Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Hirsi Ali Exposes Netherlands' Intellectual Contrast with France

THE HAGUE, 13/02/08 - The Lower House has reacted with a shrug of the shoulders to the flirtation between France and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Only the centre-left D66 and leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) believe the Netherlands should be ashamed.

An army of French intellectuals adores Hirsi Ali and wants Paris to give her French nationality. While the government of President Sarkozy has not yet commented on this, his Human Rights State Secretary, Rama Yade, praised the former Dutch MP at length last Sunday as a freedom fighter. Rama said that she, though herself a Muslim, had admiration for the former Dutch MP. "I am on your side".

The majority of the Lower House in The Hague had a conspicuously inconspicuous reaction. The Christian democrats (CDA), conservatives (VVD) and Labour (PvdA) combined a laconic attitude with held-back irritation. The general tenor among MPs is that Hirsi Ali is free to do as she pleases.

Ironically, according to many French intellectuals, she is not. Hirsi Ali is constantly seeking money for her security in the US, since the Netherlands decided only to provide for her guarding on Dutch soil.

Previously, 139 of the 150 MPs decided that she should no longer be protected when outside the Netherlands. The 11 others were the MPs of GroenLinks and D66 and PvdA dissident Paul Kalma.

If it helps to guarantee her safety, Hirsi Ali would like to adopt French nationality. "That is her good right," commented CDA MP Sybrand van Haersma Buma. "French intellectuals may point the finger at the Netherlands now, but we have done the utmost for her."

Also illustrative was the reaction of VVD MP Hans van Baalen. Hirsi Ali's former fellow-party member said the French offer was a "cheap stunt" whereby the French want to show that they are morally superior to the Dutch.

French socialist leader Segolene Royal would like to make Hirsi Ali a Frenchwoman. PvdA MP Dijsselbloem believes his political kindred spirits in France will be sorry for this. Once Hirsi Ali starts to speak about Islam, her views will scare the socialists, he suggested.

Whereas Hirsi Ali is primarily seen in France as a champion of free speech, in the Netherlands she is usually portrayed as a troublemaker who needlessly offends Muslims. Typical of the contrast between French and Dutch intellectuals is the view of political philosophy professor Henk Woldring of Amsterdam's Free University. In NRC Handelsblad, he warned France against her: "Look at the fires in the French suburbs. Democracy is vulnerable, you should handle each other with care."

Whether Hirsi Ali will be given French nationality is questionable. In a letter, Sarkozy praised her at length last Sunday, but he said nothing about naturalisation. He does want to push for a European fund for the protection of threatened persons, when France takes over the presidency of the EU in the second half of the year. The Dutch Lower House sees nothing in this either.


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Hirsi Ali Exposes Netherlands' Intellectual Contrast with France

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