For years, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a lightning rod for critics of Islam (who, like murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh, supported her) and many Dutch immigrant Muslims (some of whom – wrongly – threatened her life). Her comments about the Prophet Muhammad (she called him “a pedophile”) and Holland’s relaxed immigration laws towards Muslims (abused, she says) found many right wing supporters, eventually helping her win a seat in Holland’s parliament. One of them, Immigration and Interior minister Rita Verdonk (the one who proposed a ban on burkas), accelerated a review of Hirsi Ali’s own immigration status after televised revelations that she had herself lied during her naturalisation process, (saying she was fleeing war torn Somalia instead of middle class Kenya) and falsifying her name (it’s Ayaan Hirsi Magan). The result? Verdonk declared her citizenship invalid and Hirsi Ali resigned her MP seat on May 16. “I have done more harm than good,” said Hirsi Ali to a Dutch newspaper. “My message has come across to the public wrong.” Adding insult to injury, Hirsi Ali must leave her police-protected home by September, prompted by a court decision in favour of her neighbours who felt unsafe living next to her. After that, it is expected that Hirsi Ali will move to the US (only months after receiving Readers Digest’s European of the Year award) and work for the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC (though the growing negative publicity could doom that too). As a precursor, she visited the US to promote her latest book, a compilation of essays entitled “The Caged Virgin” (excerpt: “I have taken an enormous risk by answering the call for self-reflection and by joining in the public debate that has been taking place in the West since 9/11. And what do the cultural experts say? ‘You should have said it in a different way'”). If she makes it to the US as a resident, Hirsi Ali will find little resonance to her comments about European immigrant Muslims, finding a domestic Muslim population that is relatively integrated, affluent, and politically savvy (though if she’s still interested in immigration, the Minutemen could use a hand). Still, many issues she has raised in the past, like female genital mutilation (of which she is a victim) and the abuse of women in Muslim immigrant communities, have filled a vacuum left by Muslims unwilling to engage in constructive self-critcism on their own. Without that, many more critics are ready to take Hirsi Ali’s place.
Zahed Amanullah is associate editor of altmuslim.com. He is based in London, England.