Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2004 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Froma Harrop

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Boy, would the Europeans love to trade their culture war for ours | The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh has cut yards off the fuse on Europe's culture war. And we mean war — with shooting and bombing — not some American-type spat over Hollywood. Boy, would the Europeans love to trade their culture war for ours.

A gang of Muslim radicals gunned van Gogh down in the streets of Amsterdam, then slit his throat, jihadist style. The killers were angry over a film he had made about abused Muslim women. Van Gogh was a distant relative of the artist Vincent van Gogh.

The Netherlands is a place where marijuana sells as openly as coffee in Seattle. And so does sex. Women dress as they please, and free speech is a given. It is everything Muslim radicals abhor.

The Dutch government had already tightened its immigration policies. And the van Gogh murder has cleared away the marijuana haze surrounding left-wingers who thought kindness would cool the hotheads. Muslims now account for 6 percent of the country's population. The Dutch have no choice but to root out the misfits and forcefully integrate the rest. This will not come naturally to the land of utmost tolerance.

In the meantime, it's going to be war in Europe.

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An American myth holds that France has meekly avoided the war on terror. Nothing could be further from the truth. France has aggressively pounced on suspected terrorists and abridged their civil liberties in ways that John Ashcroft could only envy. When France passed a law forbidding girls to wear Islamic headscarves to public schools, Osama's deputy issued a string of blood-curdling threats. The law stayed. Militants holding two French journalists hostage in Iraq offered to release them if France gave up the headscarf ban. France refused.

Spain has woken up to its own horrible reality. The terrorist bombings near Madrid last March killed 200 commuters. At first, the attacks seemed narrowly aimed at scaring the electorate into voting their pro-Iraq war leaders out of office. That was accomplished, and Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq. Weeks later, similar bombs were found on Spain's train tracks.

The Dutch are now scared stiff. And so are immigrants who try to fit in. Bodyguards now surround Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament who has criticized fellow Muslims for not adopting European ways. (Van Gogh's killers left a note saying that Hirsi Ali is on their list.)

The Dutch can't say they hadn't been warned. Van Gogh himself believed that a fifth column of Islamic radicals had infiltrated the immigrant masses. Two years ago, a flamboyant gay Dutch politician named Pim Fortuyn argued that large-scale Muslim immigration posed a threat to his country's liberal traditions. He was accused of racism. Fortuyn was assassinated, though by an animal-rights nutcase.

Many in the American media haven't a clue. They apply the American experience to Europe. U.S. immigration comes with its own set of problems, but assimilation is not among them. Immigrants to the United States tend to melt easily into the culture. They don't attack cheerleaders in Texas because they find them lewd.

A recent PBS documentary on Muslim-Dutch tensions totally missed this point. Digging into the bag of American immigration cliches, it painted Europe's challenge as, "Welcoming the beliefs and traditions of newcomers while protecting freedom and equality for all."

Well, what do you do when the beliefs and traditions of newcomers oppose the freedom and equality of others, including you?

A New York Times editorial says the Dutch people's problem is not Muslim immigration, "but a failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society."

What exactly have the Dutch done wrong? Almost 50 percent of the population in their second-biggest city, Rotterdam, are from other countries — making it arguably more diverse than New York or Los Angeles. Immigrants to the Netherlands get jobs, and free health care and education. Should the Dutch shut down filmmakers who say women shouldn't be beaten? Allow thugs to attack gays? Give up their first-born?

The Dutch don't have to apologize to anyone. They and other Europeans have some ugly choices on the agenda — and no option but to make them. Theirs is the culture war from hell.

Froma Harrop is a columnist for The Providence Journal. Comment by clicking here.