The terrorist bombings on July 7, 2005, in London were widely described as proof that the British multicultural model is flawed; few, however, noted that this crisis has an illustrious precedent, the assassination of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands.  On November 2, 2004, a young Muslim, born in Amsterdam to Moroccan parents, shot Mr. Van Gogh on the street, then tried to cut off his head.  In a final statement at his trial last summer, the murderer declared that he had killed Mr. Van Gogh for insulting “the Prophet.”

Casualty-wise, the London bombings were obviously far more serious; symbolically, however, the murder was unprecedented and far more significant, as Theo van Gogh was dubbed the first victim executed for the offense of “Islamophobia.”

In the wake of the London bombings, there has been much talk about the need to increase dialogue, integration efforts, and tolerance toward immigrants—notably, Islamic immigrants—as the only effective weapons for fighting Islamic terrorism.  But this is precisely what has been happening in Holland for decades.  The Dutch model of tolerance-based multiculturalism is all the more noteworthy in that it is not the fashionable product of the latest cultural trends, as is the case with other countries, but a core part of the Dutch mind-set, or at least of vast sectors of the native Dutch population, dating as far back as the 15th century, when the famous humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1465-1536) virtually invented it.

As a philosopher, theologian, and humanist, Erasmus was a constant opponent of dogmatism in all fields of human endeavor.  He envisioned a renewal of society, state, and Church through the spreading of culture—a culture based on the reconciliation of the Christian Faith with the ancient wisdom of pagan classicism, which he viewed as an untapped source of moral values that had been overshadowed by the “excesses” of the Middle Ages.  Erasmus came to be considered an expression of a “correct” balance between tradition and the new, compelling thrusts for reform, which would soon manifest in the Lutheran Reformation.  This attitude is also a by-product of a disciplined civic society, confident enough to provide space for those with different ideas.  It produced a country in which Descartes could find refuge, a center of freedom of thought and of a free press in Europe.

A pillar of Erasmus’ concept of toleration was the refusal to issue condemnations in ecclesiastical and ethical realms, an approach that ultimately results in unqualified and unlimited tolerance—except for those who are deemed to be intolerant because they insist on sticking to absolute and objective truths.

The religiously motivated murder of Theo van Gogh, whose Muslim killer was given a life sentence on July 25, 2005, and the assassination of the politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 marked the end of the tolerant Holland of Erasmus.  In the words of Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenende, the country’s “multicultural experiment has failed.”

Van Gogh, the 47-year-old filmmaker and great-great nephew of artist Vincent van Gogh, caused an uproar among the Dutch Muslim community with his short film Submission, which he made with Somali-born Dutch MP Hirsi Ali, a vocal critic of women’s treatment in Islamic culture who had already been under police protection after receiving death threats.  The 11-minute English-language film highlights domestic violence against women in Islamic communities by projecting text from the Koran, which Ali says condones such violence, onto the naked back of an actress.  A note denouncing Ali and other Dutch politicians was left pinned to Van Gogh’s body with a knife by his killer.

The Theo van Gogh assassination was the inevitable outcome of a process which has shaken the foundations of Dutch civic society over the last 40 years: the cultural and sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s and the influx of Muslim workers during those years of prosperity.

While most of Europe points to 1968 as a watershed, perhaps no country was affected as profoundly by the radicalism of the times as the Netherlands.  In fewer than 15 years, most forms of traditional authority and hierarchy, the counterbalancing forces that made Dutch tolerance possible, were undermined.  Today, when people think of Holland, they think of marijuana served at coffee shops, police officers growing their hair as long as the Grateful Dead, homosexuals coming out of the closet without fear or hindrance, public television showing full nudity, and generous welfare benefits.

So, after all of these centuries of tolerance, what went wrong?  Common sense tells us that tolerance, dialogue, integration, and so forth only work when the recipient—in this case, the Islamic immigrant, who, according to the latest figures, makes up some 70 percent of all immigrants to Europe—is willing to accept them.  A recent poll by Britain’s Sky News revealed that only 12 percent of the two million British Muslims feel truly British.  The rest, to varying degrees, believe that they belong to the Umma, the transnational community of Islamic faithful.  For his part, Van Gogh’s killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, defiantly proclaimed that he regretted nothing and that he would kill again, if necessary.  It is highly unlikely that Bouyeri would ever have been integrated into Dutch society.

A recent government study indicated that, by 2010, Holland’s largest cities—Rotterdam, Amsterdam, the Hague, and Utrecht—will have Muslim majorities.  The Dutch Muslim community has an increasingly large and visible presence, and, in Amsterdam alone, there are more than 100,000 Muslims—13 percent of the city’s population.  Today, arranged marriages between Muslims living here and people from the Rif are the norm, so much so that more than half of the Dutch Moroccans marry a traditional partner from their parents’ home village.

If these trends continue, a reverse integration will have to take place: Westerners will become Islamicized, rather than Muslims becoming Westernized.  This trend may be accelerated by another phenomenon, as reported in the International Herald Tribune (February 28, 2005): In Holland alone, statistics in recent years suggest that the white middle class is increasingly fleeing (from 30,000 in 1999 to an estimated 40,000 in 2004), with the murder of Van Gogh having served as a catalyst.

In his speech to the House of Commons last July, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to defeat terror “with our values” remaining intact.  Among those values, did he include “gay marriage,” drug addiction, and euthanasia?  In an interview in the Italian daily Avvenire (November 18, 2004), Adrianus Cardinal Simonis of Utrecht remarked that “Today we have discovered that we are disarmed in the face of the Islamic danger”; the “spiritual vacuity” of Dutch society has left the Netherlands open to an Islamic cultural takeover.  A society must be based on a common understanding of public order and morality: “It isn’t enough to learn our language.”  The rise of Islam, Cardinal Simonis said, is related to “the spectacle of extreme moral decadence and spiritual decline that we offer” to young people.  This, in turn, leads to the radicalization of young Muslims, a threat that cannot be fought simply by closing Holland’s borders.

Cardinal Simonis observed that the notion of “tolerance,” as it is understood today, is a recent development.  “For three centuries, Catholics were barred from public office,” he noted.  The current penchant for tolerance “came later, after a common loss of faith—roughly 40 years ago.”  To put it more bluntly, today’s tolerance is the predictable degeneration of yesterday’s concept of tolerance.

The problem for the Netherlands, he continued, is a “lack of identity.”  The time is long past when Christians “would fight and die for their faith.”  Cardinal Simonis concluded on a note of hope, however.  “We must recover our roots, namely our Christian identity.”  The best prospect for recovery would be for the younger generation to return to Christian traditions.  “That is my hope, and I do see signs that young people are rediscovering the faith,” he said.

Yet vast sectors of the political establishment of the West are heading in the opposite direction, on the slippery slope of a moral degradation poised to enrage and alienate the immigrant Islamic masses even further.  These politicians are the best allies of Islamic radicalism and terrorism in the West.  A typical case in point is Spain, where the Socialist government that gained power in the wake of the Madrid bombings on March 11, 2004, immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq to appease their Muslim “kingmakers” but did not hesitate to ram through parliament the legalization of homosexual civil unions on April 21, 2005, the third country to do so after Holland and Belgium.  The Spanish legislation also provided for homosexuals to adopt children, following, again, after Holland.

Unless this contradiction is resolved, the West will lose its “War on Terror” and, in the process, commit politically correct suicide.