All 5 entries tagged Terrorism

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June 29, 2006


Follow-up to Touche from [TBA]

BBC News Article

Poor Harry Potter Balkenende, his second term seemed to fare so much better than his first. Or I could replace first and second by second and third, seeing that his first attempt actually stalled after the LPF fell apart in discontent.

No, after a record–breaking period of forming a new government two years ago, he still managed to get some bad seed in his council. Verdonk's self–glorifying behaviour and lack of humility didn't go well with the D66 members, who decided to leave the government and their positions in the cabinet.

Where Balkenende's first term was troubled by the near–political–legend Pim Fortuyn's legacy, this term ends with a row over another high–flying politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Guess I should sort out how to vote from the UK. Again.

May 16, 2006


Follow-up to The day democracy died from [TBA]

BBC News

For anyone who's fed up with Blair and Brown politics, go orange! At the moment, the Dutch political climate is set alight with debates concerning Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who gained asylum years ago and is now a prominent member of the Dutch parliament. Turned out she lied about her background when applying for asylum in the 90s.

As a result, the Dutch minister of integration and immigration [not exactly immigration, but can't think of a better word]. Decided to publicly annull Hirsi Ali's citizenship and give her a deadline by which she has to leave the country. Hirsi Ali is now planning to leave for the United States, of all places, after summer recess.

Anyway – haven't read that BBC News site yet, but it will probably explain more of what's going on. For now, I'll leave you with a letter from Dutch celebs [don't you just love them?] to the country's equivalent of The Sun [slightly less slantering, but with a strong right-wing flavour] showing their outrage of the procedure. Apologies for a sometimes rubbish translation. The letter was filled with Dutch idioms that have no equivalent in the English language.

We are ashamed of our country!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali will lose the Dutch citizenship and might even become stateless. How courageous! How courageous it is to treat the Number One Target of radical–islamic terrorists in this country as an unwanted person and to practically deport her.

Mohammed B.'s letter was addressed to Ayaan [Mohammed B. murdered Theo van Gogh 1,5 years ago, see trackback]

How courageous it is to persecute her with hyperformalistic jurisdiction, she, the MP who is cuffed by permanent threats, the symbol of intimidated freedom of expression.

How courageous it is, in a liberal, progressive country such as the Netherlands, to hunt her down, a brave advocate of women's and LBGT's rights, as if she's an animal.

How courageous it is, in the complex and often tragic history behind common asylum abuse, not to focus on the sometimes extremely criminal cases that enter the Netherlands (from Afghan … to Liberian child murderers), but instead to focus on that single Dutch asylum seeker who is praised around the world for her contributions to the debate on religion and politics.
How courageous it is to take advantage of the lies of a heroin, purely for political bravura.

How courageous it is to chase away a true Dutch Heroin, whom we have so few of already.

The Netherlands would fare well with less polarisation, but expelling Ayaan is polarisation to the extreme. The Netherlands shouldn't become a country of fear, a country for the faint–hearted people who will only sleep peacefully once Hirsi Ali has been removed. That cannot happen.

Ayaan deserves honorary Dutch citizenship. Beatrix, do your job!

Beatrix being Queen of the Netherlands

[End of letter]

Sadly, most Dutch people disagree. Turns out they don't want people who lie to enter their country. No matter what they're lying for. Now, where did I read the rules of gaining British citizenship?

Link to Dutch letter.

August 10, 2005

The day democracy died

Follow-up to While you were talking about Bush from [TBA]

Oh dear, a maths student trying to write an entry about politics. Again! Do not worry, this is just my attempt of translating Mohammed B.'s last word into English. B. has been convicted of murdering Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film maker, 2nd November last year. It was the second political murder in a short time in the Netherlands, and was followed by many threats to key political figures. As B. is not seeking to fight the conviction, the media have been allowed to broadcast his last word. For anyone trying to understand terrorism, this should be a good read (despite possible Dutchisms). Any suggestions welcome.

This is how the article appeared in De Volkskrant online, today. It can be found in Dutch here

Mohammed B.: 'Wow.'

Judge: 'Excuse me?'

B.: 'I said "wow". You have written well. You enable me to say something. You are not going to interrupt me. And I can be critical.'

Judge: 'You are allowed to say what you wish.'

B. starts in Arab.

Judge: 'I will have to interrupt you here, however. To ask the interpreter to translate.'

Interpreter: 'This is a usual text to start with. He says: "I wish to thank Allah. I ask Allah for help with the words I am going to speak. I testify there is no other God than Allah."'

B., in Dutch: 'Long have I deliberated whether or not I should say something. Before I say more, I would like to comment on what has been said about the two faces. I assume it referred to the defence, Mr Plasman and Mr Sarikaya, here behind me. (The judge had challenged the defence accusing them of using hard words defending their client in the media, but refraining from defending him with such conviction in court, red. De Volkskrant) I think and I believe they don't deserve it that you attack them as such. Despite the fact that the gentlemen know that I despise their disbelief (or lack of faith, T) with all my soul, they do their job with conviction. In eight, nine months they have been two of very few people of whom I believe they act with conviction. You can't say that of a lot of people.'

'The reason I speak now, is not because I feel compelled by this court to say something. The only person I might be compelled by, is the mother of Mr Van Gogh. In all honesty I must confess I do not feel compassion. I do not feel your pain. I can't. I don't know how it is to lose a child that you have raised in this world with so much pain and so many tears. Partly because I'm not a woman. Partly, I cannot feel compassion because you are an infidel. You cannot, should not hold me accountable for that.'

'I know that my behaviour, my attitude yesterday and today, is very confrontational to you. And to many more here. And many people know they are not just watching a suspect, and battling a suspect, but they are battling their own emotions.'

'Concerning the charges: I can completely agree what the public prosecutor has said. Largely, that is. I take full responsibility. You have characterized what would have driven me to my act. I am purely driven by my faith.'

'It would indeed be cowardice if I would hide myself here behind the rules by holding my silence. I also do not wish to avoid the chance to receive the highest punishment. With this I immediately point out the weakness of this system. I do not recognize your judicial system. Possibly you do not recognize mine either.'

'I understood that Mrs Van Gogh might find some peace if maximum punishment is given and in the fact that I received maximum punishment, that is what I understood.'

'Concerning your advisor, Mr Peters (professor in Islamic law, red. De Volkskrant): he has indicated that indeed I posess texts preaching violence. He also says there are texts that preach peace. But you haven't asked Peters when peace is preached and when violence. You neglected that.'

'I am not going to talk about politics or give a religious flavour to my speech, I am not here to make a political statement, or a political statement flavoured by religion, I'll save you from that. But I do want you to know that I acted with conviction. It's not because I hate your son Theo van Gogh that much, nor because he is Dutch or because I feel insulted being Moroccan. I have never felt insulted.'

'I can never suspect your son of hypocrisy. He was no hypocrite. He spoke with conviction. I know he said things with conviction.'

(B. stays silent for a while)

'So the main story saying I would have been insulted for being a Moroccan and him calling us goat fuckers, is completely false. I acted from faith. If it were my father or brother, I would have done the same. You cannot suspect me of having any sentiment.'

'The question this court holds: a maximum punishment, but the suspect gives no insight into his state of mind. But I can assure you: if ever I'd be released, I would do exactly the same. Exactly the same. You thought I might feel trapped. I don't feel trapped by walls or a cell. I'll tell you: I feel free and I am free. Furthermore, concerning your criticism: maybe you mean muslims when you say Moroccans. I won't hold that against you. The same law that tells me to cut off everyone's head who insults Allah and the prophet, that same law tells me not to settle in a land where, using the words of the prosecutor, the "free word" is being preached.'

'But what is it then? I'll tell you, your criticism… This is judicially valid only if there exists a land where people like me can go in exile. That you stop a man like me, I won't hold it against you, it's your job.'

(Mohammed B. looks back at the police officers sitting in the back of the room)

'And I think that those officers confronted with me on the second of November (the day B. killed Van Gogh, T) also have a right to know that I didn't shoot to get away, but I shot to kill. And to be killed.'

'You can send all your psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors to analyse me, but I shall tell you, you will never understand. You cannot understand. If I am released, and I would have the opportunity to do again what I did on 2nd November, wallah (with Allah, De Volkskrant), I would have done exactly the same.'

Judge: 'That is what you wanted to tell us?'

B.: 'Maybe, ya know… I am not here to be pathetic or to criticise. Maybe this could be a little consolidation to Mrs Van Gogh. Apart from that I couldn't care less, to be fair.'

July 08, 2005

What is actually going on?

I have no clue. All I know is that I watch far too much TV. And I'm not even talking about lovely mindnumbing shows such as Hollyoaks or The O.C. The problem is in the ism.


Earlier this week five showed a program on environmentalism. A Danish professor pretending to be a cool dude explained me from his side of the TV what is actually going on. Oh there you go – Google just helped me find out it's Bjorn Lomberg in Big Ideas that Changed the World. Right. To be fair, he gave a very objective and thorough overview of what happened in the 20th century. Starting with a 19th century paper on the growing population and the earth not being able to feed the population, ending with a woman writing about anti-pesticides killing birds (Silent Spring).

But then the last 10 minutes he tried to convince me that the Kyoto protocol is useless and wrong and doesn't help the world at all. For the next century, he says, it will cost 150 billion dollars every year, with the only benefit that by the end of the century, the effects of global warming will have been delayed by 6 years. Right. Lost me there. So in a world-important conference where high ministers and leaders are gathered, and probably backed by their own environmental staff, Lomberg reckons that this is the best they could come up with. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough time to explain where his figures come from (probably have to read his book - highly criticized on his own website ) hence failed to convince me.


Great. Wikipedia states there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism. I guess it involves terrifying people. I watched Question Time last night – mistaking it for the Stephen Fry programme, but intrigued by its set-up in Johannesburg hosting African (should-be) leaders – and the most note-worthy development was the deviation from the topic (how to make poverty history, get rid of HIV/Aids, save the world) due to the bombings in London, discussing fears that it will deviate attention in the G8 from poverty to terrorism. Thankfully, they did return to the original debate, but not after a few emotional arguments.

"Why is a lost Western life so much more valuable than an African life lost?" (not an actual quote, but close) the problem being that with the bombings in London, nearly the whole world shows sympathy and attention, and offers to help search for the criminals. In the case of Darfur, it took ages before observing the situation developed into a discussion of the troubles in this region, and as far as I know even now, no decision has been taken. Similarly in the 1990s, it took the near genocide of the Tutsis before any action took place. Does that mean a Western life is worth more than an African, or more generally speaking, a poor life? It's an easy but I think faulty conclusion.

Main counterexample: the Tsunami appeal. Within a month, millions of dollars worth of aid had been set aside to help the suffering countries in Asia. Now the problem is how it will be used. It seems as if the aiding countries would like to spend the money themselves, but don't want to impose their values and ideals on the ailing countries. Letting the latter spend the money, often means that a considerable part of it is lost in bureaucratic games ends up in the wrong place. In the end, the relations between countries are more important than the relations between people. The same happens when trying to make poverty history, and is unlikely to happen when aid is sent to more developed (and democratic) regions.

Why did I mention terrorism again? Oh right. Some studio audience member got up and told the west to stop complaining about terrorism, as terrorism was the dayly news in Africa for the hundreds of years of colonization. Again, that was the gist of his comment, not an actual quote. Minor point. Europeans came to Africa to explore exploit the country, and in that way exploited the people, and thus created the current situation. The word terrorism is generally used in case the actual offenders are unknown, as are their ideals, and their acts usually have no other outcome than fear. Despite all cruelty imposed by them, the ideals of the colonists were mostly clear, the outcome of their actions were a more developed land, and the cultivation of the people they encountered (or in the cruel cases, the infection of the people by European diseases, or the massacre of people in times of conflict). Some of these acts are even worse than terrorism (if there were any level of severity of offensive acts) but that doesn't mean they're terrorist acts.

It's a shame. 80% of the arguments, questions, and explanations I heard were interesting and seemed rational, but the other 20% were either besides the issue, or too much blurred by emotion making them irrational or even erroneous. I had deep respect for Mbeki's brother, until he countered the concern that Africa's development will end up in a racial war. He said that it's not Africans against white people or Indian (Asian) people, as Africans kill Africans, see Ruanda, see Darfur. Although he does counter the man's actual concern (the man being white and worried about his own interests), he unintentionally does point out the underlying cultural problems. In Ruanda, Hutus slaughtered Tutsis. In Darfur, ethnic cleansing is daily business.

So what is actually going on? I have no idea, and I have no idea how to solve it. Most hailed Tony Blair for announcing debt relief (or cancellation) as an aim for the G8, but almost as many stated that unfair trade regulations are the bigger issue. How to tackle HIV/Aids? Condoms and education, but no way that Bush will tell the Africans they have to use condoms – abstinence all the way! And what if we don't want malaria in England? Even if the USA sign up for the Kyoto protocol, apparently we only delay greenhouse effects by 6 years and lose billions of dollars (that could be used in Africa?) every year. It's complicated. It's a game of politics, and games are never fair.

November 10, 2004

While you were talking about Bush

Just before the US elections last week, something probably more important took place in the Netherlands: Theo van Gogh, a controversial film maker whose films are enjoyed by just a few, got brutally murdered in one of the busier streets in Amsterdam. A few gun shots and knife stabs, with finally a 5-piece letter pinned to his chest did the trick. Why? Because he had his heart on his tongue and used his pen and camera to spread his thoughts – thoughts that were easily dismissed by some, but heavily provocative for others, especially when time after time he insults the islam and its followers.

I didn't like Theo van Gogh. I surely didn't like his movies or columns, didn't enjoy TV shows he was in for his rudeness, bluntness, and lack of respect (I believe he was so rude once that an [islamic] guest left the show). I did respect the man, however, for speaking his mind, a gift which many politicians in the Netherlands lack.

"We should denounce actions like this", PM Balkenende said, when the umpteenth islamic school had just been turned into ashes. Instead of being honest and express his disbelief and horror over these actions, his response needs to be marinated in some euphemistic oils and enriched by a political sauce, leaving a message that basically says "Yes, well, we'll discuss it in our meeting and will let you know next week what we'll do about it".
"Not only do we need to tackle the terrorists, but also the people who vandalise and threaten islamic institutions", another minister (Verdonk) blurted out. But wait, aren't people who destroy buildings with the intention to harm called terrorists nowadays?

Tensions have risen since last week Tuesday, and are still rising. My hometown (Eindhoven) made it to the BBC News – not because PSV (football club) finally won something important, but because some idiots decided to bomb the local islamic school (fortunately they didn't realize that even muslims don't send their kids to school at 2AM, so no one got hurt, only the front door was completely destroyed). An islamic school in another Dutch town was destroyed by fire overnight, and as I'm writing the authorities in the Hague have surrounded a whole district in the city after 3 policemen were injured by a grenade when they tried to arrest someone because he was suspected of terrorist activities.

Problems all over the place, but most important (I think) is that people continue to talk about 'them' and 'us'. The Van Gogh assassin had a Dutch passport but isn't seen as Dutch citizen but muslim terrorist. The fools attacking mosques and islamic schools are suspected to be white Dutch adolescents, but are referred to as people who burn down institutions, as if they're on 'our' side. We – as in the people who value freedom of speech, and the right to follow their own religion and find their own education, that is muslims, baha'i, buddhist, jewish, christian, atheist, and whatever religion you can think of – should set ourselves apart and remind ourselves that the terrorists aren't muslim, jewish, or christian, by the contemporary sense of these beliefs, but hardcore fundamentalist, whose only truth is what is said in their scriptures and hence lack any sense of compassion or reality or democracy. (*)

As you might sense from this rant, it's highly disturbing living in another country you cannot yet call home whereas your home country is going down a spiral of violence and you cannot do anything about it. I know that in Britain, you have your own problems with military action in Iraq and a lack of good football players, but please take some time and think about what's going on in the Netherlands, which is just a stonethrow away (seriously, Amsterdam is easier to reach than say, Inverness). Thank you for your time!

(*) I wouldn't have been able to write it in this way without reading a beautiful article in this Saturday's Guardian. If you want, I can give you a reference or something.

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