On February 2, 2006, Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch Moroccan serving a life prison term for the grisly murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, proudly entered a courtroom in Amsterdam. He is currently on trial for his role in the so-called Hofstadgroup, a loose network of young radical Muslims in Amsterdam and the Hague. Bouyeri is believed to be their functional and inspirational leader. Apart from Bouyeri, 12 other members of the Hofstadgroup are also on trial in Amsterdam. But February 2 was Bouyeri’s day.
With obvious delight, he noticed that some fifty journalists had come to cover whatever he had to say. He did not disappoint them. Rejecting what he derisively called the “Western” court proceedings, Bouyeri refused to be defended by a lawyer. He would be his own lawyer, he explained, and he would speak for himself. And he was just getting started.
For Bouyeri, the courtroom was just one big propaganda platform. Thus, he took the occasion of his court appearance to praise Mohammed Atta, the leader of the suicide pilots who carried out the September 11 attacks. “May Allah bestow his grace on him,” Bouyeri said. Next he expressed his satisfaction at comparisons between himself and Osama bin Laden. "It’s too great an honor to me when I am compared to sheikh Bin Laden, the emir (leader) of the believers," Bouyeri said. Addressing the prosecutor, he added immediately: "But portraying me as the black standard bearer of Islam fills me with pride, honor and joy." What followed were long quotes from books, encyclopedias, the Koran and other Arab holy texts on Islam, the jihad and the life of Mohammed.
Revealingly, Bouyeri portrayed Mohammed not as a man of peace but as a warrior. “Those who resist Islam must be killed, they must be slaughtered. Followers of the prophet who die in battle will go straight to paradise. Those who don’t follow him will burn in hell. In his days, Mohammed, too, faced ‘a coalition of forces’ aimed at neutralizing him,” Bouyeri explained. From an Islamic text, Bouyeri picked out the following quotation: “O ye believers, if you help Allah, He will help you. But those who do not believe – down with them!” Another quotation from a holy text favored by Bouyeri: "Kill them. Through your hands, Allah will punish them." For Bouyeri, such violent messages not open to interpretation. “There is no room for ambiguity here," Bouyeri noted with satisfaction. “It all very clear, yes, very clear.”
Bouyeri’s literalist interpretation of Islamic scripture is of more than passing interest. A few months before he would kill Theo van Gogh, Bouyeri translated an old essay entitled “The Obligation to Kill Anyone who Insults the Prophet.” It was written by Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th century Islamic theologian and the preferred religious authority of Osama bin Laden and his followers. Bouyeri later justified his hideous act by appealing to these very writings. In addition, Bouyeri’s translated text circulated among many members of the Hofstadgroup
Indeed, the notion that criticism of Islam must be punished by death is embraced by most radical Islamists. On the very day Bouyeri was showing his contempt for the Dutch courtroom, a group of radical British Muslims calling themselves Al Ghurabaa announced that they would follow Bouyeri’s example and kill Danish cartoonists whose cartoons they portrayed as an insult to Islam and the prophet Mohammed. These cartoons were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, and later in other European newspapers. The Danish newspaper has received bomb threats, and Danish and Norwegian embassies in the Middle East have been attacked by crowds of angry Muslims. In Gaza, hysterical Palestinian gunmen attacked the office of the European Union, and European journalists and aid workers received death threats. A kindred rage drove Mohammed Bouyeri to end Theo Van Gogh’s life.
Clarity about Islamic fundamentalism has yet to penetrate the Dutch courtroom, however. As many in the West have blamed the Danish newspaper for the campaign of violence being waged by outraged Islamists, lawyers in the trial of the Hofstadgroup have sought to put Western countries on trial for the sins of Islamist killers. “The biggest criminal organization is the Dutch government," proclaimed a lawyer named Wansink during the trial. “Because they agreed with the American invasion of Iraq."
Another lawyer used the courtroom to attack "the hypocrisy of paying so much attention to 9/11." Far more worrisome than Islamic terrorism, he explained, was the threat posed by the United States. “The attitude of the USA in world affairs is repulsive," he raged. "The invasion of Iraq was illegal, yet everybody supports the Americans.” For good measure, this lawyers also excused terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan: “In my view, the resistance movements in those countries are legitimate." Still another lawyer compared US president George Bush to Hermann Göring, the German Reichsmarshall in command of the Luftwaffe. In so doing, he sounded like no one so much as Mohammed Bouyeri himself, who was not above taking a swipe at President Bush in the course of his testimony: “Your Uncle Bush,” Bouyeri said, “is firmly in the camp of the infidels, of course, so he and his friends will face annihilation and doom.” Several lawyers participating in the Amsterdam trial seemed to agree.
Small wonder, then, that Bouyeri has heretofore felt himself free to make a mockery of the trial proceedings. However extreme, he can still count on the sympathies of leftist lawyers whose contempt for the West roughly mirrors his own.
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