Somali-born author and former Dutch member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali has appealed worldwide for help to fund her protection.
She says she is daily receiving death threats because of her open criticism of extreme islam.
Her dreams may be about to come true as French politicians and intellectuals come to her rescue. They have responded by offering her worldwide protection but only if she takes up French citizenship. The Dutch government is refusing to protect her outside the country.
In 2004, Ms Hirsi Ali collaborated with Theo van Gogh on the film “Submission,” which examined the link between Islamic law and the suffering of millions of women under Islam. Van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch islamic extremist and Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been living under 24 hour protection.
After resigning from the Dutch parliament, Hirsi Ali moved to the United States to work for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. In October 2007, the Dutch government decided it would no longer fund her personal security when she is abroad. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has since been looking for funds to pay her own protection.
Why has Ms Hirsi Ali come to Paris, expecting France to do what the Dutch refuse? She explains:
“It’s the outrage, expressed by French intellectuals at the decision of the current Dutch administration to stop protecting me, that gives me strength and hope. Strength, to go on fighting injustices to women in the name of Islam. And hope that my life will be protected, if not by the Dutch government, then hopefully by the French government. One more [bit of] practice in French: Je serais honore’e d’avoir la possibilite’ de devenir franc,aise. Merci beaucoup.[I would consider it an honour to become a French citizen.]”
There are two reasons for the support she has gained from the French intellectural elite. First of all there is Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, who offered last year to protect all women worldwide who are oppressed. And that is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been repeating in Paris: that it was the French president himself who made the offer.
Second, there is a big group of left-wing intellectuals, who are supporting her and her struggle. They point to the French tradition of human rights, of protecting people around the world who are oppressed when they defend human rights. They want to defend Hirsi Ali as well, because after all it is very strange that she is a European citizen, holding a European nationality (Dutch) – but she’s not protected by Europe.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali says she wants nothing other than “do my work and stay alive”. She says that since October she has hardly done any normal work. The only thing she is doing is travelling around the world begging for funds to pay for her protection, but that’s not the way she wants to live her life.
The government of the Netherlands, meanwhile, has not yet responded to this in any way. There is no evidence of any feelings of shame over the fact that Ms Hirsi Ali had to go to such lengths to ensure her own safety and her own protection.
The Dutch administration made a terse statement last year, saying that the government does not pay for her protection once she is abroad. Since then there has been no debate on the issue in the Netherlands.
It is hard for outsiders to judge, but Ms Hirsi Ali says she still needs around-the-clock protection. There are still daily threats to her life because of things she says, things she writes about extreme Islam. When RNW talked to her at a small university in Paris, there was a lot of visible protection, with dozens of policemen outside and inside the building.
The next leg of her itinerary will see her to Brussels, where, accompanied by a delegation of French intellectuals, she will argue her case for protection with the European Parliament.