Stringed instruments in an orchestra.

Did ‘a Muslim Man’ Disrupt a Concert in the Netherlands?

Several versions of a story about an unidentified “Muslim man” who disrupted a concert in the Netherlands to invite Queen Beatrix of Holland to the Islamic faith reappear regularly with various details added, changed, or outright omitted. Some versions say the man was the orchestra conductor, and all the members of the orchestra walked off the stage in a sign of solidarity, stripped little by little of details like the year it took place and becoming something of an anti-Islam urban legend over the years.

Versions of the story generally went something like this:

Queen Beatrix of Holland attends an Orchestral Concert. The Conductor, who just happens to be Muslim, proceeds to give the Queen a lecture on the “beauty” of Islam.
Then the members of the Orchestra stage a walkout! Great to see people with the courage of their convictions!

The truth is that in early September 2011, there was an incident during a concert in Amsterdam held in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Society of Dutch Composers, during which a man in his thirties climbed up on the stage and invited Queen Beatrix of Holland to discuss Islam. The entire incident was over in just a few minutes, per local news coverage at that time.

According to reports, the man climbed on the stage, called himself a servant of Allah, and talked about Islam. He also assured concertgoers that he had no bombs, which apparently did not go over particularly well (translated):

The queen stayed in her chair during the commotion.

The man was taken away by the police and the room was checked for bombs. They were not found. Eyewitnesses reported on Twitter that the audience was nevertheless very shocked. The man also told his story for a long minute without security intervening.

The man, who appeared in a neat suit, asked other people at the start of the evening whether the queen would indeed be sitting in the hall that evening.

The concert resumed after a police check for explosives. KQED’s arts reporter Chloe Veltman contacted eyewitnesses for their take on the events, which had been quickly seized on by various English-language blogs to “prove” some malicious or violent intent toward the queen, but without proof or interviews:

The pianist/composer Eugene Carl whose initial response, forwarded via a mutual friend I posted yesterday, followed up with these words when I emailed him last night for more information:

I saw the guy before the concert shaking hands with the ex-mayor, who’s now the head of the Labor party.  His wife is in a wheel-chair, and the guy walked up to Job Cohen and introduced himself and tried to talk with him. A very handsome man in his 30″s dressed very nicely.  I thought, he must be a dignitary or this is part of some kind of “act” for the concert.  There were policemen outside and inside, so it wasn’t “unprotected”.  After all the Queen was also coming–she’s the biggest supporter of the arts in Holland, especially dance, and is herself a brilliant sculpture and also painter.


John Treble said:

I was there too, and if that’s what hell is like, then I’m up for hell any time. A rather mild-mannered and well-turned out chap mumbled into a microphone for a minute or more, a few violinists left the stage, and the queen (and the rest of us) sat unperturbed while three heavies inspected the suspicious looking bassoon reed boxes. 

Ton Cremers said:

There really was nothing the matter. Just a confused man addressing the audience from the stage. He was very quiet, and seemed at ease. No threats whatsoever.

The unidentified man was later forcibly committed by Amsterdam’s mayor, according to another news site that also reports he had been known for similar behavior for some time and had in fact disrupted events in a similar fashion at least four times before.

No one was injured, and the concert resumed after a quick sweep of the room. Queen Beatrix formally relinquished the throne in 2013, transferring her royal powers to her son Willem-Alexander.