One of the most valuable interpretations of Mohammed B.'s letter to politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali was made by Arabist and Koran translator Fred Leemhuis for NRC Handelsblad. Only days after Mohammed B. had butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam and pinned his letter to the filmmaker's corpse, Leemhuis produced a rational and expert analysis that outbalanced a jumble of emotionally charged reactions, not in the least those of ministers and parliamentaries. The heading of the article in which his analysis was published, soberly sums up its main conclusion: "Pamphlet product from the polder". Since other young Muslims connected to Mohammed B. have been arrested, it has become clear how much Leemhuis was right and how much the group's violent radicalism is a product both of Western societies and radical Islam.
The shocking and media-conscious way in which Mohammed B. delivered his letter to Hirsi Ali is as much reminiscent of films like "Se7en" as of the video messages of the Al-Zaraqawi group. It is as much "horror" as it is "terror". It's exactly this combination of horror and terror, of controlled fear and uncontrolled fear, that lends the act its power. Not only does it trigger fears of an external threat but it also cuts deep into the internal fears and desires of Western societies that generate phantasies like "Se7en". It does not just shock and upset Dutch society, it turns it inside out.
In the nation-wide tendency to analyse Mohammed B.'s letter solely in terms of terrorism the Apocalyptic visions contained in it have been interpreted as realistic threats to Western societies. Yet, in our view, they rather belong to the category "horror". They may contain warnings for future attacks but more likely they express religious beliefs in Judgment Day, beliefs in ultimate justice and vengeance that lie at the heart of most religious societies, including Christian, and, in in an extreme form, of most sects. Unless Mohammed B. and his group can be labelled a psychopathical sect a la Charles Manson's Family, his reference to the destruction of Western societies and Israel seems a more or less conscious move to mix horror and terror. It's Osama Bin Laden starring in the Book of Revelations.
In line with the horrifying way the letter was delivered, the much ignored main content is a death-ridden challenge and test of faith addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is described as a renegade Muslim now working for the enemies of Islam. Hirsi Ali is challenged to die for her beliefs like Mohammed B. would have died for his if the police had not just wounded him
but killed him. It's a terrible and ultimate test of strength that does not so much remind of suicide bombers as of the mythological struggles between good and evil of films like "The Exorcist". No wonder Hirsi Ali has so far been unable to respond to this challenge. All the more since she knows the entire nation awaits her first public appearance like a public spectacle
already blown-up to filmscreen proportions by the media. We wish her strength and wisdom.
The NRC Handelsblad article "Pamflet product uit de polder"
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