Attack Against Hirsi Ali Becomes More Personal

May 24, 2006

Source: The New York Times

On May 24, 2006 The New York Times reported, "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 threats.

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.

The 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 defense.

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...

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... 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 restored."