Monitoring racism and the extreme right, sixth report:
Developments following the murder of Theo van Gogh
Jaap van Donselaar Peter R. Rodrigues
Anne Frank Stichting, Research and Documentation Leiden University, Department of Public Administration Leiden/Amsterdam, December 2004
On 2 November 2004 Theo van Gogh was murdered. The perpetrator shot Van Gogh, stabbed him several times with a knife and left a threatening letter skewered to his chest. As he fled from the scene of the crime he shot at the police, who gave chase. Finally the perpetrator was shot in the leg, making it possible to arrest him. In the first two weeks after the murder it became clear that the murderer was not acting alone, but that there was evidence of a network of radical Muslims who posed a considerable and concrete threat of terror. As a result of this threat, several parliamentary representatives had to be put under security. It even became necessary to place two members of Parliament in strictly guarded, secret locations. Both the murder and the perceived threat of terror served as impulses for expressions of racist, anti-Muslim sentiments, as well as for counter-expressions that were a reaction to those sentiments. This went hand-in-hand with a fierce series of diverse and violent incidents that increased sharply in the middle of the month of November and then tapered off towards the end of the month. Gradually a wide range of expressions of right-wing extremism became increasingly visible as well. Exactly one day before the murder, 1 November 2004, work was finished on the manuscript of the sixth report of Monitoring Racism and the Extreme Right. Given the impact of the murder, an annex to the report could not be omitted. After 2 November we attempted in a short period of time to follow some of the same lines that were laid down in the monitoring study. First, we tried to take a quick inventory of racial violence and violence incited by the extreme right and to analyse it. Second, we turned our attention to the ways in which right-wing extremism has been manifest since 2 November. In both cases our approach – both sources and methodology – has been the same in principle as that used in the earlier monitoring study. A summary of the tentative results is presented here. 1. Racial violence and violence incited by the extreme right in November 2004 Numbers and categories The murder of Theo van Gogh can be labelled in a number of different ways. As far we now know, the motives of the perpetrator were influenced by the fact that explicitly anti-Islamic and racial attitudes had been attributed to Van Gogh. It is also important to point out that the threatening letter left on Van Gogh’s body was in many ways exceptionally anti-Semitic in tenor. On the basis of these two aspects we are of the opinion that racist elements are connected with the murder and that this incident must therefore be included in our study. The series of violent incidents that took place after 2 November calls to mind the incidents occurred after the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. At that time we saw a series of approximately 190 violent incidents that were committed in the period from 11 September to the beginning of December 2001, roughly two and a half months.
The present series of 174 violent incidents – the vast majority of which have not yet been solved – took place in the period from 2 through 30 November 2004. As in 2001 there has been a strikingly large number of cases of arson. Table 1. Racial violence and violence incited by the extreme right, November 20041 Category Targeted graffiti Threats Bomb scares Confrontations Vandalism Arson Assault Bomb attack Manslaughter Murder Total in % of the total (rounded off) 16% 24% 6% 10% 13% 21% 7% 2% 0.6% 100% in absolute figures 28 41 11 18 23 36 12 4 1 174
Explanation of the categories of violent incidents. - Not all incidents of racist graffiti – many hundreds – have been included in this figure. Only the large-scale incidents and/or graffiti with a clear purpose, such as graffiti on the walls of a mosque, church or private home. - Confrontation is meant to refer to violence or threats of violence between different groups; here the border between perpetrator and victim is often difficult to delineate. If the latter is the case then we can speak of assault (or worse). - ‘Attempts’ have also been included in these figures, such as an attack or confrontation thwarted by the police.
Anti-Muslim violence In 106 cases (61 per cent of the total) there was evidence of anti-Muslim violence. Mosques were the target a total of 47 times.
Sources: news media, Anne Frank Stichting documentation centre, various police regions, especially via the National Coordination Centre (Nationaal Coördinatiecentrum; NCC) of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Netherlands Police Institute, National Office for Cases of Discrimination (Landelijk Bureau Discriminatiezaken; LBD), General Intelligence and Security Service (Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst; AIVD), National Federation of Anti-Discrimination Agencies and Hotlines (Landelijke Vereniging van Anti discriminatie Bureaus en Meldpunten; LVADB), The Kafka Anti-Fascist Research Group and finally, our own research within the context of Monitoring Racism and the Extreme Right.
Violence against Dutch natives In 34 cases (19 per cent of the total) there was evidence of violence against ethnic minorities or the property of ethnic minorities. Churches were targeted a total of 13 times. Involvement of the extreme right in acts of violence The involvement of the extreme right (proven or presumed) was found in 27 cases, which is 15 per cent of the total. This is one and a half times the involvement of the extreme right in acts of violence in 2003 (10 per cent), while that percentage in turn was twice as high as the 2002 figure. In other words: the involvement of the extreme right in acts of violence seems to be sharply increasing. The ‘Lonsdale’ problem In 27 cases (15 per cent of the total) ‘Lonsdale’ youth were involved. This may have as much to do with perpetrating incidents as with being a party in confrontations in which the dividing line between perpetrators and victims is difficult to determine. In at least four cases, Lonsdale youth were clearly the victims. There is an area of overlap between ‘Lonsdale’ youth and the extreme right, but there are also differences. ‘Involvement of the extreme right’ does not necessarily imply ‘involvement of Lonsdalers’. Occasionally non-racist or non-right-wing Lonsdale youth are also the targets of aggression. Ten large cities2 Fifty-nine of the violent incidents (34 per cent) took place in the ten large cities. In other words, 66 per cent of the violent incidents took place outside the ten large cities. Provinces The largest number of incidents in relative terms took place in Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland: 36 and 25 respectively. Following this are Noord-Brabant and Limburg, with 21 and 20 violent incidents respectively. Thirty-five percent of the violence took place in the provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland together; 23 per cent took place in Noord-Brabant and Limburg together.
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Tilburg, Utrecht, Den Haag, Eindhoven, Breda, Groningen, Almere, Apeldoorn.
This means that approximately 58 per cent of the violent incidents took place in these four provinces. 2. The extreme right in November 2004 Extreme right-wing political parties It should come as no surprise that in general a powerful intensification of antiMuslim sentiment could be observed among the four extreme right-wing political parties in the month of November: Netherlands People’s Union NVU, New National Party NNP, National Alliance NA, New Right NR (Nederlandse Volks-Unie NVU, Nieuwe Nationale Partij NNP, Nationale Alliantie NA, Nieuw Rechts NR). Three of the four parties (the NNP has become minuscule) were able to recruit new members in 2004. The increase can be considered modest. From an electoral standpoint New Right remained virtually invisible, contrary to what might have been expected; no appreciable support for the New Right could be perceived in any of the polls on political preference. Extreme right-wing political parties officially disassociate themselves from acts of racial violence, although the way and the degree to which this is done differs from party to party. Timely and unambiguous disassociation from violence was especially observable with the New Right, although harsh remarks were tolerated on their web forum. The attitude of the leadership of the Netherlands People’s Union and the National Alliance towards their rank and file has been more tolerant. As a rule, supporters who respond positively on web forums to violent ‘solutions’ are only corrected after reactions come in from the outside. Of all the extreme right-wing parties, the National Alliance has distanced itself the least from the committing of racial violence. Extreme right-wing youth The problem of the extreme right-wing ‘Lonsdale youth’, which has already been given a great deal of attention in the sixth monitoring report, gained considerable momentum in November 2004. This phenomenon has attracted a great deal of media attention. The extreme right-wing parties NVU and NA have tried to recruit groups of ‘Londsdale youth’ with mixed success. More than ever before, ‘Lonsdale’ has become a symbol for right-wing extremism and racism. The impression is that ethnic minorities are increasingly making generalisations concerning young people who wear Lonsdale clothing, regarding them as right-wing extremists. In various places in the Netherlands, observers of young people’s nightlife behaviour report a sharp increase in tension between ethnic minority and native Dutch youth.
Extreme right-wing web forums Active efforts are being made on the New Right web forum to bar expressions of sympathy towards acts of violence. The moderators of the National Alliance are doing this as well, but much less energetically and often only after reactions are heard from the outside. The extreme right-wing web forums that are not affiliated with any parties – Holland-Hardcore, Stormfront.org and Polinco – have been much more vicious, especially in the first days after the murder. Expressions of support for violence have often appeared on these forums, as well as more or less veiled appeals to engage in violence. Holland-Hardcore differs negatively from the other forums in the almost total absence of any attempt to distance itself from acts of racial violence.