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Thousands remember slain van Gogh

Thousands of people gather in central Amsterdam to pay homage to film maker Theo van Gogh
A noisy protest, rather than a wake, was held to remember van Gogh

Several thousand people took to the streets in Amsterdam to pay homage to outspoken film maker Theo van Gogh and protest at the manner of his killing.

Mr van Gogh, who made a controversial film about Islamic culture, was shot dead as he cycled through the city.

Police say they have arrested a man with joint Dutch-Moroccan nationality.

Instead of holding a wake, protesters were asked by Mr van Gogh's family to make as much noise as possible in support of freedom of speech.

People banged on pots and pans, car horns were honked and whistles blown in response.

"The freedom of speech is a foundation of our society and that foundation was tampered with today," Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen said in a speech to the crowd.

"Theo van Gogh picked fights with many people, myself included, but that is a right in this country," he added.

Mr van Gogh was reportedly shot and stabbed to death as he cycled in broad daylight through an Amsterdam street on Tuesday.

Police said they arrested a 26-year-old man with dual nationality near the scene after an exchange of gunfire. The suspect and a police officer were wounded and had to go to hospital.

Death threats

The 47-year-old film maker had received death threats after his film Submission was shown on Dutch TV.

It portrayed violence against women in Islamic societies - in one scene an actress in see-through garments was shown with Koranic script written on her body, which also bore whip marks.

Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh
Van Gogh directed TV series and wrote newspaper columns

Although the film triggered an outcry from Dutch Muslims, many people in the country were quick to condemn the killing of Mr van Gogh.

One woman of Moroccan descent, Ikram, came to the rally with a sign saying "Muslims against violence".

"I was debating whether or not to come, but I decided that as a Muslim and a Moroccan I should take up my responsibility to show that we do not support this act," she told AFP news agency.

"I didn't really agree with van Gogh but he was a person who used his freedom of expression," said Themer Abourayan.

Mr Van Gogh - who was related to the famous Dutch painter - had also been making a film about Pim Fortuyn, the populist right-wing, anti-immigration politician assassinated in May 2002.

The Netherlands is home to nearly one million Muslims or 5.5% of the population.




SEE ALSO
Life of slain Dutch film-maker
02 Nov 04 |  Entertainment
Moving stories: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
23 Dec 03 |  Africa
Imams on Dutch culture course
28 Nov 02 |  Europe
Dutch 'should be spoken in mosques'
01 Oct 02 |  Europe

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