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17 May 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali to be stripped of Dutch citizenship and leave Netherlands

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

One of the most frustrating language barriers for me is my almost non-existent Dutch, despite many visits. The Dutch are politely reluctant to speak Dutch to outsiders -- "What is the point?" Most of them speak quite fluent English (which they call Engels), and English and other superlanguages are fine vessels for their economic prosperity. No one in the Netherlands expends much energy on spreading the Dutch language internationally.

But they do their domestic politics entirely in Dutch, nearly all their history is exclusively in Dutch (Motley's "Rise of the Dutch Republic" is a notable and highly recommended example), and so consequently, the nuances and fine points of Dutch politics, which is at the near end of the long corridor of Dutch history, are extremely difficult to acquire.

My German, Spanish and French may be lousy, but so many journalists report and translate among these superlanguages, and there is so great an international market for news among the nations which speak these languages, that the window of understanding French or German or Latin American goings-on is consequently much larger and clearer.

To a great degree, the Netherlands conducts most of its domestic business in private, with few non-Dutch able to eavesdrop.

And yet one of the most fascinating questions of politics and history for me is Dutch political, intellectual, religious and social tolerance -- a temporary emergency measure adopted during the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain. Following the achievement of their freedom, the Dutch just never got around to repealing the temporary war measure and have kept tolerance as a keystone of Dutch politics and society ever since. Their rebellion to free themselves from a foreign monarchy began in 1566, 210 years before America's

Today one of the most burning questions for me is the health of Dutch tolerance. Essentially I must wait for news stories so huge that they generate foreign translations, and these are rare -- and mostly bad news. The progressive maintenance of Dutch tolerance goes on, but is a much quieter day-to-day business that does not inspire battalions of international translating reporters.

It is extremely difficult to get a sense of which political pressure has been winning in the past five years -- the 450-year-old tradition of tolerance, or the very recent, sudden, unexpected shift toward nationalistic intolerance. Even the Dutch swing to the right has a very different dynamic and meaning from other European nations' cyclical right shifts. Strangely and ironically, much of the recent political desire to restrict Dutch immigration stems from a desire to preserve and protect the very tolerance which created Dutch immigration hospitality.

(Dutch readers are very cordially invited to Leave A Comment and give Vleeptron their sense of what's going on, which pressure is winning, toward which direction the Netherlands will move in the next five or ten years.)

Here's some bad news that made a lot of noise beyond the borders of the Netherlands this week, in lingos I can understand.

~ ~ ~

The Associated Press
Tuesday 16 May 2006

Dutch Lawmaker Quits,
Set to Leave Nation

by Toby Sterling

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- A Somali-born member of Parliament who became an internationally known opponent of fundamentalist Islam said Tuesday she will resign and leave the Netherlands because the government was revoking her citizenship for lying on an asylum application.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been under police protection since a film she wrote criticizing the treatment of women under Islam provoked the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh, by an Islamic radical.

She said she had made her decision Monday night, after Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk told her "she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship."

"I am therefore preparing to leave Holland," Hirsi Ali told reporters in The Hague, her voice choking with emotion. She declined to comment on what she will do next, or on Dutch media reports that she will join the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.

The threat to strip Hirsi Ali of Dutch citizenship appeared to divide the government: Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was "surprised by the speed" of Verdonk's decision and had asked for an explanation.

"The Cabinet believes that laws and rules should be obeyed, and that's also the case in this situation," Balkenende said. "But carefulness must also be taken into consideration."

He added that Verdonk bore "individual responsibility" for her decisions in immigration cases.

Parliament scheduled an emergency debate for later Tuesday, at which Verdonk was expected to defend her decision.

U.S. immigration officials and a spokesman for the Washington-based think tank declined to comment on Hirsi Ali's possible move.

"AEI does not comment on prospective personnel decisions,'' spokesman Andrew Pappas said.

Hirsi Ali said she felt she had been successful in putting "oppression of immigrant women'' on the national agenda and getting Dutch "politicians to grasp the fact that major aspects of Islamic doctrine and tradition, as practiced today, are incompatible with an open society.''

She vowed to "go on" with her work against fundamentalist Islam and plans to make a sequel to Van Gogh's film "Submission."

Hirsi Ali falsified her name and date of birth on her asylum application when she arrived in 1992, fearing reprisals from her family after she fled an arranged marriage.

She was granted a passport in 1997 and acknowledged the falsification in 2002 during vetting as a candidate for parliament. There were no objections then.

But after a television program brought new attention to the matter last week, Verdonk ruled that naturalization had been improperly granted.

Verdonk has built her reputation as a tough enforcer of immigration rules, especially in high-profile cases.

A Kosovo-born teenager who had lived in the Netherlands since she was 12 was deported on Verdonk's orders a month before graduating high school. Verdonk also denied an Ivory Coast-born soccer player citizenship despite pleas by the Netherlands' national team coach to naturalize him in time for the World Cup.

Hirsi Ali became internationally known after the murder of Van Gogh in November 2004. She wrote the script for "Submission," which criticized the treatment of women under fundamentalist Islam, and offended many Muslims.

Van Gogh's murderer left a note threatening Hirsi Ali, and she has been under police protection since then. The Dutch state had been scrambling to arrange new housing for her after her neighbors in The Hague complained successfully last month that security arrangements for her had become an unbearable nuisance.

"It is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection," Hirsi Ali said. "It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. All that is difficult but not impossible. It has become impossible since last night."

Supporters reacted with dismay to the government's decision.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad that she was "ashamed of the Netherlands because a valuable person like Hirsi Ali is being shoved out of the country."

Galen Irwin, a political science professor who mentored Hirsi Ali while she studied at Leiden University, said Verdonk's decision was "strange."

"There is nothing new about Ayaan's perceived lies. What disturbs me is the fact that she told her party leadership about this in 2002'' and they failed to act then, Irwin said.

Hirsi Ali said that she had been left with little choice but to resign while she resolves her citizenship problems.

"Instead of fighting for the issues I care about I would be getting into legal fights," she said. "It's better, more appropriate, more elegant to take the time for that than impose my own personal problems on the parliament and the public."


The Times (London UK)
Wednesday 17 May 2006

Betrayal of the
'brown memsahib'

by Magnus Linklater

The treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali
marks a sad day for the West,
says our correspondent

FOR HER COURAGE, her honesty and her unflinching support of the rights of Muslim women, Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserves to be considered a heroine. A target for extremists throughout the Islamic world, her life is in constant danger. When, after the making of her film, "Submission," its Dutch director, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered, she too found herself under sentence of death. Yet she has never held back from expressing her outspoken view that, in terms of subordinating women, repressing art and limiting freedom of speech, Islam is a backward religion. Controversial or not, she has a right to be heard.

One might have imagined that the Netherlands, as a bastion of liberal values, would guarantee that right. Ms Hirsi Ali is a full citizen of the country and, until yesterday, was an elected member of the Dutch Parliament. She is entitled to expect the same kind of protection that Salman Rushdie once had in the years after the publication of "Satanic Verses." Instead, she finds herself today abandoned by her political colleagues and forced into exile. She intends to go to America, where she has been offered work and where she will be given the security that she no longer has in the Netherlands.

* * *

It is a squalid tale. Ever since the making of "Submission," Ms Hirsi Ali has been subjected to a campaign of denigration by fellow Muslims. They have accused her of insulting her own native country -- Somalia -- her religion and her family. By refusing to marry the husband that had been chosen for her, by criticising Islamic attitudes to women, and then by using her position to argue for restricting immigration into the Netherlands, she has incurred the hostility, not only of fundamentalists, but also of even moderate Muslim opinion. Last year, Emel, the British Muslim lifestyle magazine, carried an article that described her as "a brown memsahib" and accused her of selling out to right-wing opinion. That Time magazine chose her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world did not endear her to her left-wing critics.

In the Netherlands, a country with a large Muslim population, struggling with multiculturalism and acutely aware of its failure to integrate its minorities, Ms Hirsi Ali’s uncompromising views were uncomfortable, not least because they were couched in such cogent terms. "I am not against migration," she told The Guardian last year. "It is simply pragmatic to restrict migration, while at the same time encouraging integration and fighting discrimination. I support the idea of the free movement of goods, people, money and jobs in Europe. But that will only work if universal human rights are also adopted by the newcomers. And if they are not, then you run the risk of losing what you have here, and what other people want when they come here, which is freedom."

It is for views like this -- persuasive as they are -- that she is being forced out of her adopted country. The lowest blow has come from her own political party in the Netherlands, the centre-right VVD, which has caved in to demands to open an inquiry into how she secured her Dutch visa. Ms Hirsi Ali has never denied that, when she first arrived in the country, she falsified her name and some of her details, claiming that she had come directly from Somalia, when in fact she had spent time in Ethiopia, Kenya and Germany. The VVD knew all of this when it adopted her as a candidate in 2002. It knew about the pressures she had been subjected to from members of her own family, and about the acute danger she found herself in because of her views.

Now, however, Rita Verdonk, the Immigration Minister, who is running for leadership of the party, has caved in to pressure from Ms Hirsi Ali’s critics and has pledged a formal investigation of her citizenship. Responding to a TV programme that has aired many of the accusations made against Ms Hirsi Ali, including complaints from her neighbours about the extra security she has been granted, Ms Verdonk has turned against her, saying her visa had been "improperly granted." As Ms Hirsi Ali said yesterday: "It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. It is difficult, but not impossible. As of yesterday, it became impossible."

This is a sad day in the history of liberal democracy, a stain on the reputation of a once-tolerant country and a setback for the reputation of Islam itself, cementing the impression that is simply not open to criticism. In particular, it lets down Muslim women, who are still being subjected to forced marriages. The debate about its role in Western society is one of the most urgent and complex that confronts us today -- only this week, the Government launched an attempt to find a frame of traditional British values that could encompass young Muslim opinion. At the very least, therefore, we should be free to hear all strands of opinion, however challenging they may be.

Ms Hirsi Ali’s penetrating analysis of religion and society in Muslim countries should be answered, not ignored. This is not just a matter of a novel satirising the Prophet, or a few insulting cartoons; hers is a sustained and clear-sighted critique of Islam, from someone who has experienced its restrictions and believes that there is a reasonable case to be made against it. A country that turns its back on those views reveals itself, not only as illiberal, but one that has lost confidence in the resilience of its own democracy.

- 30 -

(news in English for expatriates living in NL
and elsewhere in continental Europe)
Tuesday 16 May 2006

Hirsi Ali:
emergency debate
in parliament

AMSTERDAM -- The Dutch parliament hastily arranged an emergency debate for Tuesday afternoon to cast light on the decision by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk that MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali was never a Dutch citizen.

The debate at 4.30 pm was sought by the green-left party GroenLinks, but MPs of all parties had a list of questions for Verdonk.

Verdonk announced on Monday that Hirsi Ali, who has become famous as a critic of Islam, never attained the status of a naturalised Dutch citizen in 1997 because she had lied to get asylum five years before. Both Verdonk and Hirsi Ali are members of the Liberal Party (VVD).

Criticism of Verdonk, even within the VVD, mounted on Tuesday as anger was expressed at the way Hirsi Ali had been treated.

VVD parliamentary party leader Willibrord van Beek tried not to be drawn into attacking Verdonk's decision directly, but he said all the VVD MPs "stand behind" Hirsi Ali.

Frits Wester, the political commentator for RTL News, speculated on the possibility disaffected Liberal MPs might support, or at least not vote against, a motion of no confidence in Verdonk, should one be tabled.

- 30 -
Tuesday 16 May 2006

Hirsi Ali: fast decision
amazes ministers

AMSTERDAM -- Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Tuesday he was among those "surprised" at the speed of Monday’s decision that Liberal party MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali was never a citizen of the Netherlands.

The decision on Hirsi Ali's non-status in the Netherlands was announced by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk on Monday evening.

Verdonk, also a member of the Liberals (VVD), announced she investigation into Hirsi Ali on Saturday in light of Somali-born Hirsi Ali admitting she had lied to get asylum in 1992. She became a Dutch citizen in 1997.

She admitted to the lies back in 2002 when she joined the VVD but no one took any notice. The matter came to light again last Thursday when a television programme traced her journey to the Netherlands.

Verdonk said on Friday that Hirsi Ali had nothing to fear, but the situation changed drastically by Monday afternoon.

Balkenende said rules had to be followed meticulously and that Verdonk had to explain to parliament during an emergency debate on Tuesday evening what had gone on in this case.

Verdonk was summoned to Balkenende's private office earlier in the day for a private meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm appeared at the press conference held by Hirsi Ali on Tuesday to announce she is resigning from parliament and leaving the country.

Zalm emphasised he was there as the former political leader of the VVD who got Hirsi Ali to join the party, and not in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister or Finance Minister.

Saying he was "astonished" by the speed at which Verdonk took the decision, Zalm said the cabinet would examine whether Hirsi Ali could still be granted citizenship.

Although he said he was not criticising Verdonk, who is running for the leadership of the VVD, he noted the speed of the decision was unusual. "If the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) always worked so fast, we shortly wouldn't have any backlogs anymore. But I respect her decision."

The IND is working to eradicate backlogs in processing thousands of asylum files and resident permit requests that have been awaiting decisions for months, and some for years.

Zalm said it normally takes a few weeks for the IND to answer questions posed in parliament on immigration matters. But in Hirsi Ali's case, Verdonk was able to answer MPs' questions about her status within one day of starting an investigation into information that was public knowledge for over three years. "That's a conspicuous speed," the former VVD leader said.

Verdonk told parliament on Tuesday the speed of the investigation was accelerated because Hirsi Ali was a member of parliament.

- 30 -

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]


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