On November 2, 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was shot while riding his bicycle to work. He’d produced a 10-minute film criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. The script was written by Ayaan Hirsi, a Somalian refugee and Dutch parliamentarian. It was called Submission and was based on her experiences as a woman growing up in a Muslim country. Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, didn’t much like film, and he expressed his feelings by assassinating its producer. Hollywood, take note: there are bad reviews and then there are really bad reviews.
Having been shot off his bicycle, Van Gogh begged for his life, but Allah’s follower wasn’t inclined to be merciful and he methodically proceeded to bring his mission to a completion that, in its attention to detail, is almost artistic. First, he shot Van Gogh a few more times, at close range. Next, he slit Van Gogh’s throat. He thrust the knife into his chest with such force that it severed his spinal cord. In a final flourish, Bouyeri used a dagger to affix at note to the corpse. It was addressed to Hirsi Ali, and threatened to kill her.
In response, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders called for a five-year halt to immigration from non-Western countries, much as Donald Trump is doing today, but the Dutch considered this an off-the-reservation racist proposal. He and Hirsi Ali received death threats and went into hiding. The Dutch weren’t sympathetic. To this day, Wilders’ life is in danger and he requires the protection of bodyguards. Hirsi Ali was threatened with revocation of her Dutch citizenship and gave up her seat in Parliament. Eventually, she relocated to the United States.
Perhaps the picture of Van Gogh’s bloody and mutilated body lying in a bicycle lane flashed before the eyes of Arnoud van Doorn in 2008, after he and Wilders produced a 15-minute film — Fitna — that portrayed Islam as a violent and intolerant religion that teaches its followers to hate those who don’t follow it. Fitna means strife and shows how various Koranic Sutras apply to atrocities committed in the name of Islam, including the murder of Theo Van Gogh. The Muslim world disputed the charge that Islam is violent with the usual outbreaks of murderous Islamic violence. Fatwas were issued by Muslim clerics calling for the assassination of those who slander Islam. As they had done after the Van Gogh murder, the Dutch responded by prosecuting Wilders for hate speech.
Like Wilders, Van Doorn was a member the right-wing Party of Freedom (PVV) and represented it on The Hague’s City Council. Some men and women have the grit to stand up under extraordinary pressures, but Van Doorn wasn’t one of these. Under stress, his behavior became erratic.
In 2011, he was accused of appropriating PVV funds for his personal expenses, and left the party. He remained on the Council in an independent capacity until, in 2013, it emerged that he’d been leaking confidential Council information. This was discovered while his phone was being tapped by the police as a part of an investigation into his alleged sale of drugs to young teenagers. He was later to be convicted of owning an illegal gun, leaking official documents, and selling drugs to children.
Van Doorn seemed done for, both personally and professionally, when on February 27, 2013 he shocked the world by tweeting his conversion to Islam. To the Saudi Gazette he explained that it was “the worldwide outrage against the film [that] made him study about the Prophet (pbuh) and that eventually led to his conversion.” “World-wide outrage” of the Muslim kind can make you think seriously about your future. Like whether you have one.
So was it fear that opened his mind to Islam, and sealed the deal for him? Or might a formal invitation have been extended to him, one that sweetened the deal? The Arabic word “Dawa” means “invitation,” and Muslims are obligated by the Koran to “do Dawa” — to invite non-believers to come to Allah. They might do this by extolling Islam’s virtues. But if they seriously want a non-believer to convert — perhaps because the latter is a minor celebrity, a filmmaker, and a politician, albeit one whose reputation has suffered of late — the dawa might include certain benefits. The invitee might be asked to consider that the millions of Muslims who now hate him will honor him. He might be provided with a higher social position, and a lavish lifestyle.
And so it was that in the months leading up to his formal conversion, Van Doorn was seen driving about in a large Jaguar. He traveled to “Morocco (climbing the Toubkal in the snow), Algeria, Jordan and Egypt.” After his conversion he made the hadj to Mecca. You can see him here, in his long white robe, looking tanned and relaxed as he leans against a big black car, his legal worries mere phantoms of the past. In Saudi Arabia, he is feted by princes and dignitaries, and he tweets it all: “Constructive and inspiring meeting with His Royal Highness Prince Mamdouh Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud”
Soon he will continue his travels: “I am going to Iran accompanying a friend who is cycling around the world for 5 years. We will start at Shiraz, and we will cycle 2000 km across Iran into Turkey. I am looking forward to see Shiraz, Esfahan and Qom.” A five-year cycling vacation? There would surely be no further thoughts of Theo Van Gogh’s mishap whilst cycling to work on the last day of his life.
Van Doorn has landed on his feet. He serves on The Hague City Council, representing a Dutch Islamic party which he formed. He is president of the European Dawa Foundation, and an ambassador for celebrity relations with the Canadian Dawa Association. He’s doing unto others as he was done unto: extending invitations to Islam, with a concentration on celebrities.
The performance of a dawa is portrayed in Michel Houellebec’s novel Submission. It’s set in France in 2022. The Muslim Brotherhood party is in power, having made a deal with the Socialists to defeat the right-wing Nationalist Party. It’s not that the Socialists are fond of religion, but it’s Catholicism that they hate more than Islam, and they share the Brotherhood’s hatred of Jews and Israel. In splitting up the various ministries under France’s parliamentary system, the Brotherhood choose the Ministry of Education, this being the best way to shape young minds. Give me a child and I’ll give you the man.
In the novel, Robert Rediger is made rector of the Sorbonne. Originally a nativist, he is a recent convert to Islam. He is not a scholar, but he knows what he wants for France’s future. In the meeting of two cultures, each cannot help to influence the other, and Rediger wants to add an explicit Nazi-type of eugenics program to Islam. Under this men and women are to be matched up by the State, presumably to breed an Islamic übermensch, forRediger is a fan of Nietzsche and misreads him in the way that Hitler did.
It is Rediger’s job to invite desirable professors to convert to Islam in order to keep their positions at the new Islamic Sorbonne. With funding from the Gulf States he can make the invitations sweet, while at the same time offering generous retirement pensions to the rest. It’s all very civilized and there are no hard feelings.
The protagonist is François, a literature professor in his 40s who exemplifies the professional class of his time. The welfare state has bankrupted the country and its people. Non-professionals are losing their jobs. If they are married and have children, their lives are a miserable struggle to get by. Young professionals like François mostly choose not to marry. It is one of the few choices that are left to them in the regulatory State. The State ensures a salary that is ample to cover their basic needs, and their work is perfunctory. As a Soviet saying went: The bosses pretend to pay us and we pretend to work. Striving is pointless; life is easy.
The destruction of the institutions of Western civilization by earlier generations have ensured that François and his peers will be sensualists, looking to sex and food rather than family and relationships for their pleasures. But even the initiative required to obtain sensual pleasure has become taxing. Preparing gourmet meals is too much of a chore, so François mostly heats up frozen meals in his microwave. François’ obsession with sex is dampened by the effort it takes to obtain it, so he gratifies himself, visits the occasional prostitute, and takes up with the occasional student.
François is adrift. He no longer has an identity. In his remorseless apathy, he is Meursault in Camus’ L’Étranger. His scholarship is devoted to the study of 19th century French novelist Joris Karl Huysmans, a member of the Decadent movement that sought to replace religion with aesthetics. The movement was a dead end, and Huysmans eventually turned to Catholicism and became an oblate. When Francois investigates this possibility for himself, however, he concludes that it was the aesthetic ritual of the Church rather than faith that explained Huysmans’ conversion. So religion, François’ last remaining option for an authentic life, is rejected.
At this point François’ despair is complete, and he is ripe for Rediger’s seductive invitation to Islam. The previously anti-social François will become part of a welcoming Islamic community. He will acquire a religion and an identity. His life will be structured for him. His salary will be tripled. Three wives will be delivered to him to see to all his physical needs. Islam means submission, and a man’s complete submission to Allah is mirrored by a woman’s complete submission to her husband. Submission: This is where François’ life and culture have been leading him. He won’t miss his freedom.
When Arnoud Van Doorn was how he would extend the invitation to Islam to non-believers, he offered a valuable insight: Western politicians encourage atheism because they want people to look for value in material things rather than religion. People then look to government to provide for their well-being, and the more reliant they become on government, the less they need religion. Van Doorn would tell the non-believer that his life would be more authentic if he submitted to Allah rather than to the state.