possession of secret AIVD documents. An internal investigation revealed that Outman was responsible for the dissemination of these state secrets.
During the investigation into the Utrecht terrorist case Outman started to behave more and more conspicuously. He characterised an incoming phone call as ‘irrelevant’, whereas it was extremely important in this case. He also frequently reported ill. On 29 September 2004 charges were pressed against him by an AIVD employee who had seen that he smuggled a processed tapped conversation and an observation report from the AIVD building in Leidschendam.
The AIVD-mole was hidden behind a website on which secret messages were posted. From his home address in De Wellenkamp in Nijmegen he maintained the site of travel agency Charfarinastours, seated in Morocco. Obviously the site was removed from the internet, but it can still be found here.
After studying Arabic Language and Culture at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, Outman worked as a guide for several Dutch travel organisations. “In this capacity I travelled to Morocco several times, but also to other Arabic countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen” [www.chafarinastours.com]. He was one of the founders of a media organisation for progressive muslims. Iman Abdullah Haselhoef was an advisor of this group.
SteganographyTwo scientists and security experts of the University of Michigan, Peter Honeyman and Niels Provos have investigated whether pictures with hidden messages can actually be found on the internet. They analysed two million pictures on E-Bay, but discovered no picture with hidden information at all [Detecting Steganographic Content on the Web]. The hidden information was traced by using the programme ‘Stegdetect’. It is an automated means to analyse JPG images on steganographic content. Stegdetect traces images, in which hidden content is concealed with JSteg, JPHide and OutGuess 0.13b. According to the Dutch security expert Wouter Slegers no steganographic images are found in news groups.
The apparently innocent website was used as an intermediary for state secrets. An investigation by the Telegraaf demonstrated that some pictures on the website contained secret announcements. It has already been known for some time that terrorists exchange information via websites, without this being visible to a third party. Here the technique of steganography is being used. The Telegraaf made use of a programme, developed by the FBI, which sounded the alarm when it was tested on Outman’s website. The detection software designated at least two images as “highly suspicious”.
The Minister of the Interior Remkes (VVD) couldn’t clearly indicate how much damage the leaked AIVD-information to muslim terrorists had done to current investigations. But he didn’t exclude that the murderer of Van Gogh had been informed.
- “As yet, the AIVD-investigation hasn’t given proof that the leak has influenced the possibilities of the suspect to prepare his deed. We do not know if he received information, and if he did, what the consequences were for his state of mind.”
Evidently, the leak in the AIVD was larger than assumed. Outman leaked secret material to radical muslims in Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. He passed on observation reports of the AIVD to Mohammed B. as well. “A tragedy,” said head of the AIVD, Sybrand van Hulst, when he heard about it. “I thought, Oh no! A feeling of shame. Most unpleasant for the service, for its image.” Later he said “that the employee responsible for the leaks has inflicted deep wounds within my organisation and it is considered to be one of the darkest pages in our history of 60 years” [Van Hulst 2005].
Shooting at moving targets
The investigation into internet presentations of Dutch jihad groups should clear away a number of obstacles. First, the Dutch jihad sites are not only interwoven with international jihad sites in numerous ways, but also among themselves. The patterns of this interrelation can be mapped by means of a network analysis. There are some good programmes by now, automatically providing a good view of the full communication network, the key figures or ‘hubs’ and the way in which information spreads between websites. In Zichzelf organiserende netwerken [Self-organising networks] this subject is discussed at length.
Secondly, the number of documents and contributions to discussion forums of jihad sites is so enormous, that it is nearly impossible to read them all. So there is an urgent need for instruments that allow us to ‘map’ huge numbers of documents and contributions to discussions automatically. Some good technologies for automatic text analysis are coming on to the market. An example is Crawdad Text Analysis System. It is a programme for the analysis of large quantities of unstructured qualitative data, developed by Steve Corman at Arizona State University (ASU). The programme can be used for scientific analysis of online networks, but also for knowledge management, national safety and intelligence and for competitive commercial information. Another instrument for the systematic analysis of ‘very large-scale conversations’ (VLSCs) is the ‘Conversion Map’ of Warren Sack (UC Berkeley, Social Technologies Group). It is a means to examine the social and linguistic structure of very large-scale conversations, such as Usenet news groups, web forums, Instant Messaging and Chat groups. (Also compare the studies of Judith Donath (MIT MediaLab, Sociable Media Group).
Finally, we need a systematic solution to the fact that many documents and contributions on sites are fairly fleeting and that the sites themselves frequently disappear into thin air in order to emerge again in another place or under a different name. For this purpose instruments are required —based on self-defined criteria— with which relevant documents or contributions to discussions are automatically filed, with quotation of source and date.
National TipLine Cyber Crimes
Urged by numerous complaints on the increasing number of hate-sowing and terrorist statements on the internet, the Minister of Justice decided to establish a Nationaal Meldpunt Cybercriminaliteit [Cyber-crime National Tipline] himself. It is a first step to build a more robust system for the elimination of all illegal content of messages on the internet. Complaints about punishable statements on websites or discussion forums —such as infringements of copyright, child pornography, discrimination, incitement to hatred, calls for violence or terrorism— can be submitted to this new tipline. When these complaints are unmistakably justified, they will be passed on to the provider who has to remove this illegal content: ‘notice and takedown’ (NTD-system). The tipline will also monitor specific websites and newsgroups that are known to distribute illegal material. The police will be asked to examine the person or persons who are responsible for the distribution of this kind of information.
The new tipline should be operational on 1 January 2006. The precise division of the responsibilities between justice, police, prosecution and providers still has to be elaborated. The KLPD will devise a plan of action for the construction of the tipline and for the design of the notice-and-takedown system. In the structure of the NTD-system the existing tiplines are taken into account. The first priority will be the fight against hate sowing and terrorist statements [justitie.nl].
Minister Donner, however, was somewhat premature when he suggested that there had been consultations with the internet providers and that they would support his plans. The new association of internet providers ISPO is very critical towards the proposed organisation of the NTD-system. The ISPO pleaded for an independent verification in which both the complainant and the internet user, who is supposed to have made the contested statement, have the possibility to tell their side of the story anonymously. They should also have the possibility of going to court when they disagree with the decision of the complaints bureau. These safeguards should guarantee freedom of speech and privacy on the internet. This is the only way in which a balance can be found between freedom of speech and the rights of third parties. Furthermore the internet providers want to be protected against third-party liability when information is wrongly removed.
Prosecution of hate-sowing sites, persons and networks
If the government doesn’t effectively act against jihad sites, Holland could become a free port of websites for terrorist organisations. How difficult is it to actually prosecute extremists and hate groups that operate on the internet? How difficult is it to prosecute individuals with evidently terrorist intentions who are ‘just’ preparing violent operations?
In the field of prosecuting people who threaten politicians or other citizens with death, the judiciary has had some experiences in the meantime. A well-known example is the criminal case against Farid A., who threatened Geert Wilders with death in the publicity of the internet. The Public Prosecution wanted his punishment to be a signal for anyone who intends to silence politicians. Although the offender got off lightly (120 hours of community service and 2 months probation), the motivation of the court was unusual. Not as much because it held proven that Farid A. had actually threatened the member of parliament for his political statements, but especially because the court considered this public threat via internet far more serious than a threat via a less accessible medium [Verdict].
A ‘virtual threat’ via internet is much more effective than a threat in the private domain or in smaller spaces, particularly when the threat is aimed at public figures. Resentful statements, death wishes and more or less concealed death threats are, unfortunately, a matter of course on certain websites and discussion forums. The police and judiciary cannot deal with all of them. In this respect the conviction of Farid A. not only had the character of a warning signal, but also the traces of arbitrariness.
Radical islamic and right-extremist sites that do not directly incite to hatred and physical violence are hard to prosecute. Until now one had a lucky escape by appealing to freedom of speech. Even when the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles demanded that the government close the site Hamasonline.com, because it supported a terrorist organisation, the Public Prosecution declared only taking action when the crime was reported in the Netherlands. The SWC announced that if the government wouldn’t take actions to close the site, it would turn to the European Union. Terrorist organisations that appear on the list of the European Union are forbidden to raise funds or offer ‘related services’.
We have seen before that attempts to effectively prosecute muslim extremists suspected of terrorism have hardly ever been successful in the Netherlands. Obviously this was different in Mohammed B.’s case. The evidence of his crimes was overwhelmingly solid.
Life sentence for Mohammed B.
After his arrest Mohammed B. took full responsibility for his actions on 2 November. In a tapped telephone conversation on 19 January 2005 with his brother Hassan he laughed: “Yes, I knew what I was doing. I have slaughtered him.” Mohammed B. had prepared himself for weeks for his death as a martyr. And he still longed for death. “I swear to God. If they had the death penalty, I would beg for it. Jerks” [from the same conversation]. But Allah had rejected his martyrdom and therefore Mohammed B. finally had to appear in front of the less shadowy earthly judges after all. On 11 and 12 July 2005 he was forced to be present at his own trial.
On the first day of his trial Mohammed B. entered the courtroom with a showy koran in his hand. This is how he intended to show that he still places Allah far above the judge and that he doesn’t acknowledge the criminal code or makes it subordinate to the koran. Actually, a lot of muslims take this demonstrative use of the koran as an insult. After all, Mohammed B. suggested that the koran legitimises what he has done and he is under the delusion that Allah is the highest existing authority. In his closing speech the public prosecutor Mr. Frits van Straelen debones the facts, circumstances and consequences of the crime and the person. He demonstrates that it was a premeditated deliberate murder with a terrorist intention. Mohammed B. is portrayed as an extremely dangerous person, persisting in his fundamental rejection and combat of the democratic constitutional state. For this the public prosecutor judges one and only one punishment to be appropriate: life imprisonment and disenfranchisement.
Mohammed B. explains to his judges that he fully agrees with the charge and that he takes full responsibility for the murder. He declares to have acted out of conviction: “I have purely been driven by my religion.” In order to prevent any misunderstanding he assures his judges: “Should I be released, I would do exactly the same. Exactly the same” [Last words of Mohammed B.(text); Audio; Nos Journaal; Netwerk.tv; AT5 News Broadband/ Modem].
The judge sentences him to lifelong imprisonment on 26 June. The claim of disenfranchisement was not adopted by the judge (Mohammed wouldn’t be interested: according to him democratic systems should be erased from the earth by the sharia in order to subject all people to Allah). In the judgement, pronounced by the president of the court Mr. Udo Willem Bentinck, he is charged with 6 crimes: the murder of Theo van Gogh with a terrorist aim; possession of a gun with ammunition with the aim of committing a terrorist crime; attempted murder of 2 bystanders; attempted murder of 8 police officers and threatening 3 police officers; twice threatening Hirsi Ali with a terrorist aim. With these deeds Mohammed B. has tried to seriously frighten (part of) the population and gravely disrupt the fundamental political and/or constitutional structure of the Netherlands [article 83a, Penal Code]. According to the court no legal and convincing evidence has been produced so far for conspiracy with others. Still, Mohammed B. can be summoned for membership of a criminal organisation with a terrorist aim at a later time.
Mohammed B. appeared in the courtroom with a Palestinian scarf on his head and a grey djellaba, showing his gym shoes. When the judges entered the courtroom he ostentatiously remained seated. Apparently indifferent and unmoved he listened to the verdict. When the judge pronounced the ultimate punishment, he nodded briefly, but with unmistaken approval. On leaving the courtroom the assassin passed the son of the victim. Lieuwe van Gogh (14) remarked in his father’s style: “I’ll send him a postcard, with ‘Theo forever’.” For this he pictured a special card with a picture of one of his own paintings.
The conviction of Mohammed B. immediately resulted in discussions on which special conditions should be attached to his detention, in order to prevent him from continuing the distribution of jihad texts, from ‘winning souls’ or preparing terrorist attacks from prison. The Justice department announced that he would be locked up in solitary confinement. Governors of penitentiaries are authorised to restrict contact of detainees in view of maintenance of law and order. Besides, the Minister of Justice has the authority to designate institutions for detainees who require special treatment, on account of the crime for which they are in prison. Already in June 2005 minister Donner (Justice) had announced an investigation into the legal possibilities of stopping recruitment for and the preparing of terrorist attacks during detention.
Mohammed B. was first accommodated in a special department of the Amsterdam Bijlmer prison and was moved to the high-security prison in Vught. He is separated from other detainees. There will be periodic evaluations to see if this isolation should be prolonged. According to the spokesman Detention of Justice it is possible in theory “that he will be separated from fellow detainees for the rest of his life” [Parool 27.7.05]. So Mohammed is subject to an individual regime with special rules. At any rate, he is excluded from the use of the internet. We have seen before that there are ample good reasons to do this.
Mohammed B. was given the heaviest punishment that is possible in the Netherlands. And for the time being he will be subjected to the strictest prison regime we know here. But he has the right to some fundamental liberties and a humane treatment. His segregation might have a status-lifting effect, enabling him to still acquire his intended martyrdom. It is inadvisable to make a ‘hero’ of the failing martyr this way, especially not in the eyes of fellow detainees, who are susceptible to Mohammed’s islamic ideology.
Lifelong = Lifelong
A lifelong imprisonment really means lifelong in the Netherlands. Temporary imprisonment is nearly always followed automatically by early release after 2/3 of the prison sentence has been served. This automatism isn’t valid in the case of a lifelong sentence. Not until 20 years of the prison sentence have been served can a petition for clemency be presented, which is only granted —by Royal decree— in highly exceptional cases. Clemency is only granted if the condemned person has developed in such a way that he or she is capable of turning over a new leaf. Besides, in the case of a petition for clemency an extraordinary change of the circumstances has to be demonstrated, such as a serious and incurable illness.
Lifelong imprisonment was introduced in 1879, after capital punishment had been abolished in 1870. Lifelong was and is seen as an alternative for capital punishment. It is a kind of ‘alive-dead-declaration’: the life of a condemned man or woman is a dead end.
Lifelong + ??
A day after his verdict Mohammed B. was further charged for his (leading) role within the terrorist network of the Hofstadgroup. During the pre-trial hearing about this terrorist network public prosecutor A. van Dam said that it would be “irresponsible” not to prosecute Mohammed for the suspicions held against the members of the Hofstadgroup. “The fact that he cannot get extra punishment is subordinate.” It is unique in the Dutch criminal law system that someone who has been sentenced to life is also prosecuted for another criminal case.
Prosecution of members of the Hofstadgroup
As we have seen before, for instance in the trials against Samir A. and Bilal L., it is extremely difficult to convict terrorist suspects, in spite of overwhelming —but not lawful— evidence. That is why many civilians, journalists and politicians keep a sharp eye on the ‘biggest terrorist trial ever’ in a heavily secured court in Rotterdam. In the trial against the members of the Hofstadgroup the Public Prosecution leaves no stone unturned to bring forward a substantially founded indictment. The investigation into the network is still well under way. The organisational connections need to be proved. It has to be established “that the organisation not only exists on the drawing table of the AIVD, but that a group actually exists” [NRC 24.12.04].
Public prosecutor Koos Plooy claims that with the arrest of the suspects of the Hofstadgroup one or more attacks in the Netherlands have been thwarted. The AIVD was on the right track in this case. The investigation team of police and judiciary has also found evidence for the existence of the terrorist organisation. Moreover, the Public Prosecutor believes to be able to prove that Mohammed B. fulfilled a leading role within the network. For the Public Prosecutor this is one of the most important pillars to demonstrate that the Hofstadgroup is indeed a terrorist organisation. The ‘Hofstadgroup’ is specified as a radical group of muslim youngsters, having prepared various attacks. Strictly speaking the Hofstadgroup doesn’t exist as such; the name was made up by the AIVD in September 2003 to denote a terrorist network.
Mohammed B. and his friends are suspected of participation of a criminal organisation with a terrorist aim. In the criminal file all evidence for this major suspicion has to be brought up. During the third pre-trial hearing [29.7.05] it became clear that the provisional criminal file contains indications that:
- All suspects know (nearly) all fellow suspects or had mutually more or less regular contact with each other;
- All suspects — one more often than another — attended meetings in Mohammed Bouyeri’s house;
- The persons present at these meetings were taught in a religious doctrine that justifies committing violent acts against disbelievers/dissidents;
- During these meetings also discussions took place on texts that justify committing criminal offences or offences against life and even incite to this;
- During these meetings extremely violent and violence-glorifying visual material was watched (for instance films on decapitations);
- Most suspects were already earlier in possession of the afore mentioned texts, either or not in digital form;
- These texts were distributed and/or exchanged among/between suspects;
- One or more suspects have tried to recruit other persons to participate in the violent jihad;
- Some suspects (Mohammed B., Jason W. and Ismail A.) have actually committed (extremely) violent acts, called upon by the religious doctrine they supported.
Based on these indications the court judges that sufficient serious objections can be raised against all suspects of having participated in a criminal organisation, possibly with a terrorist aim [source]. Therefore all requests for adjournment or suspension of the preventive custody and immediate discharge were rejected.
In the reconstruction of the murder of Theo van Gogh we have already extensively documented how crucial the role of Mohammed B. has been in the construction of the terrorist network. Also the Public Prosecution is of the opinion, based on its own investigation, that Mohammed B. definitely didn’t play a marginal part on the periphery of the Hofstadgroup. Public prosecutor Mr. A. van Dam: “The group was built up around Mohammed B. and was inspired by his texts.” The suspects are not only friends, “but also students and followers of B.” That is why Mohammed B. is “one of the main suspects.” The other twelve, “students, followers and confidants” of Mohammed B., have “formed and concentrated around him.” Mohammed B. was a lethal spider in the centre of a personally woven terrorist web.
he power of the internet
Both in the build-up to and digestion of the murder of Theo van Gogh the internet plays an important role. We have seen that the internet was intensively used by various, more or less radical islamic movements, in order to create a climate with aggressive words, in which a political murder of a critic of the fundamentalist islam could take place. We have seen how radicalised islamic youngsters used internet to hatch their networks of hatred and disseminate their hostile message. This gave rise to a climate for violent jihad, in which the murderer of Theo van Gogh could be recruited. A climate in which Mohammed B. and his friends of the Hofstadgroup could be trained to attack personal targets, for instance Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, and political targets, such as the house of parliament and the decadence of the Amsterdam Red Light District. ‘All blasphemers out of the world, starting with the Netherlands.’
On the other side we also saw that fortuynist, right-wing extremist, neo-nationalist and neo-nazi groupings and small groups used internet to sell their political goods. With their xenophobic, islamophobic and racist statements they created a climate of hatred of foreigners, long before the murder of Van Gogh, in which multicultural society had to be violently sacrificed for a nostalgic longing for a mono-cultural, white society. It was a deliberate pursuit of a climate in our country, in which non-European foreigners and in particular muslims wouldn’t feel at home or welcome anymore. ‘All muslims out of Europe, starting with the Netherlands.’
The extremes touched each other. Not only in the mirrored ideological representation of a country in which ethnic and religious groups are not able to live with each other anymore, but also due to a fundamental dogmatic attitude, allowing no room for dialogue or non-violent political controversy. In this logic of escalation a culture of the big mouths was generated, in which reasonableness and nuances were lost.
After the murder of Theo van Gogh the already poisoned climate came sharply into focus. Weblogs and discussion forums were only used to express passionate emotions in rugged language. But they were also and in particular platforms for the expression of political ‘incorrect’ proposals and measures.
The traditional news suppliers of newspapers and broadcasting companies noticed that their monopoly on news service and interpretation of the news was undermined by what was taking place on the internet. “Internet puts pressure on paper and television,” Geert-Jan Bogaerts wrote.
- “The traditional news suppliers (newspaper empires, broadcasting companies) are seeing their monopoly crumble away. The modern news consumer makes use of new techniques on the internet, such as RSS and web diaries. Users can determine themselves when they want to take in the news, and which channel they want to use for this purpose. If the traditional news monopolists want to survive, they will have to adapt their organisation to it in a better way” [Volkskrant 27.11.04].
The free gathering of news performed by the individual and associated bloggers increasingly influences the public debate. They publish contributions that are picked up straight from the street, but also information that has been adopted from unknown or well-known media. The good with the bad are published and made accessible to a wide public. Unconfirmed rumours can roam the internet for days. For professional journalists this is an abomination. It proves once more how important it is for journalists to deal professionally with available information, by carefully checking their sources. If you don’t, the news supply degenerates into a rumour machine. “The internet implies that journalism should make higher demands than ever on the assessment and selection of information and especially on the transparency of sources” [Elsbeth Etty, NRC 17.2.04].
However, the internet cannot just be dismissed as a rumour machine, in which one and all can voice their possibly self-invented little facts and opinions. The internet is also and especially a communication medium, in which lies are exposed very quickly, in which wrong information is quickly corrected, in which limited information is quickly completed, and in which untenable or dubious opinions are quickly contradicted.
We have seen before how the internet can contribute to the reinforcement and intensifying of media hypes, and how it is employed as an increasingly powerful source of media hypes. But we have also seen how the internet helps shatter and correct media hypes. The internet is and remains a medium with greatly contradictory effects. This isn’t so much caused by the medium itself —after all the internet is not a subject possessing the capacity to act and for that reason cannot do or produce anything—, but by the way in which the internet is used by people and groups with various and often contradictory interests, needs, opinions, desires and aspirations.
Democratic debate on the internet
Just like in the public debate outside the internet, a distinction should be made between indecent and criminal statements in virtual discussions as well. Criminal statements can be fought on the basis of civil law, regulating the relations between citizens, or on the basis of criminal law, with the general interest as its starting point.
Indecent statements and insults as such are not against the law. The constitutionally embedded freedom of speech is not restricted by legally constitutionalised decency norms or ethical principles. The only positive exception to this rule is the criminal ban on discrimination and incitement to hatred or violence. The only curious and dubious exception to this rule is the ban on blasphemy, as set down in the articles 147 and 147a of the Penal Code.
Without any interference from the government and just like in the local world, decency norms can be developed and maintained on the internet. Nearly all administrators of web forums and chat boxes were violently confronted with the risks of non-moderated discussions after the murder of Van Gogh. The sites were flooded with resentful insults and statements inciting violence. Sometimes these were so dominating that the site administrators felt compelled to close their forums. They realised that they had to take their own responsibility, not only to protect their sites from judicially criminal acts, but also from extreme violations of the elementary rules of decency. Many sites have proved that they actually have a self-cleaning ability. In discussions with visitors new codes of behaviour were drawn up or older ones reinforced and more moderators were recruited (usually volunteers) who make every effort to maintain these codes of behaviour.
This was no luxury. It wasn’t only a case of checking the progress of statements inciting acts that are contrary to the law. Also the strongly polarised and escalating debates had to be constrained, in which insults and expressions of hatred play such an important part — even though in itself this isn’t criminal, but ‘at most’ indecent, loutish or obtuse behaviour.
It is often said that the internet has a positive function too, as an outlet for all sorts of feelings of hatred or bottled-up aggression. Since people can express themselves on internet anonymously or with a pseudonym, they usually dare say more online. Quite often they express themselves in a much more extreme way than they would in any other form of publicity. They express unrestrainedly what’s occupying their minds, and aren’t afraid to provoke. They ask for the attention they do not get elsewhere; if they don’t succeed in getting it, they are inclined to shout even more loudly. Once they have vented their bottled-up feelings of hatred and aggression, they are inclined to follow that trail. Once the language of hatred and aggression dominates, administrators of web forums will have great difficulty in bringing related opinions and feelings back in a democratic line again.
In the simple mechanical theory of aggression, aggression is conceived as a certain quantity of energy that is locked up in a pressure cooker. The idea is that this ‘vessel of aggression’ will not explode if once in a while the valve is opened and people are enabled to vent their feelings of hatred and revenge. This will reduce the pressure and the chance of explosion. In modern psychology this theory finds little support anymore. First of all, we know that when people regularly express themselves in an aggressive way, they are also more inclined towards fierce and aggressive behaviour. We also know that most forms of aggressive behaviour are preceded by verbal aggression. From earlier experiences (for example around the murder of Fortuyn) we also know that when people are in a state of great uncertainty and emotional excitement, they are more quickly prone to tumble over themselves while trying to outdo each other in making bold statements and extreme proposals. Due to the high rate of circulation and scale of distribution on the internet, these individual expressions of anger and hatred coagulate to a poisonous mixture, causing the boundary between verbal insults and threats and actual physical violence to melt away. Massive verbal aggressions preceded the physical aggression against mosques and churches. And as we have seen, a long-lasting and ramified process of sheer verbal antagonism and symbolic threats preceded the murder of Theo van Gogh as well.
Let’s systematically list the basic conditions for a democratic debate:
- Equal access
Everybody should have equal opportunities to participate in the debate. Therefore nobody can be excluded from participation in the debate in advance. The ideal picture of the public domain is that it is supported by all citizens.
- Acknowledgement as equal
All participants should acknowledge each other as equal, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, or social status. Exclusion of people or groups based on these characteristics is democratically illegitimate. In the public debate nobody may deny others their human dignity.
- Protection from physical violence
Participants of the political debate should be protected from personal menace or threats. Nobody may incite the solving of social conflicts and differences of opinion with violence in public. Calling on or inciting the use of physical violence against persons or institutions is illegitimate and prohibited according to the criminal law.
The value of these rules of conduct is that they form the procedural conditions for each actually democratic, and therefore not imposed consensus. These conditions of the public domain can only be fulfilled (i) when civilians obtain equal access to public forums in which they can put forward their political visions, (ii) when they have equal opportunities in this public domain to actually express their opinions and desires, and (iii) when they do not negotiate with a strategic or power-directed aim, but do give careful thought to substantive arguments.
However, there is an important difference between the original and the copy. The original reads: “I say what I mean” and the copy is: “I say what I think.” That is the difference between ‘when I say something I have thought about it and truly mean it’ and ‘I always say what springs to mind at that moment.’
“I say what I think and I do what I say.” Pim Fortuyn was talked into this borrowed maxim by his publicity expert. Freedom of speech is reduced to ‘being able to say what you think’, even if it is in conflict with the conditions intrinsically linked to freedom of speech, such as the condition of non-discrimination. We owe an important part of our civilisation to the fact that political leaders have overcome the habit of venting each arbitrary emotion just like that. This civilised norm also implies that one can act politically in freedom, within the constitutionally embedded norms of humanity (non-discrimination) and democracy (non-violence).
The living Fortuyn significantly contributed to the coarsening of the political climate in the Netherlands, due to his political views and his style. He responded to a growing feeling of discomfort with the failing multicultural society among the Dutch population. Fortuyn translated this discomfort into a populist pack of political slogans in a right-wing radical way. His programme promised fast solutions to complex problems, which were connected by the thread of the discomfort with the ‘multicult’. The islamites in particular had to pay the price [Pels 2004].
The great fear generated by the terrorist attack on the symbols of the American superpower led to an explosive mixture of islamophobia, xenophobia and combative nationalism. Pim Fortuyn played with matches, close to the fuse. “Islam is a backward culture,” he stated in a now notorious interview in the Volkskrant [9.2.2002]. He pointed out that drastic measures had to be taken. “Sir, if I had it my judicial way I would simply say: no Islamite enters our country anymore!” After some opportunistic hikes to nearly all political parties. Pim had finally found shelter with Leefbaar Nederland [Liveable Holland], a party dying for a ‘real leader’. His statements on islam and his plea for removal of the non-discrimination articles in the constitution and in criminal law were not accepted by his brand-new fellow party members and were even strongly condemned. The democratic ethics and morals among the leadership and supporters of Leefbaar Nederland were so strong, that Pim was urgently advised to seek his political fortune elsewhere.
Fortuyn went on under his own steam (and his financiers’ power). He founded his own political party, the LPF [List Pim Fortuyn], and headed for an unprecedented electoral success. Until he was murdered by Volkert van der Graaf. Fortuyn’s supporters claimed that the bullet came from the left-wing. The frontal attack on islam underway at the time was altered into or completed with a frontal attack on the ‘leftist church’, the soft multiculturalism, the intercultural dialogue. ‘Strong’ measures had to be taken to make an immediate end to the monstrosity of the multicultural society.
Muscular language and strong measures. Those were the articles of faith of the so-called ‘new politics’. Holland had to be stirred up and wiped clean. And a lot of disappointed people started believing this. “The into-a-party coagulated fortuynism-after-Fortuyn” [H.J. Schoo] made clear what these new politics would lead to: the decay of moral standards. The downfall of political fortuynism took place rapidly and dramatically. Sincere democrats displayed righteous indignation over the extraordinary incompetence and viciousness with which conflicts were battled out in the LPF. Only cabaret performers and caricaturists could joke about the manic-depressive way in which Winnie de Jong [LPF politician] added lustre to her political suicide. That is the result of everyone saying what they think and doing what they say.
Organised fortuynism was a form of right-wing populism. After Pim Fortuyn had been killed Theo van Gogh appointed himself the prophet of “his bald holiness.” Complex social problems were once again reduced to simple ethnic-religious schemes, the political debate degenerated into vulgar brawls, balanced argument was surpassed by verbal threats, attempts to reach consensus were replaced by polarising statements with the only aim being to hit imagined enemies as hard as possible. In such a political culture reason and wisdom are progressively lost.
That is the other side and perhaps even the mirror image of the process of radicalisation that is taking place among allochthonous youngsters, grown up in Holland, who gear to islamic tradition, to a mediaeval theocratic world view. That is the tragedy of a multicultural society, which has not yet succeeded in reaching consensus about the conditions under which people can enjoy cultural diversity.
They who know their history know why right-wing and left-wing populisms need to be challenged. They who don’t, run the risk of being dragged along in an all-embracing chaos again, from which they can only try to find a way out by means of violence. History doesn’t take place in an upward trend of increasing civilisation, but rather in an uncertain zigzag-movement. Some ‘lessons from history’ have to be learned again and again. This is tragic, but belongs to the dialectics of post-modern history. Whoever wants to survive in it, both as a human being and as a democrat, should possess a reasonable portion of sensible optimism, serene courage, differentiated understanding, tolerant empathy and supple flexibility.
Futures of cyberterrorism
Islamistic terrorism manifests itself via internationally organised networks. In spite of the massive deployment of American military means, these networks have largely kept their striking power, if not expanded it. Since the murder of Theo van Gogh the terrorist threat is more than substantial in Holland as well [AIVD 2003]. This has many causes.
- Islamic terrorists feel invigorated by the successes of their attacks. They attract a lot of attention, cause insecurity in the hostile camp and, in a hard-handed way, make a great many people aware of the problems behind it. Many autochtonous citizens didn’t start to wonder what possessed those radical fundamentalists till after the murder of Van Gogh. What is going on in islamic circles in a more general sense? Is islam as such a ‘hostile’ and ‘violent’ religion? What kinds of movements exist among the muslims that live in Holland? How do they experience the war, proclaimed by president Bush against muslim terrorism? How do they experience the military support of the Dutch government to an, in every respect illegitimate, war of aggression against Iraq? Does Holland run greater risks of terrorist attacks because of its bondage to the US? How do they experience islamophobia, started by Pim Fortuyn and his clique? Is it really wise to depict muslims as ‘goat fuckers’ and their spokesmen as ‘pimps of the prophet’? How prudent are politicians who call for ‘ruthless’ measures (Van Aartsen - Liberal Party) and who heroically declare ‘war’ on terrorism?
Back from Iraq?The war in Iraq still plays an important role in the heads of many radical muslim youngsters. The jihad in Iraq serves as an example [Gilles Kepel]. It is a breeding ground for feelings of hatred for the decadent and disbelieving Western world among the radicalising muslims in Holland. In their Jaarverslag 2004 [Annual Report 2004] the AIVD justly pointed out that another danger is waiting in ambush. There is a very real danger “that, as the conflict continues and more radicalised muslims go to Iraq for the jihad, they will return in due course as trained and experienced fighters, as was the case with veterans from Afghanistan in the nineties. Because of their knowledge and experience in the field of guerrilla tactics and committing attacks they will form an increased threat for European society. They can also develop into active recruiters of new jihadists in Europe” [p. 18]. The AIVD keeps an eye on movements to Iraq and on their return to Holland people are followed. This doesn’t seem to be superfluous. The arrival in Europe of radicalised muslims, who have had training in and experience with committing attacks, is not imaginary [Volkskrant 10.6.05].
On 2 May 2005 the police arrest the 32 year-old Iraqi Wesam al D. In his house in Amersfoort the police found a video with a record of a journey that Wesam made to his native city Fallujah, in Iraq in October 2003. On this video we can see how he inspects bombs together with freedom fighters in Iraq. In a short speech he also brings up the usual battle cries that precede an attack on an American convoy [Netwerk_1; Netwerk_2]. According to the prosecution Wesam is closely associated with attacks on American soldiers in the environment of Fallujah. The American department of Justice wants to bring Wesam to trial and demands his extradition.
The police also arrested Wesam’s employer, 35 year-old asylum seeker Kathen al N. He was supposed to have supported Wesam financially, and accompanied him on his last trip to Iraq. Kahten is the manager of a garage in Amersfoort. On 22 March 2003 Wesam had put himself on fire during a demonstration against the war in Iraq. In this ‘self-cremation in protest’ he had heavily burnt his hands, so that he wasn’t able to perform his profession as a hairdresser any longer. Afterward he started working for his friend Kathen.
When the war in Iraq against the regime of Saddam Hussein started, Wesam lost his head. “He suddenly disappeared. Later on it turned out that he had gone to Iraq to take part in action. After that he made several journeys”, says an Iraqi who knows him very well [Telegraaf]. Wesam went to Iraq three times in order to fight. He said he was ready to die as a martyr. During his last journey he was accompanied by his friend Kathen. They first travelled to Syria to buy arms. From the taps the AIVD put on their telephone we know that Wesam says that he wants to commit suicide, “that he is going to get himself killed.” After this Kathen says “that he will make up a military strategy for Wesam.”
Wesam seems to be a prototypical example of islamic self-ignition. “Self-ignition means that an individual without involvement in networks or direct personal contacts with recruiters, radicalises on his own in such a way, for instance under the influence of internet sites, that he goes on jihad of his own accord or prepares and executes a terrorist attack” [justitie.nl].
- After each islamic-inspired attack terrorists were pursued, caught and arrested with massive use of government means. Parts of the international and national terrorist network were rounded up or disordered. But the terrorist networks have a unique ability to survive in widely differing circumstances. They show a high degree of stability: they can resist hostile attacks from outside fairly well and are also capable of solving internal disruptions of balance. Terrorist networks consist of semi-autonomous local cells that are to a great extent self-supporting. This makes them increasingly difficult to map, trace and eliminate. We have seen that ‘polder-jihadists’ are not organised according to a tight or formal pattern, but rather as a loose network of friends and acquaintances, who feel connected by a shared islamist doctrine and way of living. They have joined the culture of the global jihad. The Hofstadgroup was in fact a nomadic movement of ‘angry young muslims’ and muslimahs with extreme and violent convictions. They are do-it-yourself terrorists who, primarily via internet, gear to and contact terrorists abroad. Or, as Jaco Alberts and Steven Derix wrote in the NRC[9.4.05]: “these fourteen boys ran a successful Al-Qaeda-branch.” The way al-Qaeda works and is organised is analysed at length in CyberJihad Internationaal: Waarom terroristen van internet houden [CyberJihad International: Why terrorist love internet].
- The war, declared on the disbelieving and decadent ‘West’ by islamic terrorists, is not a classical modern war in which two armies fight each other in open air. It is an asymmetrical war in which a military superior national state is fought by a military inferior collection of militant islamic powers. With relatively minimal means —rucksacks filled with explosives— terrorists can achieve a maximum effect. Conversely, in spite of their superior weapon technology, governments are not able to combat terrorists that are hiding in normal residential areas. “The possibilities of fighting terrorism with military means are restricted. The terrorist camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed. The allied troops are only required there to prevent the remainders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban from re-grouping. For the rest, there is not much more to do in a military sense. The invasion of Iraq has, insofar president Bush wanted to deal with terrorism in this way, worked counter-productively” [Volkskrant, 30.7.05 — editorial comment]. Islamic terrorists avoid the clenched military powers of the national systems they fight as much as possible. They don’t attack the enemy frontally where his superior firepower is, but swarm like poisonous bees in search of the weak spots of the societies they consider to be their enemies. This is so terrifying that it exceeds the shock of terrorist deeds by far. Time and again islamic terrorist networks have succeeded in committing attacks on soft, unprotected objects or persons. They preferably commit attacks on “persons and objects that form an easy target because of their approachability and accessibility” [AIVD 2003].
- The new rules of law that penalise the justification, denial or glorification of terrorist attacks, obviously are also valid for statements that are distributed via the internet. Yet, not everyone who has made such statements on internet forums runs the risk of being prosecuted. Glorification of terror is punishable with an added clause. First of all it has to be a case of glorification of extremely serious crimes, such as terrorist attacks. Moreover, the effect of statements should be taken into account. Only those statements are punishable that (can) seriously disturb the public order. So the condition is that the statements have demonstrably agitated a large public. Statements done in chat rooms and small online discussion groups cannot be prosecuted according to the new bill either. Glorification of terrorism on internet will therefore not quickly be punished. Propagandists of islamic-inspired terrorism can still fairly easily nestle down in the submerged niches of cyberspace.
- A lot of young muslims of the second generation of work and asylum seekers have had a better education in Holland than their parents, live in relatively better material circumstances, and make use of relatively high-quality social facilities. They are alienated from the traditional views and rules of life of their parents, but due to discrimination on the labour market and in night-life it is difficult for them to settle safely in Dutch society. Their tendency for radical social criticism is not satisfied with a progressive (‘leftist’ or ‘socialist’) political orientation, but by reverting to a mediaeval theocratic world view. This is a fantasy world in which all muslims peacefully live together under the divine regime of the sharia, and which offers no room for those who have a different belief, or those with none. This regressive world view and matching religious ideology are not only disseminated by imported imams and travelling jihad preachers in the Netherlands, but also by internet and especially by Arabic broadcasting stations that can be received here via satellite dishes. Many of these channels spread anti-western, anti-democratic and anti-semitic messages day and night. The radicalising influence of the Arabic electronic media on young muslims in Europe can hardly be overestimated, and is also difficult to fight because they don’t reside under Dutch jurisdiction. By extremely selective use of the media younger muslims in Holland can get entangled in a tunnel vision in which ‘we, the true muslims’ take up a frontal and violent position opposite ‘they, the decadent disbelievers’.
From a military point of view suicide operations are the most efficient form of terror. A cost-benefit analysis shows that suicide attacks only require a relatively small amount of money and can have a dramatic effect in terms of deaths, wounded and damage done [Napoleoni 2004: 246 ff]. The costs of the 9/11 operation are estimated at merely 500.000 dollar. The total damage for the United States —loss of property, cleaning and financial injections of the federal government— is estimated at more than 135 billion dollar. It took only 19 hijackers and a budget of half a million dollar to kill almost 3000 people and to cause extremely large material damage to the heart of the most powerful country in the world.
They will continue
Even if terrorists are locked up for life this doesn’t guarantee that they won’t be a danger to society anymore. Mohammed B. was enthralled by martyrdom. Friends around the Hofstadgroup said: “He thought it was a beautiful death. But obviously Allah has other plans for him. In the House of Disbelief he is obliged to distribute islam. He will continue to do so in prison.” Mohammed B. was restrained from martyrdom, but this doesn’t discharge him from his holy duty to further disseminate his message, soaked in hatred.
The jihad fighters become smarter and smarter and learn from their experiences. Traditional terrorism was characterised by bold individuals or small units undertaking actions that predominantly victimise civilians. Modern islamic terrorism is characterised by simultaneously executed large and small-scale attacks by means of individual or associated suicides. The repertoire of actions is extremely varied: varying from a simple ambush, liquidation of one or more soldiers, suicide attacks on soft targets such as politicians and intellectuals, to sabotage-actions against the infrastructure or the authorities.
Jihad fighters in Holland learn from the experiences acquired from the preparation and execution of the murder of Van Gogh. They have learned that one cannot operate on the internet as anonymously as was thought before. One continuously changes identity and pseudonym: one is greatly skilled in quickly making new sites and changing web and e-mail addresses. In order to prevent attacks on sites there are frequent removals from one provider to another. Followers are informed about the new address via the mailing list.
Since the established providers usually do not welcome jihad sites, the site-builders mostly seek refuge with free hosts. But they aren’t completely safe there either. They can be hacked by intelligence services or by individual or organised patriotic hackers. In order to protect themselves a section on electronic jihadis provided on most radical islamic sites. In this section ‘islamic hackers’ can find technical, tactic and practical information necessary to defend their own websites and hack moderate or liberal islamic sites.
This is how a broad battle front is developed, in which the virtual guerrilla war is fought. The aim of the adversaries of the jihad-sites is restricting the radius of action of extremist-islamic groupings. The cyber-jihadists are striving for the expansion of their platforms for virtual propaganda, recruitment and self-organisation [CyberJihad Internationaal].
In December 2004 the Labour Party [PvdA] proposed to call in hackers to get hatred sowing websites off the air. The AIVD would have to buy up hackers who now paralyse the internet sites of banks and the authorities. By wrecking and disrupting hate sites our society could be protected against “the poison of wrong ideas” [Webwereld]. This proposal has four disadvantages.
Radical muslims regularly outsmart the AIVD. According to AIVD-spokesman Van Steen they know how to lead the intelligence service up the garden path. They know how they are being watched and they adapt their strategies to it. “They read everything in the media. They know their own and each other’s files, if they have been arrested before. That’s how they know for instance in which manner telephones and conversations are tapped and that computer traffic is intercepted.” That’s why the members of the Hofstadgroup took their sim-cards out of their mobile phones during their living-room meetings.
Often telephones of young boys are used: boys who aren’t being tapped yet. They are used as ‘front men’ in order to communicate via a ‘safe line’. By not using their own internet and telephone connection anymore (and by never using their own name) it becomes harder to prove that someone is a member of a terrorist organisation. By former arrests one gains a lot of knowledge about the methods the judiciary and police use to trace the jihadists. This is an ‘annoying side effect’ of preventive arrests of suspects of terror. “But in these days we want to restrict all risks and this means that you sometimes arrest people who are released later. And indeed have become smarter.”
Still, the members of the Hofstad network weren’t able to secure themselves sufficiently against the investigation techniques of the security and intelligence services. In spite of the lack of means of these services and in spite of —perhaps slightly too often and too much— making the most of ‘incompetence’ and ‘failures’, key figures of the Hofstad network were nevertheless spotted in an early stage and arrested in time. The fact that the judges acquitted them owing to ‘lack of lawful evidence’ cannot be blamed on the AIVD. The capacity and range of action of the AIVD are being reinforced now. And this is no luxury in the present era. In order to guarantee the safety of civilians, the government should dispose of sound information, clever investigation departments, decisive police forces, well-trained anti-terrorism specialists and prudent judges.
The blindfold of Lady Justice symbolises impartiality in lawsuits.The blindfold of Theo van Gogh is a red brace-bra. This symbolises something else. It is as if he is on the verge of being executed, but with an extended hand. (Adieu Theo).