big tests in the netherlands

In the end, Buruma spreads those arguments out in front of us rather than tying them up in a bundle; he has no concrete suggestions to make and no clear sense of where the Netherlands is headed. But of course, those who think they do know, know wrong; in this case, at least, Buruma’s sense of the lay of the land is itself invaluable: “The murder of Theo van Gogh was committed by one Dutch convert to a revolutionary war,” he concludes, in a passage that should recommend his book to anyone interested in European history as well as Europe’s future. “Such revolutionaries in Europe are still few in number. But the murder, like the bomb attacks in Madrid and London, the fatwah against Salman Rushdie, and the worldwide Muslim protests against cartoons of the Prophet in a Danish newspaper, exposed dangerous fractures that run through all European nations. Islam may soon become the majority religion in countries whose churches have been turned more and more into tourist sites, apartment houses, theaters, and places of entertainment. . . . How Europeans, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, cope with this is the question that will decide our future. And what better place to watch the drama unfold than the Netherlands, where freedom came from a revolt against Catholic Spain, where ideals of tolerance and diversity became a badge of national honor, and where political Islam struck its first blow against a man whose deepest conviction was that freedom of speech included the freedom to insult.”

more from Bookforum here.