Theo Van Gogh

The Thought Police

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom WorldwideBy Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35) I. In spite of its slightly agitated title, this book is mostly a cool and even-tempered human rights report, and its findings go a long way toward explaining one of the mysteries of our time, namely, the ever-expanding success of political movements with overtly Islamic doctrines and radical programs.Some people may suppose that Islam itself, the ancient religion, mandates theocracy. Seen in this light, the vigor of theocratically tinged political movements right now ought to seem normal to us, and maybe even commendable—a fitting renaissance of cultural authenticity in places around the world that, having left behind the indignities of colonial domination and the awkwardness of the post-colonial era, have entered at last into the post-post-colonial age of the return to self. Movements that carry such labels as “Islamism” or “radical Islam” or “political Islam,” judged in this way, could perfectly well drop their suffixes and adjectives and simply adopt the name of Islam itself—an Islam that has exited the mosque in order to fulfill still more sacred obligations in the public square. But Paul Marshall and Nina Shea take a different view. And in order to confer an august authority upon their contrary estimation, they have padded their human-rights report, or perhaps armored it, with learned commentaries by three Islamic scholars, two of whom are recently deceased but all of whom are distinguished.

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The Believer

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the young woman of Somali origin, the former member of the Dutch Parliament, whom Islamist groups condemned to death three years ago. On that day in November 2004 when Dutch filmmaker and provocateur Theo van Gogh was murdered, she was designated, in a letter pinned with a knife to the corpse, as the killers' next target.

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Right Turn

"Open" has long been a catchword for the Netherlands, referring to everything from the flat, low-lying fields of Zuid-Holland and the curtain-less windows of Amsterdam and The Hague to the country's liberal stances on marijuana and prostitution, both of which are enjoyed freely and legally in cheerful "coffee shops" and red-lighted bordellos throughout the country. To many, the country has long seemed the apotheosis of a free, liberal, and democratic state. But, these days, Filip Dewinter, leader of one of Europe's most extreme far-right political parties, Belgium's Vlaams Belang (Flemish Inte

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