Somali in The Hague Faces a More Personal Attack

Somali in The Hague Faces a More Personal

By Marlise

May 24,

Quoted from The New York

Somali in The Hague Faces a More Personal

By Marlise

May 24,

Quoted from The New York

THE HAGUE, May 23 ? Ayaan
Hirsi Ali is among the most famous and successful immigrants in the Netherlands,
along with several soccer stars. A Muslim atheist, as she calls herself, Ms.
Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia, rose to win a seat in Parliament and gained
a reputation for probing the uneasy coexistence of Islam and the West. She
reviled her religion, bringing on death

Rita Verdonk, a former prison
warden, is the Dutch minister of immigration and hopes to become the first woman
to serve as prime minister. She had been rising in the polls because of her
tough stance on illegal immigrants.

two politicians, once friends, even allies, are now caught in a conflict so
personal that Ms. Hirsi Ali has disclosed family letters in her own

The quarrel began when a Dutch
television team delved into the false story that Ms. Hirsi Ali gave when she
arrived as a political refugee, listing a wrong name and birth date to hide from
a man whom her family had chosen as a husband. Although the details had often
been acknowledged by Ms. Hirsi Ali, Ms. Verdonk said she was forced to strip Ms.
Hirsi Ali of her Dutch nationality.

then her many foes began to use the television report as a fresh opportunity to
cast doubt on her broader credibility about her history and

Stung by the attacks, Ms.
Hirsi Ali has made available to The New York Times several letters that support
accounts of her life that are now being

She has been a lightning
rod in a country that is moving to the right as it struggles with how to deal
with immigrants, most of them Muslim. After two high-profile political
assassinations, one by a Muslim radical, the Dutch are deeply divided over
whether to be cautious or blunt toward Muslims, who are not quick to adapt to
Dutch mores.

But Ms. Verdonk is also
being vilified. Newspapers, even those critical of Ms. Hirsi Ali, have lacerated
the minister for her handling of the case, and after a 10-hour grilling from an
outraged Parliament and public reprimands from cabinet colleagues, something
rarely seen here, the prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, ordered that Ms.
Hirsi Ali’s citizenship be

Dutch diplomats, embarrassed
by scathing news coverage abroad, have insisted that Ms. Hirsi Ali is not being
silenced or expelled, and say she decided to take up a fellowship in Washington
even before the latest dispute broke

But the public is divided. Opinion
polls say half the people questioned agreed with the immigration minister’s
move, while Internet chat rooms for immigrants have bristled with insults,
bidding good riddance to the Muslim

As she resigned from
Parliament, Ms. Hirsi Ali politely expressed her sadness but said the difficult
questions about “the future of Islam in our country” would not go

It is true that in this country
of 16 million people, more than a million of whom are first- or
second-generation Muslim immigrants, distrust runs deep, and it has been
aggravated since the terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and

Hikmat Mahawat Khan, leader of
the Contact Group, an umbrella organization for Dutch Muslim associations, said
some Muslims who had been critical should be concerned. “Instead of blaming Ms.
Hirsi Ali, they will now have to deal with difficult subjects themselves,” he

A persistent question across
Europe is whether newcomers should be made to adapt to local

Ms. Hirsi Ali urged the Dutch
to stand firm, and not to appease immigrants. She said Dutch Muslims needed to
free themselves from the control of clerics who preached subjugation of women
and ostracized homosexuals. The 40 or more Islamic schools isolate children and
could breed dangerous militants, she argued, so they should be

All this disturbed the Dutch
culture of consensus.

When Ms. Hirsi
Ali joined Parliament in 2003, she was lionized by the news media, which were
fascinated by her articulate debates in perfect Dutch, her daring approach to
Islam, her arranged marriage in Africa, her exotic

But as one commentator wrote,
she suffered from overexposure. As she gained international fame and was courted
by foreign media and institutions, Dutch newspapers began to criticize her as a
celebrity for whom the country was too

“For a long time Ayaan was
treated like a saint; now there is a lot of anger and the press has been
attacking her in the last year,” said Geert Mak, a writer and social
commentator. He said he often disagreed with her, but abhorred the way she was
being treated. “She belongs to our society, she was formed here,” he said, “and
after the death threats she had to live here like a

Ms. Hirsi Ali brought to the
limelight issues that had been

Muslim wives and daughters
are now a majority in shelters for abused women, she said. She urged officials
to stop immigrant men from taking their wives back to their home countries and
leaving them there without their Dutch documents, so the men could bring younger
and more obedient brides back to the Netherlands. She said the Dutch should
raise immigrant children with Dutch

“We are looking for balance
between the many groups,” said Piet de Rooy, a modern historian. “This is the
intense discussion of our time. We have a consensus that you give each other
space, even if this is not

Moreover, harsh
confrontations over religion are anathema in a country born from almost a
century of religious war between Catholics and Protestants. But Ms. Hirsi Ali,
believing the Dutch ignored what she saw as the dangers of Islam, felt that a
confrontation of ideas was needed before common ground could be found between
Islamic beliefs and Dutch ways.

irritates me deeply with her one-sided view of Islam,” said Jan Beerenhout, a
former Amsterdam municipal official and a convert to Islam. “But I feel
ambiguous. She was offensive to the Muslims from rural areas who practice an
archaic form of the religion. But if she had not spoken out, many wrongs would
have remained taboo.”

In recent days,
bloggers and commentators have challenged Ms. Hirsi Ali’s motives for fleeing to
the Netherlands. She maintained that she wanted to escape a forced marriage with
a Somali cousin, and while waiting to meet him in Germany, she secretly left for
the Netherlands.

Defending her account,
she offered a letter she received from Kenya, from her sister Haweya, in August
1992, after her arrival in a Dutch refugee camp. “Your husband in Germany is
looking for you,” the letter reads, “and the whole search is being coordinated
by father here.”

Referring to members
of their clan, Haweya wrote: “Practically all the Osman Mahamud in that area are
looking for you everywhere. Be

Her detractors have also said
she lied about her relationship with her father, Hirsi Magan Isse, a former
politician who had to flee Somalia. They say she had nothing to fear and had a
good relationship with him.

Ms. Hirsi
Ali, underlining the duress facing her, agreed to release the last letter she
said she received from her father ? his

In January 1993, after writing
to beg forgiveness for her disobedience in refusing the husband chosen, she said
she needed his blessing.

Deceitful Fox,” her father replied. “You do not need me and I do not need you. I
just invoked Allah to disgrace you, as you have disgraced me.

“This is the last message you
will receive from me, as your letter was the last message I will accept from
you. Go to hell! And the devil be with

“May Allah punish you for your
deception,” his letter ended.

Yours, The Fool.”


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