Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit July, 4-8 2007
Archive Last update July, 27 2007 | français
Two political murders have sent a shock wave through the Netherlands, a country that prides itself on its historical tolerance. On May 6, 2002 the politician Pim Fortuyn was killed by an animal rights activist. Two and a half years later, on November 4, 2004 Theo van Gogh, a publicist and filmmaker, was killed by a Muslim fundamentalist. Both murders manifest the heightened tension between immigrant minorities and the native population in the Netherlands. Fortuyn had broken the conventional code of political tolerance by giving voice to populist discontent about immigrants. Van Gogh had relentlessly tested the margins of freedom of expression, especially regarding sensitive minorities like Jews and Muslims. Both of them in their own way had exposed the indifference underlying Dutch discourse on tolerance.
Heated public debate
The killings of these two men have prompted a heated public debate on tolerance and the freedom of speech that continues today. Witnessing the vicious spiral of intolerance in the wake of Van Goghs murder and the defensive measures taken by the authorities to stem the tide of polarisation, the Amsterdam city chronicler Geert Mak wrote a compelling pamphlet in defense of tolerance advocating a culture of vulnerability giving a positive political thrust to the notion of vulnerability.
The commission preparing the Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R) 2007 in Amsterdam proposes to link up with Mak's challenge to rethink the concepts of tolerance in different social and political contexts. The developments in the Netherlands do not stand alone. They epitomise fundamental questions concerning vulnerability and tolerance in todays world. We invite the participants to explore the significance of the connection of tolerance and vulnerability in their respective disciplines and in their various professional or personal experiences using the models of mimetic theory in their analyses. >> Preview
Opening session: VU University July 4, 2007, 13.00-17.00
The Dutch case as an example of global tendencies
In Holland the new intolerance comes in the wake of a crisis of identities. In less than a quarter-century the Dutch did away with their system of social pillars (zuilen), the faith and ideology based identities that formed the building-blocks of a tolerant, relatively diverse, non-confrontational society.
World capital of relativism?
This society came to an end in the wake of the renewal movement of the late 60s. In their levelling effects the 60s were more radical in Holland than in other European countries and across the Atlantic. The consensus-oriented political culture combined with avoidance of confrontation in the enforcement of the law resulted in policies that, deliberately and within limits, turned a blind eye to specific categories of trespassers of the law (gedoogcultuur). Its official tolerance combined with the demise of its social pillars earned Holland, Amsterdam in particular, the reputation of a place where anything goes, the world capital of relativism as Nathan Gardels, in an interview with René Girard, recently put it.
The response of the various waves of immigrants that entered the Netherlands since the 60s is ambivalent and mixed. They arrived when the general drive to do away with the old differentiated order had produced irreversible changes and were encouraged to join in what was presented as a free for all but excluded many. Many immigrants became models of affirmative integration like Somali born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, while others were sucked into hateful polarisation like Van Goghs killer, Mohammed B., a son of Moroccan immigrants.
There is a sense of despair in the search for an appropriate response. On the one hand there are the demands for a wider mandate for law-enforcement agencies and for a restriction of democratic freedoms. On the other hand a stance of refusal to give in to the violent intolerance of a minority and a readiness to accept the resulting vulnerability. Participants in the workshop The Dutch case will place the above mentioned tendencies and the responses of government and civil society in a global comparative perspective and hopefully provide the beginning of an answer to the vexed question: What does a society that is tolerant of minorities do when it is confronted with a minority that is violently intolerant?
Panel discussion: Dialogue map (by Simon Buckingham Shum,
presented Saturday July, 7)
Ian Buruma, "Tariq Ramadan Has an Identity Issue", New York Times Magazine, February 4, 2007. -"Freedom Cannot Be Decreed", signandsight.com, 2007 January, 29 [Die Freiheit kann nicht staatlich verordnet werden]. - Murder in Amsterdam - The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance (Penguin, 2006); translations Dood van een gezonde roker (Amsterdam: Atlas 2006); On a tué Theo van Gogh (Paris: Flammarion) Die Grenzen der Toleranz. Der Mord an Theo van Gogh (März 2007) [reviews]. - "Tolleranza all'olandese", Corriere della sera, 9 ottobre 2006.
René Girard & Gianni Vattimo, Verità o fede debole? Dialogo su cristianesimo e relativismo (Massa, 2006) [Il primo dialogo: Cristianesimo e modernita]. [Video Girard-Vattimo] [reviews] - René Girard, Les origines de la culture (Paris, 2004). [review; samenvatting] Michael Kirwan, Discovering Girard (Darton, Longman & Todd: 2005). - Audio Stanford University, A conversation with Professor René Girard. The theory of mimetic desire (September 17, 2005). Ritual, myth, and religion (October 4, 2005). - Interview by Henri Tincq, "Ce qui se joue aujourd'hui est une rivalité mimétique à l'échelle planétaire", Le Monde 5/11/2001 [What Is Occurring Today Is a Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale] - Video Violence, Victims and Christianity (Oxford University, 1997) >> more
signandsight/perlentaucher The multicultural Issue - Die Multikulturalismus-Debatte (Contributions by Ian Buruma, Ulrike Ackermann, Pascal Bruckner, Paul Cliteur, Jesco Delorme, Francis Fukuyama, Timothy Garton Ash, Halleh Ghorashi, Lars Gustafsson, Necla Kelek, Adam Krzeminski, Stuart Sim, Bassam Tibi, etc.) - Discussions in Denmark, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, United Stated, France).
Other Eric Gans, White Guilt, Past and Future, Anthropoetics 12 (2006/07): 2. - Jonathan Israel, "Freedom of Thought versus Freedom of Religion", Thomas More Lecture, November 11, 2006. - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "The Owl and the Ostrich", AEI, October 17. - Mario Vargas Llosa, "Asesinato en Amsterdam", El País, 8 oct. - Timothy Garton Ash, "Islam in Europe", NY Review of Books, October 5. - "Die schleichende Scharia", Frankfurter Allgemeine, 4 Okt. - Pieter W. Van Der Horst, "Tying Down Academic Freedom", Wall Street Journal, June 30. - Jane Kramer, "The Dutch Model. Multiculturalism and Muslim Immigrants", The New Yorker April 3. - Leon de Winter, "Soft Europe", Publications Hudson Institute, March 7, 2006. >> more