She inspires both admiration and rage, and has become one of the most familiar faces on the backbench of Holland’s parliament.
– Somali refugee follows in Fortuyn’s footsteps with attack on imams
Hirsi Ali’s path from Somalia to parliament has been marked by a willingness to say and do things others never dared. But she has also incurred the wrath of many Muslims insulted by her message.
She describes herself as a “lapsed” Muslim, and says Islamic culture needs to become more modern.
“Mohammed says that a woman must stay inside, wear a veil, not do certain kinds of work, not have the same inheritance rights as her husband, and should be stoned if she commits adultery,” she said in a 2003 interview with newspaper Trouw.
“I want to show that there’s also another reality than the ’truth’ which is being spread over the world with the help of Saudi money.”
Hirsi Ali has remained in hiding since the November 2 attack, but said in an open letter published on Friday that the murder was “an attack on enlightenment” that had made her “more combative and stronger”.
“You can never kill thinkers, writers and artists, or threaten or intimidate them, even if this golden rule is not self-evident for everyone,” she wrote in a letter that was read aloud at a VVD party gathering.
She said she would continue striving for her ideals until her death, drawing a standing ovation from party members.
The daughter of a Somalian politician, Hirsi Ali, 35, was a UN translator before fleeing an arranged marriage and seeking asylum in the Netherlands in 1992.
She learned Dutch while working odd jobs, eventually becoming a translator for courts and women’s shelters. She studied political science at Leiden University, then got a job as a researcher for the Labour Party, which then headed the Dutch coalition government.
Finding Labour’s policies too soft on forcing Dutch Muslims to integrate and adopt Dutch norms, she switched to the Liberal VVD party with great fanfare, and became a media star.
She also began receiving death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, and has been under police protection since her election to parliament in 2002.
She says she wasn’t surprised by negative reactions to her crusade.
“If I go ahead – and I’m going ahead – I have to reckon with a backlash,” she told women’s magazine Opzij in 2002.
”Every group that goes through a process of change has to get through that frenzy of anger. My strategy is to keep prickling until the storm has passed.”
Many feared for her safety after the airing of Van Gogh’s film “Submission”, which told the fictional story of a Muslim woman who was sexually abused, for which she wrote the script.
The November 22 issue of Newsweek, which contained images from the film, was banned in Pakistan because it was deemed offensive to Islam.
A five-page letter left on Van Gogh’s corpse vowed her downfall.
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