Paradise Lost in the Netherlands ; Maybe America Can Provide Ayaan Hirsi Ali the True Freedom She Yearns For

By Bawer, Bruce | The Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

Paradise Lost in the Netherlands ; Maybe America Can Provide Ayaan Hirsi Ali the True Freedom She Yearns For


Bawer, Bruce, The Christian Science Monitor


If there's anything in Europe today that's more alarming than the number of European Muslims who hold radically undemocratic views (40 percent of British Muslims would like to see Britain under sharia law), it's the feckless way in which government officials tend to respond to those views. Particularly if they include explosions of public complaints and protests.

More often than not, most officials choose appeasement over standing up for democratic values. The exceptions are rare. One of them is Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen - who, faced with the Muhammad cartoon riots, strongly reaffirmed Denmark's commitment to freedom of speech. Another is the Netherlands' Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Muslim turned outspoken critic of Islam. Ms. Hirsi Ali, who has been confronted with a relatively sudden and stunning challenge by her country's minister of immigration to her Dutch citizenship, resigned this week from her seat in the Dutch parliament.

Hirsi Ali's name became familiar to many people outside the Netherlands in November 2004, when Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered in an Amsterdam street in retribution for his film "Submission: Part One," a blunt critique of Islam's treatment of women. Hirsi Ali, who wrote the film's script, was herself threatened with murder in a note from Mr. van Gogh's killer.

Hirsi Ali knows a good deal about her film's subject: As a young girl in Somalia, she was a devout Muslim who wore full hijab. Later, however, experiencing Western freedoms as a refugee in the Netherlands, she took an increasingly critical view of the oppression and intolerance she had witnessed in her youth - and that to her horror, she saw around her in Dutch Muslim enclaves. After 9/ 11, she rejected Islam entirely. Years of menial jobs and university study preceded her election to the Dutch parliament, where she called on her government to challenge the abuse of women in Muslim communities, advocated the closing of state-funded Muslim schools which taught children to hate infidels and democracy, and proposed legislation to protect girls from genital mutilation.

Even after van Gogh's murder, unintimidated by death threats and by the need for daily round-the-clock armed protection, Hirsi Ali continued to speak truth to power. She was the kind of immigrant whom democratic leaders should hold up as an example; indeed, she was the very model of a responsible citizen of a democracy. …

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