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17 May 2006

Dutch parliament throws the book at Iron Rita for stripping Ayaan Hirsi Ali's citizenship

Netherlands Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk
image by Gideon Borman / SP.NL / Tribune

Wednesday 17 May 2006

Dutch minister under fire
over MP asylum row

by Emma Thomasson

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- The Dutch immigration minister, a hardliner with ambitions to lead the country, was under pressure on Wednesday after parliament demanded she reverse her decision to strip a Somali-born lawmaker of citizenship.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken critic of Islam, said she was resigning on Tuesday after Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, a member of her own VVD liberal party, told her she might lose her Dutch passport because she lied on her asylum application.

In a parliament debate that raged into the early hours of Wednesday and gripped the nation, Verdonk, bidding to become her party's candidate for prime minister in the 2007 elections, came under attack from all the main parties, including her own.

Verdonk reluctantly accepted a demand by parliament to reconsider her decision within six weeks and said she would also look at any new request for citizenship immediately.

The drama is the latest sign of the political tremors that have shaken the once stable Netherlands since the 2002 rise and murder of Pim Fortuyn, a populist who said the densely-populated nation of 16 million could not absorb any more immigrants.

The country was thrown into turmoil again in 2004 when an Islamic militant killed Theo van Gogh after he directed a film written by Hirsi Ali accusing Islam of suppressing women. The film angered many of the country's 1,000,000 Muslims.

Last year, the Dutch rejected the European constitution in a vote seen in part as an expression of concerns over immigration and the further enlargement of the European Union.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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