Sunday, November 07, 2004

Rotterdam mayor apologises!

Further news from Holland. I reported yesterday that a Dutch artist had protested against the murder of Theo van Gogh by placing a picture of an angel on his studio wall with the text of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill". The Rotterdam mayor sent in the police to destroy the painting (because it was "racist") as well as some of the footage of the event taken by a camerawoman.

Well, the good news is that the mayor has now apologised for his actions. (The bad news is that the contents of the letter attached to the body of Theo van Gogh by his murderer have now been made public. The letter states that Holland is under the control of the Jews and calls for a jihad against "infidels, America, Europe, the Netherlands and Ms Hirsi Ali".)

Chris Ripken, the artist who made the "offending" picture, has also described what happened in some detail in a Dutch newspaper (de Volkskrant). I've translated (as best I can) some of this article below:

"Ripken's emotions over the death of Van Gogh were released on Tuesday afternoon in an artwork. He painted the biblical commandment over an ascending angel which he had already created on his facade, with the date below. "The very first time that I had used text to express myself. As a "rule of play" ... A completely values-free and and neutral commandment which nobody at all could disagree with."

"Wrong. The next day the district officer stood at the door: the text is potentially inflammatory, the painting must be removed before 12 o'clock. Certainly because Ripken's studio is right opposite a mosque.

"Then there arises a short discussion in which Ripken suddenly feels completely isolated. The district officer, whom he knows well, suddenly appears like a stranger, even as he talks: stern, official, deaf to argument. Then the chairman of the mosque administration comes and stands nearby. Lucky, thinks Ripken: he'll understand me. But the chairman says diplomatically that although he thinks Ripken's viewpoint is alright, others could interpret the text wrongly."

"Ripken then invites the chairman to add something to the painting, for instance an equivalent in Arabic. "But nobody reacted. It's as if they didn't hear me," says Ripken. "It became increasingly grim".

"The district officer tells Ripken that he is acting directly on the orders of Mayor Opstelten. And that there would exist from the ministry of internal affairs a "line of sight" for similar texts, put out after the murder of Van Gogh. And Ripken also receives the pressing, no, forceful advice to above all seek no contact with the media.

"But two reporters from the Cineac Noord, "the smallest TV station in the Netherlands", which operates in north Rotterdam, get wind of the story, jump on their bikes and arrive at the scene with cameras rolling.

"Shortly afterwards a "spuitwagen" (a cleaning truck?) arrives to remove the artwork. "I'm (not having this)" says reporter Wim Nottroth from Cineac North. He jumps in front of the painting and is removed as a prisoner. He sits for three hours in a cell. Meanwhile the police make the camerawoman show them the footage of the arrest.

"The 52 year old Nottroth says he found it very annoying to sit for several hours in a cell. He is still flabbergasted by it. "Who would have thought I would be locked up on account of God's word? But I found that I had to do it. "

"Practising and normally faithful politicians appear to have less emotions on the issue than atheists like Ripken and Nottroth ... (The article finishes by noting that most politicians responded to the event with a "no comment", and that there was only one, a councillor by the name of Marco Pastors, who openly condemned the destruction of the painting by commenting that "It is crazy to view it as inflammatory. It's a shining example of the madness in which we live.")

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