Submission (2004 film)

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Submission Part I.png
Titlecard, with Dutch subtitles
Directed byTheo van Gogh
Written byAyaan Hirsi Ali
Produced byTheo van Gogh
Gijs van de Westelaken
CinematographyTheo van Gogh
Edited byTheo van Gogh
Music byTheo van Gogh
Release date
  • 29 August 2004 (2004-08-29)
Running time
10 minutes

Submission is a 2004 English-language Dutch short drama film produced and directed by Theo van Gogh, and written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a former member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy); it was shown on NPO 3, a Dutch public broadcasting network, on 29 August 2004. The film's title is one of the possible translations of the Arabic word "Islam". A Muslim extremist reacted to the film by assassinating Van Gogh.


Image of a woman's body with Koranic verses written on it from the film Submission. The actress plays the role of a Muslim woman (dressed with a transparent black clothing), having been beaten and raped by a relative. The bodies are used in the film as a canvas for verses from the Quran.[1]

The film tells the story of four fictional characters played by a single actress wearing a veil,[2] but clad in a see-through Hijab, her naked body painted with verses from the Quran.[1] The characters are Muslim women who have been abused in various ways. The film contains monologues of these women and dramatically highlights three verses of the Koran ( 4:34, 2:222 and 24:2), by showing them painted on women’s bodies.


Writer Hirsi Ali has said "it is written in the Koran a woman may be slapped if she is disobedient. This is one of the evils I wish to point out in the film".[3] In an answer to a question about whether the film would offend Muslims, Hirsi Ali said that "if you're a Muslim woman and you read the Koran, and you read in there that you should be raped if you say 'no' to your husband, that is offensive. And that is insulting."[4]

Director Theo Van Gogh, who was known as a controversial and provocative personality,[5][6] called the film a "political pamphlet."[7]


The film drew praise for portraying the ways in which women are abused in accordance with fundamentalist Islamic law, as well as anger for criticising Islamic canon itself.[8] It drew the following comment from movie critic Phill Hall, "Submission was bold in openly questioning misogyny and a culture of violence against women because of Koranic interpretations. The questions raised in the film deserve to be asked: is it divine will to assault or kill women? Is there holiness in holding women at substandard levels, denying them the right to free will and independent thought? And ultimately, how can such a mindframe exist in the 21st century?"[2] Film critic Dennis Lim, on the other hand, stated that, "It's depressing to think that this morsel of glib effrontery could pass as a serious critique of conservative Islam."[9] Another (unnamed) critic referred to the stories told in the film as "simplistic, even caricatures".[8]

After the film's broadcast on Dutch television, newspaper De Volkskrant reported[full citation needed] claims of plagiarism against Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh, made by Internet journalist Francisco van Jole. Van Jole said the duo had "aped" the ideas of Iranian-American video artist Shirin Neshat. Neshat's work, which made abundant use of Persian calligraphy projected onto bodies, had been shown in the Netherlands in 1997 and 2000.[citation needed]

Murder of Theo van Gogh[edit]

On 2 November 2004, Van Gogh was assassinated in public by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim with a Dutch passport. A letter,[10] stabbed through and affixed to the body by a dagger, linked the murder to Van Gogh's film and his views regarding Islam. It was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and called for a jihad against kafir (unbelievers or infidels), against America, Europe, the Netherlands, and Hirsi Ali herself. Following the murder of Van Gogh, tens of thousands gathered in the center of Amsterdam to mourn Van Gogh's death. Besides Bouyeri, eleven other Muslim men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to assassinate Hirsi Ali.[11] Bouyeri was jailed for life, for which in the Netherlands there is no possibility of parole, and pardons are rarely granted.[12] Some of the others were convicted of other offences in relation to their involvement in the so-called Hofstad Network, but not for a direct connection with the Van Gogh murder.[13]

See also[edit]

Women in Muslim societies
Other controversies


  1. ^ a b Hirsi Ali, Ayaan (14 May 2005). "SPIEGEL Interview with Hirsi Ali: "We Must Declare War on Islamist Propaganda"". Spiegel Online (Interview). Archived from the original on 16 September 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Film Threat - The Bootleg Files: "Submission"". 27 October 2006. Archived from the original on 7 May 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Dutch News Digest". Archived from the original on 20 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Slaughter And 'Submission', Creator Of Dutch Film Vows Sequel Despite Muslim Death Threats - CBS News". CBS News. Archived from the original on 14 May 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2007.
  5. ^ Lim, Dennis: The Village Voice, 16 November 2004 Archived 5 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine "he was most famous for being a radical-libertarian loudmouth. A political columnist who got fired from almost every newspaper in the country, he delighted in blurring the line between free speech and hatemongering—he insisted on calling conservative Muslims 'goatfuckers.'"
  6. ^ Review of Submission by Phil Hall Archived 7 May 2018 at the Wayback Machine "In his own career, van Gogh was a minor figure within Dutch culture who was known for writing rude political columns and creating films designed to challenge the sensibilities of Dutch audiences–which was no mean feat, given that nation’s excessively liberal social environment."
  7. ^ Simons, Marlese. "Ex-Muslim turns her lens on a taboo", The New York Times " 'Of course it's a political pamphlet; that's undeniable,' said Theo van Gogh, who directed the film and insisted....."
  8. ^ a b "Ex-Muslim turns her lens on a taboo". Archived from the original on 14 October 2004.
  9. ^ Dennis Lim (22 January 2008). "The Day I Became a Martyr: Islam Protest Brings Fatal Fatwa". Village Voice. Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  10. ^ 'Jihad Manifesto' Archived 9 February 2005 at the Wayback Machine - A call to destroy America and all "unbelievers", English translation - letter left on van Gogh's body by the militant Islamist killer, Militant Islam, 5 November 2004
  11. ^ Slaughter And 'Submission' Archived 14 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine - Creator Of Dutch Film Vows Sequel Despite Muslim Death Threats, CBS, 20 August 2006
  12. ^ Stephen Castle (September 2005). "Life in jail for brutal killer of Dutch film-maker Van Gogh". The Independent. Archived from the original on February 2010.
  13. ^ " - Rechtbank heeft uitspraak gedaan in zaken verdachten Hofstadgroep". Archived from the original on 22 April 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2006.

External links[edit]