Holland's bravest citizen may be stripped of her citizenship
Ayaan Hirsi Ali may soon be a woman without a country. The controversial Somali-born MP was notified on May 15, 2006 that her Dutch citizenship was to be revoked on the grounds that she lied on her application for asylum in 1992 and then again on her application for citizenship in 1997.
The Dutch minister of immigration, Rita Verdonk, later responded to the resolution of Dutch parliament to review Hirsi Ali's case, and asking her if she can be re-patriated in the event that her initial application for citizenship is found to be fraudulent. Hirsi Ali will retain her citizenship for the duration of the six week investigation. In any case, she will be allowed to remain in the Netherlands after this date, as a refugee, though not as a citizen. Lacking citizenship however, she will not be allowed to serve in the Tweede Kamer
, the lower chamber of the Dutch parliament.
The immigrant Dutch MP was born in Somalia in 1969, under the name Ayaan Hirsi Magdan (the significance of her name is of great importance to her case, as you will see). Though her father disagreed with the practice of female circumcision, her grandmother had the operation performed on her while her father was away on a business trip. Hirsi Ali was five years old.
At the age of six, her family moved from Somalia to Saudi Arabia; the family would later move to Ethiopia before finally settling in Kenya. She later said that, "it was not until I got to Kenya that I found out that there women who had not been abused in their childhood." With all of this moving around, Hirsi Ali picked up five languages.
She was living in Kenya, in 1992, when a strange Canadian cousin showed up to speak to her father. "This man arrived in Nairobi from Canada, asked my father for one of his five daughters, and my father gave him me," explains Hirsi Ali. "I can assure you my father is not a man who takes no for an answer." Hirsi Ali was expected to rendezvous with her new husband in Canada after stopping to meet family members in Germany. While in Germany, she aborted her trip to Canada, and caught a train to Holland, where she applied for asylum. It was granted.
Hirsi Ali loved her new country, saying that life in the Netherlands "was like being in a paradise...Imagine. Everybody is reasonable. Everybody is tolerant. Everybody is happy." She would later come to learn that not everybody
in Holland is so reasonable or tolerant.
She spent the next six months at a center for refugees. She learned Dutch, her sixth language. She worked daily with women and girls from predominately Muslim backgrounds who told her horror story after horror story of being abused at the hands of fathers, husbands, and brothers.
But the new immigrant had no intention of working at the refugee center forever. She wanted to move up in the world, to get an education, and to utilize the opportunities unknown to women in many of the nations of her previous life. She visited an employment center, but according to The Guardian,
"ponderous well-meaning labour officers...kept directing her to work she didn't want. The idea that she might go to university was dismissed." In other words, this motivated, bright, sextalingual young woman should seek work cleaning toilets, nothing more. For a time, she did work at a variety of odd jobs, including cleaning offices and sorting mail, but only as a means to an end.
Eventually, she applied to, and was accepted at Leiden University, the Netherlands' oldest. She left Leiden in 2000 with a master's degree in political science.
Degree in hand, she went to work for an organization connected to the Dutch labor party, Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA).
(Literally, "party of work") Her job was to work with Muslim women and suggest policy proposals that might help ease transitions for newly arrived immigrants.
She took her job seriously, and presented her suggestions to party leaders who rejected them out of hand. She proposed more integration, closing Muslim schools, and curbing immigration. This was not the type of advice they were looking for. They told her to go back to the drawing board and try again.
No one in the PvdA was going to touch her suggestions with a ten foot pole. "I called it the paradox of the left. On the one hand, they support ideals of equality and emancipation, but in this case, they do nothing about it. They even facilitate the oppression." This sort of cowardly, non-confrontational attitude of Dutch politicians (though certainly limited
to Dutch politicians) is best summed up by Christopher Hitchens's writings on Hirsi Ali. "[Islamic abuses against women] however, are in some ways less depressing than the excuses made by qualified liberals for their continuation. At all costs, it seems others must be allowed 'their culture' and--what is more--must be allowed the freedom not be offended by the smallest criticism of it."
Then came September 11th. The events of that day would eventually kill her belief in God. Though she had been a critic of Islam for quite some time, she had always been a Muslim by faith. After 9/11, she officially severed all ties with the religion of her childhood. She declared herself an athiest.
In 2002, Hirsi Ali also left another institution--the PvdA. In her mind, it lacked the backbone to deal effectively with the issue of Muslim non-assimilation. She was welecomed with open arms by her new political party, Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD)
or "People's Party for Freedom and Democracy". The VVD asked her to run for office, and she agreed. Already a woman with death threats hanging over her head, she won the election and took her seat in the Tweede Kamer.
The woman who had come to the Netherlands as a refugee in 1992 was sitting in parliament in 2003. It was the classic immigrant success story, achieved the same way every other immigrant success story--with tenacity, perseverance, and elbow grease.
She went to work to accomplish her goals, despite a general uneasiness in the parliament about offending Muslims. She said out loud what others were afraid to say. She sought to close Muslim schools, and cut government funding for Holland's more than 700 neighborhood clubs; she proposed laws that would protect Muslim girls from being circumcised, as she had been; and she pressed for a data base of the national origins of men who had commited so-called "honor killings". Needless to say, this did not make her popular in Holland's Muslim community.
But if there was such thing as a point of no return, it would have to be demarkated at August 2004. That was when the ten-minute film Submission was aired on Dutch television.
Submission ("Islam" is Arabic for "submission") was a joint project between Hirsi Ali and firebrand Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Its topic was the mistreatment of women in Muslim societies. The woman portrayed in the film had been the victim of rape and assualt, and her body--visible through a transparent black burqa--was covered with quotations from the Koran. The film lit the passions of Dutch Muslims ablaze, and sent Hirsi Ali into hiding. Van Gogh, however, refused to live in fear, and went about his life as he had always done.
This misplaced bravery would eventually be his death. While riding his bike through Amsterdam, on the morning of November 2, 2004, van Gogh was attacked by a Dutch-Moroccan named Mohammed Bouyeri. As the director begged for his life in a typically Dutch way ("Surely, we can talk about this") Bouyeri shot him eight times, slit his throat, and then pinned a five page note to van Gogh's chest with a knife. The note threatened America, Holland, the West, Jews, and of course--Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The murder rocked the Netherlands in a way that this peaceful, go-along-to-get-along folk were not accustomed to. Violence sprung up against Muslims in Holland, and the Muslims returned the favor. Some called it "the Dutch 9/11", although the two events have little in common with each other, and the scale of the violence makes any basis of comparison ridiculous.
Hirsi Ali stayed in hiding, moving around the Netherlands and temporarily to California. With the parliament opening another session again in February, she had to decide whether she was going to go back and take up her seat or not. She decided to return, albeit with such a security detail that she was hardly able to operate as an MP.
Meanwhile, the response of the Dutch establishment was predictably more of the same. They continued to persist in the wrong-headed belief that Holland was not tolerant enough, when in fact it had been tolerating the intolerable for too long. For these people, the solution was to bend themselves even more out of shape, gradually assuming pretzel-form, in order to never make anyone in the Muslim community angry. In their eyes, the problem was not that Muslims had killed one of their countrymen and trampled on their freedoms, but that Dutchmen were inciting them to do so, simply by excercising those very same freedoms that they had cherished for centuries. Obviously, the van Gogh murder and its aftermath were cause for more "sensitivity" and "dialogue".
In response to the mayhem, Dutch sports stars and performers started an orange wristband campaign for "respect" and "tolerance", (and incidentally not anti-violence or free speech). Dutch justice minister Piet Hein Donner suggesting enforcing dormant blasphemy laws in order to prevent such an occurence from ever happening again. The idea failed. In Ijsselstein, two students at Cals College were ordered by school officials to remove Dutch flag patches from their backpacks in order not to provoke Moroccan students. When this story hit the Dutch press, top members of parliament were shocked that Dutch students could not sport the Dutch flag in a Dutch school. One MP called it "weird". But it isn't "weird" at all; in reality, lots of schools in Holland have similar rules. No Dutch flags allowed, so as not to offend the immigrants.
This was the world that Ayaan Hirsi Ali inhabited until this April, when her neighbors won a suit against her in court, forcing her to move out of her home. Her neighbors claimed that they feared for their lives simply because the woman next door was a walking bullseye. While I can sympathize (a little) with such a concern, the building where she lives is, by all accounts, a fortress. In any case, this sort of unlivable atmosphere is exactly what her bullies intended to create, and they succeeded in sowing so much fear among the populace that her neighbors just wanted her out of their hair so they wouldn't need to worry anymore. Appease the Islamofascists and they will leave us alone. The quintessentially European cowardice of this point of view is breathtaking.
The problem with Hersi Ali is that she has to live somewhere. In light of the fact that Holland is the most densely populated country in Europe (after Vatican City and Monaco, which barely qualify as states), she will always have to live next to someone. If this is a precedent, the tolerant people of the Netherlands will toss her around like a hot potato, taking her to court wherever she decides to live, treating her essentially like a leper. She will not be able to live anywhere.
Just under a month after that court decision, she was informed that she would be losing her citizenship based on the lies of her asylum and citizenship applications. Though it was not much of a secret, the immigration service suddenly wanted to revoke her citizenship. Whether the actual goal was to make her resign her post in the Tweede Kamer is unclear. In any case, Hirsi Ali resigned the next day, May 16th, citing the eviction from her home as her reason. "I have been obliged to move house so many times, I lost count," she said, referring to her life in hiding since she first began speaking her mind.
Hirsi Ali announced plans to move to the United States (a nation she believes really understands the threat of militant Islam) to work for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Just what were those lies she told to get into the country? Well, the first two were her name and date of birth. Concerned that her realtives might try to track her down and kill her for abandoning her Canadian suitor, she altered her name from Ayaan Hirsi Magan to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (Actually, her full name is Ayaan Hirsi Magan Isse Guleid Ali Wai’ays Muhammad Ali Umar Osman Mahamud.) She also altered her date of birth.
The third lie she told concerned her route to the Netherlands. She had told the Dutch immigration authorities that she had come to Holland directly from Somalia, when in fact she hadn't lived there since she was six years old. She had actually come from Kenya, and stopped in Germany, where she should have claimed asylum. Her reason for this of course is that all Kenyans are not automatic refugees simply for being Kenyan. Somalians, on the other hand, were virutally rubberstamped for asylum, especially in 1992, the turbulent year in which Hirsi Ali arrived in the Netherlands. Rather than having to prove that she was escaping an abusive background and an arranged marriage, she simply said that she was escaping the turmoil of the 1992 Somalian crisis.
It's unclear if she will be allowed to keep her Dutch citizenship, or if she even wants to. Considering the fact that finding a place to live may be next to impossible, she may decide to simply leave the Netherlands and come to America as planned. If she decides to take this route, it will be Holland's loss and America's gain.
Hirsi Ali's farewell address says it all. "Ladies and gentlemen," said the resigning MP. "I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad I will be able to continue my work. I will go on."
And she will go on, I am certain.