A leading Dutch Muslim politician, who received death threats after criticising Islamic attitudes to women, took her seat in parliament again yesterday after more than two months in hiding.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of parliament for the centre-Right VVD, or Liberal party, was working with the film-maker Theo van Gogh when he was shot dead by a Muslim fanatic on Nov 2.
She said yesterday she intended to publish a second volume of her controversial book Submission, which was the basis of the film.
She arrived at parliament in an armoured Mercedes limousine and was followed by police bodyguards to the doors of the parliamentary chamber as MPs banged their desks in support and onlookers applauded.
Later she called on mainstream Muslims to speak out against violence.
“I’m not out to offend people who hold different opinions but that’s difficult to avoid sometimes because the debate over Islam concerns ancient texts and deep convictions,” she said.
“For the past 75 days I could not be here. I could not go to Theo van Gogh’s funeral. Theo and I shared the threat from radical Muslims. I thought long and hard about Submission. Theo and I spoke about the dangers involved.” She added: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going on.”
Mr van Gogh was shot last November as he cycled to work in Amsterdam. He was heard pleading for mercy before he was stabbed and his head partly severed. When he was found he had a five-page letter pinned to his chest, addressed to Miss Hirsi Ali, accusing her of “terrorising” Muslims and collaborating with Jews.
Police shortly afterwards arrested a Moroccan immigrant, Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, after a brief gun battle. Bouyeri has been charged with the murder of Mr van Gogh and with threatening a member of parliament.
Following police raids on suspected militant safe houses, prosecutors later said they had uncovered an apparent plot to assassinate Miss Hirsi Ali on New Year’s Eve, which had aimed to use a fireworks display to mask the sound of gunshots.
Miss Hirsi Ali, 35, wrote the script for the film Submission. It is 11 minutes long, in English and depicts a young Muslim woman forced into a marriage with a man who beats her. She is then raped by her uncle and punished for falling in love with another man.
In the film, partially naked women appear, with their skin painted with verses from the Koran said to encourage violence against women.
There are nearly a million Muslims in the Netherlands, six per cent of the population.