The Neighbour
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svdgrift's picture


Marlene Dumas likes to paint bad guys.

Mohammed Bouyeri is a a second-generation Berber-Moroccan-Dutchman, who definitely classifies as a bad guy. From an early age he was known to the police as a member of a group they would call "problem-youth". After his mother died and his dad remarried, Mohammed started to live according to strict interpretations of Sunni Islamic Sharia law. Which meant he had to stop working at his neighborhood organization, because he refused to serve alcohol and activities attended by both women and men were a big no-no. He visited the El Tawheed mosque and that's where he met fellow radical Sunnis and is said to have formed a Dutch terrorist cell called the Hofstad Network. Interesting side-note, the El Tawheed mosque was also where Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi met at a conference in 1999. Two years later they'd hijack two planes and fly them into the World Trade Center. 

Anyway, back to whatever this guy did to be interesting enough for Marlene to paint. November 2nd 2004, film producer Theo van Gogh was cycling to work, just minding his own business. When Mohammed, who by the way was also on a bicycle, shot Theo 8 times, wounding not only him but also two bystanders. As if that wasn't gruesome enough, Mohammed tried, but luckily failed, to decapitate his target. He fled, after leaving a note on Theo's body which contained a death threat to then Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 

What did Theo do to offend Mohammed you ask? Well, "offensive" might as well have been his middle name. Yet, a few weeks before his assassination, Theo stepped up his criticism. He was famous for criticizing Islamic culture. Ayaan Hirsi Ali immigrated to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage in Somalia, so safe to say she wasn't too fond of Islamic culture as well. Together they made a short movie called "Submission," which deals with violence against women in some Islamic societies. The movie tells the stories of four abused Muslim women, all played by one naked woman wearing a transparent chador. On her naked body they painted verses from the Quran. That does sound a tad familiar doesn't it? Besides receiving tons of death threats after the movie was shown on public television, they also got accused of plagiarism by journalist Francisco van Jole. He said they had appropriated the ideas of Shirin Neshat. The aesthetics are very similar to her work Unveiling, for instance. Theo didn't take the death threats seriously, Ayaan recalled him saying "no-one kills the village idiot." Famous last words.

(And yes, van Gogh as in Vince.)