Toleration and Repression

Toleration and Repression

The book ‘Murder in Amsterdam’ is an account of the violent killing of a Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in the streets of Amsterdam. The killer, a Dutch of Moroccan origin shot the filmmaker before using his knife to finish him off completely. He then used his knife to pin a note on the filmmaker’s chest addressed to the director of the film. The filmmaker was a critic of Islam and had supported the nomination of a woman of Somali origin to Parliament. This situation had been captured in the film and depicted the mistreatment that women undergo under the Islamic faith. The film had angered Muslims across the country who had then called for the killing of all ‘nonbelievers’[1]. The book includes the interviews that the writer had with Dutch nationals. The tension that built up between the whites and the immigrant communities is also captured in the book. The writer uses the book to explore the themes of tolerance and suppression in the modern world

Under a cruel star: a life in Prague is a narration about a woman of Czech Jewish origin who finds herself rounded up by Hitler’s government. Told in the first person, the story depicts the struggles that the Jews underwent under the Nazi government and their annihilation in concentration camps. Although Kovaly survives the killing, her parents were not spared as they were thrown into gas chambers and roasted to death. She, together with a few other people ran away to Prague where she encountered cruelty. Not even her friends nor family could help her as the state had hung posters of people that had supposedly betrayed Nationalism. Later after the war, she rebuilds her life as she meets Rudolf during the years of Stalinism or Communism. It is during this time that her husband is killed for betraying the Communist Party[2]. The book further narrates the life of her life with her son, Ivan in the absence of her husband.

Both books are accounts of real happenings captured by the same people writing the books. In both books the aspect of repression is dominant and especially of minority and immigrants groupings in their countries of residence. In ‘Under a cruel star’, the book narrates of how Kovaly’s parents were deported from Prague to the Lodz ghetto because of their Jewish roots. The deportation of the parents to a town that has little fortunes is testament of the repressive nature of the German government. Most Jewish nationals living in the country were sent to concentration camps awaiting execution through the famous gas chambers. In another instance, the book portrays the Communist party as overtly corrupt except Rudolf, Kovaly’s husband who defied the warnings and was killed for being a ‘traitor’ to the party. Moreover, the Communist party’s Stalin reign of terror was repressive to the people that went against its ideals.

The dictatorial nature of the party’s leadership depicts a people whose intention is to suppress the freedom of other people through repressive tactics. In another instance to show the repressive nature of governments, Rudolf is hanged in the company of 10 others despite having worked for the same government. Prior to his hanging, Rudolf had gone to Britain to negotiate an important trade agreement on behalf of his government. Regardless of the achievement, the statesman is hanged for going against the government and being a ‘traitor’. In addition, the Czech Communist Party went ahead to punish the family of Rudolf thereby transforming the wife from a member of the elite into an enemy of the party. Heda Kovaly finds it hard to survive after the death of her husband and she lost her job and was even kicked out of the hospital bed.

The second book, ‘Murder in Amsterdam’, also has instance of repression is brought to the limelight in a number of instances. To start with, the Islamic religion is depicted as being oppressive to the women by making them comply with the teachings of the religion without question. In the movie, ‘Submission’, photos of a battered naked woman are portrayed with her body covered in writings from the book of Koran. In this film, the filmmaker intends to show how Muslim women are repressed by their religion under the disguise of submission. The women are to do as their husbands say and they are not allowed to question directives from them.

In the same book, women are continuously oppressed by being denied the chance to run for political posts. The Islamic religion bars women from taking part in such posts and confines their chores to household ones. In this respect, women are allowed to stay at homes and look after children while the male counterparts go to work. This is a form of repression as it goes against the wishes of women to look for formal employment and support their families. The reason for this oppression is portrayed as a desire to suppress women rights and to dissuade the women from demanding equal representation, both at the family and societal level.

The concept of tolerance is also explored in the two books. In ‘Murder in Amsterdam’, the Islamic extremist are intolerant to the views of the other Christian fellows and particularly in respect to the issue of women. The book captures the killing of a filmmaker by a Muslim who considered his views to be disrespectful to the Islamic teachings. Despite being the most tolerant country before, the murder of the filmmaker pointed to a growing level of intolerance particularly among religious groups. The murder of the filmmaker was perhaps due to the movie that featured a naked Muslim woman, battered and her photos covered in Islamic writings from the Koran.

After the killing of the filmmaker by Bouyeri, the latter said that the felt no guilt in killing the former. In addition, he reiterated that he would kill him again if he were to be given another chance. The confession by the killer is a pointer to the high level of intolerance that he held against people who portrayed his religion in a different way than he himself viewed it. The reaction to the murder of the filmmaker is more worrying as some of the citizens became Islamophobic. The people despised the religion and in some instances even called for the deportation of the Islamic immigrants back to their countries of origin. This hatred for a religion because of an isolated case of extremism is not helpful to the people of Netherlands and points to the brewing intolerance amongst the seemingly peaceful population.

In the same book, there is the assassination of an anti-immigrant populist by an animal right activist. The fact that the orchestrator of the assassination is a rights activists point to the intolerance in the country and that people cannot express dissenting opinions without resulting to violence. The killing of Pim Fortuyn shocked Netherlands, which was hitherto considered a country that harbored high tolerance levels. The killing of the populist was a declaration that the prime minister of the country was un-Dutch thereby raising political temperatures in the country. Later in the book, the Dutch citizens reject the European Union constitution in their first referendum. This scenario depicts a people that are not tolerant to the views of dissenting people. By rejecting the European Union constitution, the Dutch people made a statement not of their sovereignty but one that showed they do not wish to harbor the views of other people or countries.

Regardless, the people of Netherlands are portrayed as tolerant to the views of other people and to the livelihoods of other people. This fact is evidenced by the fact that the country embraced the culture of multiculturalism. This cannot be expounded further rather than through the many Muslim immigrants that lived in the country at the time of the filmmaker’s killing. The book points out to the fact that it is wrong for the tolerant people to accept and allow the intolerant ones to operate with impunity. The end result of such a scenario would be the eruption of violence and the killing of innocent. This is what resulted when the Dutch community decided to rest upon pillars that represented the major elements of the Dutch society. Each of these pillars had its set of political, social and cultural institutions working in isolation from the others. In effect, interaction between these pillars was limited leading to a postponement of the problems of conflict.

In ‘Under a cruel star’, Kovaly is depicted as a brave woman who is intolerance to officialdom. Throughout her life, she does not change her ideals to conform to the wicked system but rather confronts the system forthrightly. The theme is quite evident in the way that Kovaly joins the Resistance in fighting against the oppression that her people are facing. However, joining the Resistance makes her subject to the witch-hunt from the state as she is depicted a traitor and enemy of Nationalism. The Communist party was intolerant to the views of dissenting members and hanged such members.

In another instance, the Czech resistance was a show of non tolerance to the aspects of repression by the Nazis. In the resistance, Kovaly is convinced that it will not only benefit her alone but a majority of the citizens who were being oppressed at the hands of the Nazi government. This is not the only intolerance in the Czech nation but is quite positive considering the other types of intolerance at the time. The people in the country had been influenced by the German government to be intolerant to the Jews living in the country. Posters had been put up across the town announcing people that were considered traitors. In effect, friends and family had feared helping Kovaly because associating with her would have caused them problems. The level of intolerance in the country had thus exceeded normal levels leading to people being labeled traitors.




Buruma, Ian. 2014. Murder in Amsterdam. New York: Atlantic Books Ltd.

Kovály, Heda. 2012. Under a cruel star: a life in Prague 1941-1968. London: Granta.

[1] Buruma, Ian. 2014. Murder in Amsterdam. New York: Atlantic Books Ltd.

[2] Kovály, Heda. 2012. Under a cruel star: a life in Prague 1941-1968. London: Granta.

Do you need an Original High Quality Academic Custom Essay?