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Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerence

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  744 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A revelatory look at what happens when political Islam collides with the secular West

Ian Buruma 's Murder in Amsterdam is a masterpiece of investigative journalism, a book with the intimacy and narrative control of a crime novel and the analytical brilliance for which Buruma is renowned. On a cold November day in Amsterdam in 2004, the celebrated and controversial Dutch
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 2006)
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I believe in freedom of speech. Tom Cruise has the right to sound like an idiotic jerk, and I have the right to refuse to see anything he's in. My local paper can publish those cartoons, and people can protest outside the paper's building and write strongly worded letters. The KKK can march in Grey's Ferry, and the mayor can say, "go ahead, but we don't have enough cops, just so you know."

And if everyone isn't happy all the time, at least we're taking turns being miserable.

The right to speak you
This book provides a lot of context for "Infidel," the bestseller by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In fact, that's a lot of what this book is: context for the religious rift that's working its way through Western Europe. The book poses many good questions about just how far the West is willing to take its tolerance, and also how far Muslims are willing to assimilate. I would have liked to see more analysis from Buruma. When he chimes in, he's quite astute and perceptive; there's just not enough of him in thi ...more
Mikey B.
This book gives an excellent and disconcerting view of the relations between Muslims and the Dutch in Holland. Can a bridge be made of Muslim integration into Holland (Europe) or will the gulf continue to widen and with it senseless and fanatical violence? Ian Buruma provides no easy answers.

There are perhaps parallels between the jihadist murder of Theo van Gogh and Holland’s Calvinistic and puritanical past. Nevertheless there is a “Clash of Civilizations” in Holland. There were few Muslims pr
Neil Mudde
My Son in Law purchased this book, while working for the UN in Den Haag.
I being Dutch Born, and leaving the Netherlands in the early 50.s I missed much of that part by of history. The Author Ian Buruma is Dutch born as well.
The story deals with the murder of Theo van Gogh, who is a great grand-son of Theo van Gogh, Vincent's very supportive Brother.
The Theo in the story has been a character from birth, being involved in T.V. interviewing persons of the day the controversial politician Pim Fortu
A compelling bit of reportage on a sensational case. If you take the story at its face, it's really quite well done. Ian Buruma tells the story well, mostly leaving his own opinions out-- which I was rather disappointed by, he's an admirable scholar, and I'd be curious about his opinions. But he makes some good points when he is editorializing, namely that a tolerant society is by no means necessarily a non-racist society, that Islamism bears more in common with more classically "Western" school ...more
Jay Connor
Ian Buruma gives us a fascinating rumination on the context, conflicts and potential causes of the murder of Muslim-critic, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in 2004 Amsterdam.

First, I must thank my son, Patrick, for giving me this book for Christmas. Not only did this gift recognize my love for books, but also tapped into my preferred blend of philosophy, morality and suspense. But unlike my usual mix of Stuart Woods and Michael Connelly, this nonfiction account of the cultural stew on post-911 northern
The author interviews a bunch of his activist/journalist friends about the social problems with immigration, multiculturalism and "political Islam" in the Netherlands and Europe writ large. It's actually a book about liberalism and the arguments for or against. Parts of it were fascinating to me, but I felt like I was slogging thru much of the book. It just doesn't flow very well or something. It's very anecdotal with not much extra guidance beyond the absolute basics, so you can't always guage ...more
My headline is not original. It's a quote from another review below. I used it because it is so apt.

Buruma's writing flows. It's like having coffee with him as he recounts his experiences with Theo and describes Theo's life, TV show and art. He explains the earlier, but separate, murder of Pim Fortuyn. The flamboyant libertarian/conservative Fortuyn, killed by an animal rights activist, credits the Enlightenment with his ability as a gay man to be elected to public office. He saw the intolerance
This book is mainly about the murder of Theo Van Gogh, its implications towards the tolerance and freedom in Holland and also a few dimensions of the heated conflicts between Islamic values brought by the Muslim Immigrants with the Dutch (Western) ones.

Islam Vs the West is not a new topic for me. I am quite familiar (or rather bored) with each other's claims and accusations. The author wrote it as it is, verbatim quoting harsh words from each side. Not so open-minded readers (from either side)
Christian Ness
My experience with this work is a bit interesting. People who tend to oppose "multi-cultural democracies of difference" seem to me to hate this work for "apologizing" Islamic extremists. People who tend to desire a multicultural and a blanket tolerance policy in the conception for Western cultural identity tend to hate it for "celebrating" right wing politicians in opposition to Islam.

I think this book is so full of primary sources that it is hard to immediately identify the opinion of the autho
This book was interesting and was a quick read. I wish it had more background and was more in depth. I know this style of book probably satisfies more readers, but I prefer non-fiction with a little more "meat."
Sarena Straus
I read this book for my book club and 3 out of 4 of us could not get through it, including me. It was a bit preachy and all over the place. Very hard to follow and we just could not get into it.
Mary W. Walters
Reading this book was a mind-altering experience -- and not in a good way. I expect well written, intelligent books to help clear away confusion, but when it comes liberalism, Islam and tolerance, this one only added to mine.

Murder in Amsterdam was recommended to me by someone I respect (who told me that it was the "best book" he'd read "in a long time") but I didn't even realize it was a work of non-fiction until I ordered it -- much less know what it was about. What it IS about, specifically,
In 2004, Theo van Gogh (great great something or other of Vincent), filmmaker and professional polemicist was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist. This book is partly about him – about what led to his death and what came after – but it’s mostly about the Netherlands as a microcosm of the intellectual and political friction of European ideals and Islamic fundamentalism. The book profiles notable Muslim critics – the racists, the atheists, the culturalists, the feminists. Van Gogh rates the titl ...more
This goes into the situation in Holland preceding and after the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by Mohamad Bouyeri. It profiles Bouyeri, Van Gogh, another murdered Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn and the Somalian woman turned anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

While I support their commitment to free speech Van Gogh and Fortuyn don't seem particuarly heroic to me. The homosexual Fortuyn, who admitted that he enjoyed having sex with "Moroccan boys" before he was killed, only took an anti-im
Buruma does a good job discussing the personal histories and thoughts of those who have shaped the debate about modern multiculturalism and tolerance in the Netherlands: Pim Fortunyn, Theo Van Gogh and Aayan Hirsi Ali. This is essentialyy a piece of long and detailed journalism with very little of his own thoughts on the subject, akin, I suppose, to his pieces I have read in the New York Review of Books. Still, a clear and well told explanation of the cultural climate in present day Holland, whe ...more
Rowland Bismark
"Buruma, who was born in the Netherlands in 1951 and has lived mostly abroad since 1975, is less interested in the details of the killing than in what followed: the ideologies vindicated or discredited, the prejudices revealed and the doubts cast on the workability of what only 10 years ago was considered Europe’s most easygoing society."

The murder in Amsterdam at the centre of Ian Buruma's book is that of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004 by the Dutch son of Moroccan immigrants, acting "
This book is an engaging, but ultimately frustrating read. Buruma's subject is compelling: on the surface, it's about the murder of provocative Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was senselessly gunned down and slashed by a young Muslim extremist in 2004. On a deeper level, Buruma writes about the plight of the Netherlands, which has a rapidly growing ethnic population that tends to take refuge in Islamic customs and beliefs. Buruma seems to be asking whether this ethnic population will ultimate ...more
Marilyn Matheny
Before reading this book, one should read Ayan Hirsi Ali's book "Infidel."

Buruma investigates and attempts to understand the reaction of his native country, the Netherlands, to the murder of famous Dutch artist and personage, Theo Van Gogh, who is murdered for his role in making an inflammatory, anti-Muslim film with Ayn Hirsi Ali. The film shows naked women who were abused and with words from the Koran shows how Islam allows or recommends that abuse.

The author sees the unresolved guilt of the
Patrick McCoy
Ian Buruma is one of my favorite public intellectuals. In his career he has written on a number of subjects from Japanese history/culture to the fundamental problems of contemporary society. Expert scholarship, an engaging literary style, and a density of ideas distinguish his books. Recently he has written about the growing strain between the East and the West, often identified as a clash of Enlightenment values and the severe dogma of Islam (see Occidentalism). In his latest book, Murder In Am ...more
Bill 1098
Very interesting read from an author who knows Amsterdam very well.

I think overall, Buruma is informed by the reality that the violence practiced by political Islam today is not unique to Islam, but rather manifests itself in all religions/ideologies. “Messianic violence can attach itself to any creed” as he illustrates through the tribal aggression of Dutch soccer fans. (p.261)
Moreover, he notes that some of the aspect of Western culture that we take for granted, and rail against Islam for its
Bookmarks Magazine

The well-traveled Ian Buruma, a Bard College professor, previously published Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies (2005) and The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan (2002), among others. Buruma's account of Theo van Gogh's death was first published in the New Yorker in January 2005. The book, an expanded version of the magazine piece, is timely. Buruma receives much praise for his writing and reporting skills, though several critics comment on the book's lack of st

Patrick Brown
This is a fascinating and thorough look at the contemporary social/political scene in Holland, where a massive influx of rural Moroccan immigrants, some of whom practice takfir, a particularly extreme form of Islam, challenges the ulta-liberal government's policies of tolerance and multiculturalism and the country's traditions. This issue came to a head in 2004 with the famous assassination of filmmaker and provocateur Theo Van Gogh.

Buruma is very balanced, examining the issue from many sides a
Sep 24, 2007 Gina rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poli-sci, terrorism/war discussion
Perfect timing for this book. Takes a very critical look at modern-day Netherlands and its so-called liberal, enlightened politics. Opens a wound with the controversial TV host/Filmmaker Theo van Gogh's murder. Includes Ayaan Hirsi Ali role along with many references to WWII guilt and inabilities to cope with looming religious/social problems.

Ayaan was just sent back to Holland a few days ago, as there is not enough protection for her here in NYC.
What struck me most was the author's depiction of
I'm still reading this (stalled halfway through). Interesting to see what the outside perspective is on the small, uninteresting country near Germany. Unsettling for me is that there are political assassinations there now. I should not be too surprised. The pater patrias William of Orange was assassinated as well, as were many of the more enlightened statesmen (van Oldebarneveld, gebr de Witt). Not that I would equate the bald headed P. Fortuyn or the obnoxious Theo van Gogh with any of these gr ...more
Utterly brilliant investigation of the tension between the liberal Enlightenment values (particularly tolerance for others' beliefs) prevalent in European government and the need for institutional response to a growing group of immigrants who do not share those values. Ian Buruma, a Dutch journalist residing in Britain, returned home in the wake of the murder of Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist to research what led to it and how his native land was dealing with with the cultural fallout.

With the murder of the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, Hollanders are seriously assessing their liberal viewpoints and policies. Particularly those pertaining to the Isalmic community; since this brutal murder was caused by a Moroccan Dutchman named Mohammed Bouyeri, an extremist. This assassination becomes the focal point of the challenges of Islamic assimilation into a liberal western society. Writer Ian Buruma superbly constructs the arguments by interviewin ...more
Kaleb Michaud
Appropriate reading to help provide some background for the recent attacks in Paris. Well-written and well-investigated and provides context for many important public fights in Europe between foreign-born and natives. Justifies argument that while the majority of Muslims live elsewhere, the future of Islam will be determined in Europe.

As these issues are far from over, may leave a sense of frustration at the end.
Ashley Lauren
I picked up this book after having read Hirsi Ali's memoir "Infidel" - I find Hirsi Ali particularly fascinating and thought it would be very politically correct of me to get an opinion of Theo Van Gogh's brutal murder from someone else besides her.

Overall, I'm glad I read the book. Buruma has an easy way of telling his story - his remarks are quick and to the point and still manage to hold a lot of intellect. He talked with many people, of varying opinions, and I felt gave them equal time. I do
To those unfamiliar with recent cultural clashes in Holland, or even those with a fleeting knowledge of Theo van Gogh's murder just a few years back, Dutch expat Ian Buruma's profile of modern Holland will make you cringe. His style is effortlessly fluid and nimble -- which belie his strange and uncomfortable subject matter. It's not just the crazed Muslim fundamentalist that get under your skin, but just about every native Dutch of all political persuasions that will collectively grate on you f ...more
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Ian Buruma is a British-Dutch writer and academic, much of whose work focuses on the culture of Asia, particularly that of 20th-century Japan, where he lived and worked for many years.
More about Ian Buruma...
Year Zero: A History of 1945 Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 The China Lover The Wages Of Guilt: Memories Of War In Germany And Japan

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