A Critic of Muslim Intolerance Faces Loss of Dutch Citizenship

PARIS, May 15 — The Dutch government on Monday abruptly threatened to revoke the citizenship of one of the country’s most prominent members of Parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who arrived as a refugee 14 years ago.

The minister of immigration, Rita Verdonk, said Ms. Hirsi Ali had provided inaccurate information when applying for political asylum in 1992 and seeking Dutch citizenship in 1997. As a result, the minister said, both applications were invalid. Ms. Hirsi Ali has been given six weeks to respond.

The move is likely to provoke a widespread reaction because Ms. Hirsi Ali, 36, has faced repeated death threats since 2002, when she became well known because of her outspoken criticism of conservative Islam and of the mistreatment of Muslim women, even in The Netherlands.

She was the writer of a short television documentary on violence against Muslim women made by the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in an Amsterdam street in 2004 by a Dutch-Moroccan who said his victim had insulted Islam. The killer pinned a note to the body of Mr. van Gogh saying that Ms. Hirsi Ali would be next.

Long before Mr. van Gogh’s death, Ms. Hirsi Ali had been provided with full-time bodyguards by the Dutch government and had been living in a series of safe houses. Despite that, she continued speaking and writing on abuse of women in Islam and her view that the religion promotes intolerance.

“I’m speechless,” Ms. Hirsi Ali said in a telephone interview from The Hague after she had received a call from Ms. Verdonk on Monday night. . Ms. Hirsi Ali said she considered the move to take away her citizenship, leaving her stateless, as an attempt to silence her. “I have been fully committed to my work in Parliament, and I have taken many risks,” she said. “This will make others think harder before they speak out.”

She said she was baffled by the unexpected uproar over her asylum procedure because she had told the story numerous times in interviews and in her own essays about how she changed her last name from Magan to Ali and changed her date of birth when she arrived in the Netherlands at age 22, escaping from an arranged marriage.

She tried to hide at first “in case my father or my brother or my husband looked for me with bad intentions,” she said. “I’m now being picked on for lying, but I have admitted this for years.” She said she discussed the matter with the leaders of the conservative political party VVD when they invited her to run for Parliament.

Her difficulty began over the weekend after a television documentary retraced her steps and she once more said on camera that she had changed some facts on arriving in The Netherlands.

As elections approach, the debate about immigration in The Netherlands has become increasingly tense, with Ms. Verdonk taking an ever harder line and recently expelling would-be immigrants who failed to meet the criteria for political asylum. Ms. Hirsi Ali has also come under criticism. Opponents say she has polarized the immigration debate, and some have called for her to be deported.

She said she would resign from Parliament on Tuesday and speed up her intended departure for the United States, where she has applied for a job at the American Enterprise Institute. She had intended to serve out her mandate, she said. But in April she was notified that she would have to vacate her secure government apartment because her neighbors won a lawsuit complaining that her presence exposed them to risk.

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The New York Times, USA
May 16, 2006
Marlisle Simons

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 16, 2006.
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