The new war on Islamism

14 June 2022

The West has been terrorised into silence

Art and Islam often seem like oil and water. Other times, they behave like matches and gasoline.

It is hard to believe that more than 30 years have passed since Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses — longer ago than the fall of the Berlin Wall. I also experienced the combustion created when art meets Islam, back in 2004.

Over that summer, Submission, a 10-minute film that I co-created with Theo van Gogh, was aired on the taxpayer-funded VPRO channel in Amsterdam. I had pulled four very explicitly misogynistic verses out of the holy book, which Theo then inscribed on the bodies of women who acted out the selected verses. After a series of threats, Theo was murdered by a radical Islamist fanatic. Warned that I would be next, I went into hiding.

Dutch society got the message: Submission was pulled and since then nothing of any significance critical of Islam’s founding father or holy book has been aired or exhibited by any mainstream Dutch outlet. Two years later, the message was driven home in another small European country when Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, solicited drawings of the prophet Muhammad after a Danish school teacher wrote a children’s book on the prophet but could find no illustrations for it. After Rose published them, both he and one of the illustrators, Kurt Westergaard, received credible death threats.