Last night, an islamic school in Eindhoven became the target of a bomb attack, which is presumed to be linked to the murder of Theo van Gogh. There have been incidents of vandalism against mosques and Islamic schools in the past couple of days as well.
Back in those awful days of September, 2001, there was widespread fear that Americans would retaliate against Muslim communities in the US, but although I dimly recall that there were some incidents, they were proportionally fewer in number. A lot of the credit, I think, actually goes to President Bush: he talked the talk that stopped people from taking the law in their own hands, speaking of Islam as a religion of peace – a phrase that the bigots at The Blog that LGFWatch Watches are mocking to this day. In a characteristic pattern, many of his administration’s actions contradicted that message, but the fact that he talked the right talk at that time had a calming effect. It was coupled with the promise of a vigorous response, making people feel that they were not powerless against an invisible enemy. That message, too, would change, but it worked at the time.
The Dutch government, in particular Gerrit Zalm who declared war on terrorism as if a fleet of airplanes had just ploughed into the Euromast, gave the nation one part of the message but not the other. To speak of Islam as a religion of peace would have been too politically correct, too soft – too liberal and reasonable for that part of the population that has already made up its mind. And unlike Bush with that odd charisma of his, the message that “it’s war and we’ll get them” won’t inspire confidence coming from the likes of Zalm. I like Zalm, but he’s just a good accountant who knows funny jokes. Leader in a war against terrorism he is not.
Update: Financial Times‘s coverage.
(You may be surprised that after months of denouncing the mendacity, malevolence, incompetence and simple disconnection from reality of the Bush administration I’d have anything positive to say about Bush. But I have chatlogs and other private records showing that I thought at the time he did much much better than I had expected. The fact that he didn’t do a Pat Robertson, didn’t denounce all of Islam, and appeared in public with imams – those were good, important decisions that prevented an American Kristallnacht. I am not confident that we won’t be seeing a Dutch Kristallnacht in the next few weeks.)