Mohammed Bouyeri, the man who murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh almost exactly two years ago is serving a life prison sentence, but now questions are being asked about whether the sermon of a Muslim cleric played a role in the crime.
During the ongoing trial of another Dutch terrorism suspect, Samir Azzouz, it’s emerged that Imam Fawaz of the as-Sunnah mosque in The Hague gave a sermon condemning Theo van Gogh just a few weeks before his murder. A recording of the sermon exists and in it the imam is heard uttering a curse against the Dutch director for his film Submission, which is critical of Islam. The film had been shown on television shortly before the sermon.
In the recording of the sermon, Imam Fawaz calls Theo van Gogh a ‘criminal bastard’ and beseeches Allah to visit an incurable disease upon the filmmaker. He also condemns former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali who was involved in writing the script for Submission. The imam asks Allah to make Ms Hirsi Ali go blind and give her cancer of the tongue and brain.
Despite the claims in the recording, Ruud Peters, a professor of Islamic Law doesn’t believe the imam’s words are incitement to commit murder:
“I have a couple of arguments for that – the most important is that he [Imam Fawaz] says, ‘the people who have insulted the Prophet Muhammad should die through the hands of God’ – he was very specific in that… he says, ‘leave it to God’.”
Professor Peters was a key expert witness at the trial of Mohammed Bouyeri and was asked to study Bouyeri’s writing up until he carried out the murder of Theo van Gogh on 2 November 2004 in Amsterdam.
“I found no clue that [Imam] Fawaz had had any impact on him. On the contrary, we know that already more than a year before he killed Van Gogh, that he… deliberately turned away from the mosques, the […] mosques which are considered to be radical.”
However, another writer and academic on Islam from Utrecht University, Hans Jansen, believes the sermon went much further than the usual rhetoric heard in Dutch mosques,
“It is simply incitement to violence. I can’t judge the legal angles, but somebody who hears this sermon would get very excited and would want to do anything in the cause of Islam.”
“I’ve heard fire and brimstone sermons before, one long speech which builds up tension and when you leave the mosque after having heard such a sermon, especially when you’re young, you’ll be very excited, almost ready to do anything.”
“This sermon is much worse than anything in mosques, certainly worse than anything presented in mosques in the Middle East.”
The recording of the sermon could now also be used as evidence that terrorism suspect Samir Azzouz and his associates were radicalised by going to the mosques and listening to Imam Fawaz. Mr Azzouz is accused of planning attacks on public figures and buildings in the Netherlands. His trial continues.
For more information: www.radionetherlands.nl