Can the West Win Muslim Hearts and Minds?

Despite the intense international coverage of the murder of controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh last year, most people remain unaware that the Dutch-Moroccan murderer had Americans in mind as he planned the gruesome attack.

After shooting van Gogh in broad daylight, the assassin stabbed him repeatedly with a butcher’s knife and slit his throat. Twenty-six-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri could have then fled the scene, but instead, he removed a five-page note from his pocket, placed it over van Gogh’s torso, and plunged a second knife into the corpse. Police captured Bouyeri in a nearby park only after a chase and exchanging fire. Several days later, the text of the note was made public. It concluded with Bouyeri’s stating, “I have no doubt that you, O America, will surely fall.”

Most commentators assumed that Bouyeri was acting in retaliation for van Gogh’s anti-Muslim film ‘‘Submission,’’ which had aired a few months earlier. Yet no Americans were involved in the film, which almost no Americans even saw. If the assailant was acting solely in revenge for van Gogh’s inflammatory film, then why did he bother to mention the United States?

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