Dutch MP who attacked Islam 'packs her bags'

By Stephen Castle in Brussels 
Published: 17 May 2006 


The Somali-born Dutch politician and critic of Islam,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, yesterday quit parliament and
announced plans to leave the Netherlands after the
government threatened to strip her of citizenship for
lying on an asylum application 14 years ago. 

At an emotional press conference, Ms Hirsi Ali
confirmed speculation that she will emigrate,
following the dispute over her naturalisation, which
has divided the Netherlands.

Once a devout Muslim, Ms Hirsi Ali lives under 24-hour
guard after a death threat against her was pinned to
the chest of her ally, the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh,
who was murdered in broad daylight as he cycled to
work in 2004. Ms Hirsi Ali was an outspoken critic of
Muslim fundamentalism and worked with Mr Van Gogh on
Submission, a film featuring veiled women with texts
from the Koran written on their flesh.

Her voice nearly breaking, she told journalists
yesterday: "I am ending my membership of parliament. I
will leave the Netherlands. Sad and relieved, I will
pack my bags again. I will go on." According to the
Dutch media, Ms Hirsi Ali will move to the US to work
for the conservative think-tank, the American
Enterprise Institute.

Since she joined the VVD Liberal Party in 2002, Ms
Hirsi Ali has been open about giving a false name and
date of birth when she sought asylum in the
Netherlands in 1992. But, following the screening of a
TV documentary last week, the hard-line Minister for
Immigration, Rita Verdonk, reviewed her case and found
naturalisation had been improperly granted, giving her
several weeks to appeal.

The minister cited a 2005 Dutch Supreme Court ruling
that passports issued to people with false names are
automatically invalid. Had the government stripped her
of her citizenship, Ms Hirsi Ali would have lost her
seat in parliament.

Ms Verdonk - also a member of the VVD - has built her
reputation for enforcing tough immigration rules, and
is vying to become party leader. She now faces a
backlash within her party over her decision.

Yesterday 36-year-old Ms Hirsi Ali explained why she
falsified her passport, saying: "I am not proud that I
lied when I sought asylum in the Netherlands. It was
wrong to do so. I did it because I felt I had no

"I was frightened that if I simply said I was fleeing
a forced marriage, I would be sent back to my family.
And I was frightened that if I gave my real name, my
clan would hunt me down and find me." She added: "I am
going away, but the questions remain. The questions
about the future of Islam in our country, the
suppression of women in Islamic culture and the
integration of the many Muslims in the West."

Ms Hirsi Ali had been considering a move abroad
anyway, since a court ruling that she must leave her
home by August because her presence put her
neighbours' security at risk. Yesterday she said: "It
is difficult to live with so many threats on your life
and such a level of police protection. It is difficult
to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to
live. All that is difficult but not impossible. It has
become impossible since last night." 


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