Monday, May 6

Good News and Bad News

The bad news first. And, unfortunately, it is pretty horrible. Multiple sources are reporting that Dutch Politician Pim Fortuyn, 54 was shot six times by an unidentified gunman and suffered multiple wounds in the chest and neck earlier today. Depending on which source you read, he is either on his deathbed or already dead. Fortuyn was shot after giving a radio interview in anticipation of next week's general elections in which, according to opinion polls, Fortuyn's new party, set up just months ago, was on course to win around 15 percent of the vote. That may not sound like much, but in a multiparty system it is a significant achievement and Fortuyn's party was poised to wield great influence in the legislature. Fortuyn is best known in America for standing out in the almost outlandishly liberal Netherlands as a nattily-attired, buzz-cut, gay conservative (by Dutch standards only, he was more like a moderate libertarian) critic of Europe's lax immigration policy and the growing menace of unassimilated, immigrant communities.

UPDATE He is now, officially dead. Andrew Sullivan, who in many obvious and less obvious ways is Fortuyn's Anglo-American spiritual brother (gay, buzz-cut, conservative to libertarian politics, motivated by the courage of his convictions--those are the obvious ways) has some, insightful comments and good links posted already and will, no doubt, lead the web in coverage of l'affaire Fortuyn in the days ahead. I don't know why this story has disturbed me so much--I barely knew anything about him beyond the coverage in London and American papers--but it feels like a portentous event in the increasingly chaotic context of European politics. What it prefaces, I do not know.

UPDATE II: Courtesy of The Corner, comes this statement of Pim Fortuyn's position with regard to the Netherlands's Muslim community, for which he was targeted by rival politicians as a right-wing zealot:

Large groups in the community are lagging behind in social and cultural terms. These groups often originate from countries which did not participate in the Judeo-Christian-humanist developments which have been taking place in Europe for centuries. These shortfalls in development are highly regrettable, as they result in a divide in society and form a threat to the functioning of our large cities. This must be tackled vigorously, on the one hand by paying extra attention to housing, schools and cultural education for these groups, but on the other by requiring these groups to make a maximum effort themselves. Cultural developments which are diametrically opposed to the desired integration and emancipation, such as arranged marriages, honour revenge and female circumcision, must be fought by means of legislation and public information. Discrimination against women in fundamentalist Islamic circles is particularly unacceptable. In a democratic society like ours, all citizens have the same rights and obligations, irrespective of race, gender, beliefs and nature. There is a division of Church and State in the Netherlands, and therefore also of mosque and state. Thanks to the division of powers (the executive, legislative and judiciary powers), citizens can develop themselves in relative freedom. Our hard-fought freedoms are worth protecting against increasing fundamentalism. We must carry out a study into whether the introduction of a social and military service for boys and girls of eighteen years of age or older can contribute to integration.

This story is accompanied by a great photo of Fortuyn.

Now the good news. (For why it is good, read this and this.)