The Daily Telegraph (England), Jan. 11, 2002
After losing Pim Fortuyn, the maverick anti-Islamist politician, last May to Holland‘s first political assassination in 400 years, Dutch security services are taking no chances with
Shortly after Mr Fortuyn, a flamboyant television commentator and gay rights activist, was shot, his movement vaulted to second place in a general election . It has since disintegrated in a series of feuds, bringing down the coalition government and triggering a fresh vote at which it is expected to retain only a handful of seats.
In a sense Miss Hirsi Ali is the heir to Mr Fortuyn’s revolution, despite being part of a mainstream party and, with a fragile frame and diffident manner, seeming anything but a firebrand.
Just weeks ago she was in hiding, evading what amounted to a death sentence, after she said Islam was an oppressive, misogynist religion trapped in the 13th century that seemed to be at war with almost all non-followers.
“I was provoked by some guys shouting at me in a TV debate,” she said in precise, fluent English, almost at a whisper. “So I blurted out, ‘It’s my religion, and my culture, and I can call it backward if I want’. But I was also drawn into saying I was no longer a practising Muslim and that set it all off, because the punishment for leaving the faith is death.”
The daughter of a Somali dissident imprisoned by the Siad Barre regime in the 1970s, she grew up in exile in Kenya, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. She was subjected to the cruel ritual of female circumcision aged five, then ordered against her will to marry a kinsman in Canada, who wanted her to bear him six sons.
“I was sent to Germany to meet him but I couldn’t face it,” she said. “So I slipped across the border into the Netherlands at 11 o’clock on a November night in 1992 and asked for asylum.” She would have gone to England but Holland had an open border under the Schengen treaty. She was 22 and did not speak a word of Dutch. Finding odd jobs as a cleaner, and learning fast about the underworld of abused Muslim girls hiding in shelters, she educated herself, ultimately studying political science at Leiden University.
“I wanted to understand why the western countries were doing so well when the rest of the world seemed to be collapsing,” she said. “I studied the history of European political thought from the Greeks and Romans up to the Second World War.” Her favourite thinker is John Stuart Mill.
“I learned that people in the West value the autonomous individual. They understand the importance of science, knowledge. They are capable of criticising themselves and there is an ability to record history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It is exactly the opposite in Somalia where all the institutions of record are missing, and my grandmother’s memories of the clan wars will die with her,” she said.
She was asked by the then ruling Labour Party to research why so many Dutch-born Muslim youths seemed to be at war with their host society.
Her conclusion was a blistering critique of the Dutch state policy of multiculturalism, which she described as a calamitous mistake born of “a misplaced sense of guilt or pity” that has allowed militant imams “preaching hate” to indoctrinate youths in segregated schools, all paid for by fat subsidies from the Dutch taxpayer. She is demanding an immediate end to state funding for 700 Islamic clubs, often run by hardline clerics.
“The Netherlands is a country that worships consensus and peace, but here you have newcomers who are not integrated into this system. They exploit the values of an open liberal society to reach illiberal ends,” she said.
Her Labour sponsors did not care for the message, but she was welcomed with open arms by the free-market Liberals, who have been quick to seize on the Fortuyn message. “Everyone knows that the position of women in Islamic countries is horrendous, but the Dutch like to think it doesn’t happen here,” she said.
“They don’t want to believe Muslim women in the Netherlands are beaten and locked up in their homes, or that girls are murdered for holding hands with a non-Muslim boy. When I took it up with the Labour Party they sided with the Islamic conservatives, and told me to stop, so that’s when I became really inflamed.”