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

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  955 Ratings  ·  106 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
Jun 12, 2015 Negin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could barely put this book down. One morning in 2004, the great-grand-nephew of Vincent Van Gogh was killed as he bicycled on his way to work. Theo Van Gogh was a controversial public figure and filmmaker. He’d recently completed a film with another controversial figure Ayaan Hirsi Ali, about women and Islam. A Muslim Dutch citizen shot and stabbed Van Gogh. He also stuffed a letter into Van Gogh’s body threatening Hirsi Ali as well.
“Islam may soon become the majority religion in countries wh
Mikey B.
Jan 24, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: holland, islam, journalism
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
Gavin Armour
Dec 22, 2015 Gavin Armour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Zeiten, in denen der Konservatismus sich schwer tut, eine deutlich umrissene Position einzunehmen, da er sich vereinnahmt sieht von Kräften, die vor nicht allzu langer Zeit eher dem rechtsradikalen oder zumindest rechtsextremen Spektrum zugeordnet worden wären, sucht man - auch als eher links Stehender - fast verzweifelt nach konservativen Stimmen, die man nicht nur ernst nehmen, sondern mit denen man in einen Diskurs treten kann, über Denkgrenzen hinweg. Ian Buruma, niederländisch-britischer ...more
Neil Mudde
Jun 15, 2014 Neil Mudde rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, islam, crime
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
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
Gina Cesati
As a detailed account for the terrorist attacks that the Netherlands faced in the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, Buruma offers a compelling explanation as to why young Muslims (especially men) flock to Islam extremism. He points to the failure of multiculturalism at the root of Theo van Gogh's murder, fueled by the xenophobic remarks made by Fortuyn. The book calls into question the conflict between secularism and Islam, a conflict that is igniting turmoil across European modern citie ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Sunil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting rereading this. I'm able to appreciate how Buruma walks a very tricky line but I feel he's being a rather innocuous victim of his own crime. I'd like to write on this, need some more time to compose my thoughts.
Mary W. Walters
May 13, 2013 Mary W. Walters rated it really liked it
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,
Dec 28, 2008 Lightreads rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
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
Jay Connor
Jan 30, 2011 Jay Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 07, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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
Bill 1098
May 08, 2007 Bill 1098 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfictionread
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
Jul 22, 2009 Irwan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, 2009
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)
Feb 11, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Shawn Thrasher
Mar 08, 2016 Shawn Thrasher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to re-read this book after the terrorism in San Bernardino. The world is neither safer nor saner since Buruma wrote this book. The Netherlands stands in for the West, as similar types of attacks, some small but deadly, other large and impactful, have occurred again and again since Theo Van Gogh was murdered in 2004. Buruma doesn't give us any answers here, but it still makes for fascinating and interesting reading on the clash between the Enlightenment and hatred for what it stands for, ...more
Jan 09, 2016 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sobering book that could not be more frighteningly prescient in light of yesterday’s attempted murder of a police officer in Philadelphia or the story of a member of ISIS beheading his own mother. This story of two murders is very eye-opening—mostly because it will cause an American reader’s eyes to see the United States through a pair of Dutch glasses. Buruma’s theme is reflected in a sentence occurring late in his book: “Collective sentimentality is the easiest way to deal with matters we wo ...more
Mar 20, 2016 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I am very glad I read this book. I have a clearer picture in my mind of the events leading up to and the people involved in the murder of Theo van Gogh. This book provides nuances to my hero worship of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is not a bad thing. Multiple perspectives always temper hero worship, I've found! I look forward to reading more by Ian Buruma.
Christian Ness
Feb 28, 2014 Christian Ness rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2009 Sarena Straus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 13, 2015 Viti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lo stile di Buruma é sempre molto piacevole, si fa leggere con molta facilitá. In questo saggio che fa seguito all'omicidio Van Gogh, Buruma ci prende per mano e ci fa esplorare Amsterdam e tutti i personaggi principali che hanno ruotato intorno a Van Gogh, al suo omicida e piú in generale che hanno avuto un ruolo nelle polemiche che hanno seguito l'omicidio. Anche se emerge il pensiero di Buruma, é capace di lasciare al lettore di formare un suo giudizio. Il fatto che Buruma sia olandese gli pe ...more
Aug 23, 2015 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not my typical summer thriller. This is a true story of the murder, on the streets of Amsterdam, of Theo Van Gogh, maker of a film offensive to Muslims, by a young Muslim man. It is a story all too common today in many parts of Europe. Especially interesting to me because it is the story of changes in The Netherlands in the last fifty years or so (approximately since the time my family left The Netherlands), especially as it has become a nation with many immigrants from the Middle East, which st ...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
Jan 06, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it liked it
"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
Sep 01, 2009 Marilyn Matheny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-this
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
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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...

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“Citizenship of a democratic state means living by the laws of the country. A liberal democracy cannot survive when part of the population believes that divine laws trump those made by man.” 2 likes
“The solution to the Muslim problem is a Muslim Voltaire, a Muslim Nietzsche—that” 0 likes
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