The Good Terrorist
Frank van den Engel
«What possesses Muslim fundamentalists who attack innocent civilians?» asks a voice recording from a radio show at the beginning of The Good Terrorist. The film does not give an answer. It does, however, manage to show how, during the 15 years since the Hofstad Group took its first victim, Islamic terrorism has changed European society.
The islamisation of radicalism
In 2004, a member of the Hofstad Group brutally murdered journalist Theo van Gogh. As the majority of the group’s members, including those seen in this film, did not commit the murder themselves, objections have since been raised as to the vague use of the term «terrorist». It has reinforced the knowledge that the present fear of Islam is conditioned by a centuries-long imagining of the Orient as the feared «other» of the West. New professions have proliferated – such as «informers on polarization and radicalization» – a new type of prison architecture has been created, and an individualized prison regime has been developed where contact between inmates is strictly forbidden. The sensibility for cultural difference has increased (Victor Koppen, the group’s lawyer: «I think there is a complete inability in the Netherlands to understand someone else’s point of view») and awareness of human rights importance has risen (Luk Vervaet, the prisoners’ rights activist: «human rights, they don’t apply to you and me. We have them. They apply to people who don’t have those rights»). Carefully outlining these fragments, the film indicates how we might not be dealing with Muslim fundamentalists at all but, in the words of Vervaet, «the Islamisation of radicalism».
We might not agree about what the definition of «Islamic terrorism» is, yet it has structured much of contemporary Western society over the last decade.
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