Hirsi Ali's Loss of Dutch Citizenship Sparks Debate

May 17, 2006

Source: The New York Times


On May 17, 2006 The New York Times reported, "The Dutch immigration minister's decision to cancel the citizenship of a Somali-born Dutch legislator has set off a political storm in the Netherlands, with Parliament demanding that the move be revoked.

At the center of the storm is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 36, who gained fame - and received death threats - while campaigning against militant Islam and opposing the abuse she said Muslim women suffered even in Europe.

The immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, said she acted Monday after a television program last week that focused on lies Ms. Hirsi Ali told when she sought political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992 and citizenship in 1997. Ms. Verdonk said she had to be evenhanded after several highly publicized cases recently involving immigrants who had also violated rules.

Her action prompted an extraordinary session of Parliament beginning Tuesday that lasted almost 10 hours, until 3 a.m. Wednesday. Members from across the political spectrum fired a barrage of questions and attacks. Some accused Ms. Verdonk of politicking to enhance her own status in the polls for the next elections, when she hopes to become the leader of the conservative VVD Party. She has been called 'Iron Rita' because of her tough stance on immigration.

Ms. Verdonk agreed early Wednesday to reconsider her decision after it had become clear that she had been virtually isolated.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said that Ms. Verdonk's decision had been hasty and that Ms. Hirsi Ali, in any case, would continue to receive police protection, as she has since the death threats against her began in 2002... Her repeated warnings that militant Islam might be spreading in Europe and her criticisms about the plight of Muslim women in Europe have earned her many admirers. But she also has many detractors, who have described her comments as 'Islam bashing' and who say she has made the already difficult integration debate more polarized."