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MP In Immigration Row To Leave Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16, 2006 – A Somali-born Dutch MP who came to symbolize the Netherlands' troubled relations with Islam is planning to leave her adopted country and settle in the United States.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is expected to announce today that she will resign as an MP, days after a television programme accused her of lying in 1992 in order to secure Dutch nationality.
Ms Hirsi Ali, a fierce critic of radical Islam who lives under armed guard, wants to pre-empt any move by the Netherlands' tough immigration minister to strip her of Dutch citizenship.
The government turned on Ms Hirsi Ali after a television documentary reported that she had secured Dutch citizenship in 1997 by making up a story that she had fled an arranged marriage in Somalia. Members of Ms Hirsi Ali's family told the Zembla television programme last Thursday that they had no knowledge of an arranged marriage.
The 30-minute programme also questioned her claims that she fled wartorn Somalia. It said that she lived in a comfortable family home in Kenya for 12 years before she sought refugee status in the Netherlands in 1992.
Ms Hirsi Ali, 36, whose real name is Hirsi Magan, admitted in the programme that she lied about her name, age and how she came to the Netherlands. Rather than traveling directly from Somalia, as she originally claimed, Ms Hirsi Ali arrived via Kenya and Germany.
Over the weekend she dismissed the political furor. "Have they all gone mad? Yes, I did lie to get asylum in Holland. This is public knowledge since at least September 2002," she told the Associated Press.
The television programme has rocked the Dutch political establishment because Ms Hirsi Ali became one of the country's most prominent politicians after denouncing radical Islam. She became famous internationally after writing the screenplay for a film which featured naked women with verses from the Koran painted on their bodies. Theo Van Gogh, the film's director, was murdered by a radical Islamist.
A member of the hard-right VVD party, which wants to impose restrictions on the number of immigrants, Ms Hirsi Ali regularly criticizes the treatment of Muslim women and attacks the Netherlands' liberal immigration policies. With her Muslim background, which she has renounced, Ms Hirsi Ali was an influential figure as the Netherlands debated the integration of Muslim immigrants.
The death of Van Gogh prompted many mainstream political leaders to voice fears that the country's liberal traditions were being threatened by Muslims who refused to integrate. Ms Hirsi Ali, who dismisses such politicians for failing to acknowledge the threat posed by Islamists, has provided useful political cover for the VVD party. Its leaders use her membership to deny accusations of racism.
But political allies quickly turned on Ms Hirsi Ali after last week's television programme.
Rita Verdonk, the country's immigration minister who hopes to be the VVD's candidate for prime minister in next year's general election, said she would launch an investigation into Ms Hirsi Ali's citizenship. "Laws and rules are valid for everyone," she was quoted as saying by the Dutch news agency ANP. "I don't like lies."
Ms Hirsi Ali will today pre-empt Ms Verdonk. The Volkskrant newspaper reported yesterday that she would start working for the conservative American Enterprise Institute in September after receiving assurances from the US authorities about her security.
A source close to the outgoing MP indicated she would come out fighting when she appears before the press in The Hague today and insist that she has been planning a move for some time. A recent court ruling that she would have to leave her flat - after fellow residents claimed that her presence threatened security - and the threat to her citizenship reportedly persuaded her to move. "Ayaan is definitely not going to say sorry," the source said.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali became one of the main figures in the Dutch debate about Muslim integration that was kicked off by her friend Pim Fortuyn, who warned that liberal traditions were being threatened by the "backwards culture" of Islam. The debate intensified - after Fortuyn was killed by an animal rights activist - when an Islamist murdered another of Hirsi Ali's friends, the director Theo van Gogh. The success of Fortuyn's party and horror at the death of Van Gogh have changed the terms of debate. Mainstream politicians regularly call on Muslims to do more to integrate.