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Today in Terrorism

Assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn (May 6, 2002)

Anti-immigrant Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by a left-wing activist who did not like his political views.

There are lots of politicians who hold disgusting views: that does not justify killing them.

HILVERSUM, NETHERLANDS – We who live in Western-style democracies have built societies – far from perfect but probably the best we have created as a species – in which we can agree to disagree but mostly get along most of the time. We encounter some differences in opinion that are frankly very unacceptable (in my view anyway) but as they do not cross a legal no-go area must be allowed to be expressed.

One of the issues that has been divisive over time is that of immigration. My country, Canada, is a nation of immigrants. I myself am a third generation Canadian descended from Polish and Ukrainian emigrants. The Canadian government has decided that we need to admit upwards of 300,000 people because it is in the country’s interests.

Many people are not comfortable with such high levels of immigrants. Some go so far as to say that zero is the only acceptable number. This position is frequently voiced by those who espouse far right views, some of which will go to the nth degree and use violence to promote their positions.

Still, having a debate over immigration and the rate of acceptance is a valid one and one which many societies are having. There are politicians (hello Donald Trump!) who have made their name in opposition to opening the country’s doors to newcomers.

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In one instance, a politician who was the head of a Dutch anti-immigration party was assassinated on this day in 2002. Pim Fortuyn, the head of the eponymous ‘Pim Fortuyn List’ was shot dead by Volkert van de Graaf, a self-styled left-wing environmentalist and animal rights activist. The killer was supposedly angry that Mr. Fortuyn had made anti-Muslim comments, essentially framing them as scapegoats for everything that is wrong with the Netherlands, and targeting what he called ‘the weak’ in Dutch society.

So, was this an act of terrorism? I think so. Pim Fortuyn was killed because of what he stood for by someone who stood for something very different. In other words, Mr. Fortuyn’s ideology was rejected by someone with a polar opposite ideology. Ideological serious violence is by definition an act of terrorism. Pim Fortuyn was also outwardly gay, but I do not think that this had anything to do with his murder.

Pim Fortuyn’s positions and statements may have pissed off a lot of people but they were permissible in a democratic society. What is not acceptable is that we assume the right to kill those whose views we dislike. That is what terrorists do.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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