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May 19, 2006

After Ayaan Hirsi Ali's departure from the Netherlands, Douglas Murray asks, what is still Dutch about Holland?

Posted by Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray - the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - reflects upon Ayaan Hirsi Ali's departure from the Netherlands and what this says about Europe's moral courage, or rather lack of it. This lack of courage, argues Murray, has not only been displayed in Holland, but has also been apparent in some of the reporting in Britain - not least that by Newsnight - of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's departure.

In January's New Criterion I wrote:

That Hirsi Ali will remain in the Netherlands is in doubt. Her life has been so blighted by the jihad that it would be no shame on her if she decided that life in Holland is not worth the fight. If she does leave, Holland and Europe will lose one of the people it needs most because of the people it needs least.
The doubt has now been settled: Hirsi Ali has announced that she will resign her seat in the Dutch Parliament, leave Holland, and once again begin a new life this time in America. She has done this by choice. But it is a choice which was about to be forced on her.

Hirsi Ali's departure is deeply disturbing. Since joining the main Dutch Liberal party, the VVD, in 2002, she has been a courageous and inspiring voice. That inspiration has been given not only to those figures who refuse to be cowed into speaking pieties about Islamism, but to those who most need protection in liberal societies. She frequently pointed out the irony at the centre of European liberalism's current meltdown.

She observed:

Social Democrats have traditionally protected the weak. But now the weak have become women and children in Muslim families, and the Social Democrats will not defend them, because it's not politically correct. So they abandoned them.
With police forces across Europe refusing to tread on the sensibilities of community "honour-killings", few people other than Hirsi Ali consistently spoke up for women and children in Muslim homes in Europe - people brought into the first world, but often living lives among us which are barbaric and medieval.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's departure will bring glee to the forces of reactionary Islam - the forces which have tried so hard to take her life and considerable relief to a class of Dutchman and Dutch politician who didn't like the bother and will be glad to be rid of a nuisance. The prevalence of this opinion can be seen in developments over the last week.

A piece on Hirsi Ali which went out on Dutch television's Zembla programme last Thursday "discovered" that Hirsi Ali had lied on her asylum application into the Netherlands fourteen years ago. It said she had altered her surname, age, and details of her background. That she had told all this to the VVD when she joined and has repeated it many times since was not deemed relevant. Nor was the fact that given the circumstances in which she arrived in Holland she would not have wanted to be traceable to her family. A backlash against Hirsi Ali has been gathering momentum for some time, and here was a golden opportunity to act.

The asylum system of the Netherlands, which usually takes years to crank into motion, when it works at all, swung into overdrive. Within four days Interior Minister Rita Verdonk (having consulted the Dutch Prime Minister) announced that Ayaan Hirsi Ali had effectively never been a citizen of the Netherlands. Just as with the murders of Pim Fortuyn four years ago, and Theo van Gogh two years after that, the Dutch political class once again won the opportunity to wash its hands of a problem.

But the dishonour is not all Holland's. On the evening of the announcement of her exile, the BBC's Newsnight programme said that Hirsi Ali "turns out to have been a fraud" and talked of her "being brought low by her own lies". These are unusually judgemental terms, and it is fruitful to compare them with another case.

Earlier this year, during the "cartoons controversy", Newsnight welcomed a panel of Islamists to discuss that fiasco. Subsequently notorious for the rantings of Anjem Choudary of Al-Ghurabaa, the programme silently introduced both Tariq Ramadan and Dyab Abou Jahjah as moderate voices. Abou Jahjah is notorious on the continent, though not yet in Britain. To give the most generous interpretation, the BBC appeared unaware that the organisation which he heads the Arab European League is an extremist organisation, responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms and other organised violence across the continent.

Since the BBC has cast judgement on Hirsi Ali, and tried to pass off a trained anti-Semitic terrorist as a moderate, Jahjah's own immigration status may interest them. It should certainly concern all those who think Europe has any future.

Abou Jahjah admits perfectly frankly to anybody who wishes to ask him, that he was an "economic migrant" into Belgium in the 1990s and that he lied on his application form when seeking political asylum. Yet the Belgian government has never taken any action against him. The AEL runs its organisation through Holland, where it causes continual strife. Yet Rita Verdonk appears never to have taken any action, or requested any action, against the illegal immigrant Jahjah or his cohorts. Nor against the Hague-based Sheikh Fawaz, or any of those who have threatened, condoned, or extolled murder against politicians and artists. In the meantime Jahjah can be interviewed on programmes on the BBC which defame Hirsi Ali.

When I predicted Ayaan Hirsi Ali's departure from Holland I knew that circumstances in Holland had made living there intolerable for her. I never imagined that Holland would simultaneously withdraw citizenship, and that if she had not wanted to leave she should have been forced to do so. Many Dutch friends have told me in recent days that they feel ashamed of their country. They should also feel fear for it.

A society which expels its friends and welcomes its destroyers can have little time left. Hirsi Ali has found sanctuary in America, and America has gained a great treasure. But how long can Europe survive this moral and spinal equivalent of a brain-drain? Is anyone really still unsure what Europe will look like when the few people who show bravery in the face of Islamic aggression are either murdered, silenced or forced into exile, while those who plot our downfall are excused and pandered to?

A few months ago I heard the great Ibn Warraq describe Hirsi Ali as "the Spinoza of our time". On Tuesday this brave and brilliant woman said:

I will leave, but the questions remain the questions about the future of Islam in our country, the subjugation of women in Islamic culture and integration of many Muslims in the West. I will leave the Netherlands. Sad and relieved I will pack my bags again. I will continue.
The country of tolerance and freedom which gave sanctuary to Spinoza has forced his heir from her shores. Just what is still Dutch about Holland?

Douglas Murray is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.

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The minister of integration Rita Verdonk is in a complete shitstorm right now; as the Cabinet, Parliament and half of the VVD have come down on her, from which she may not survive in her stillborn attempt to become the parliamental head of the party. I personally hope that she does not survive this, but at the moment Verdonk is a loose cannon so who knows what might happen.

Clearly, Ayaan had decided a long time ago that she would not renew her bid for parliament in the upcoming elections in the summmer of 2007. One does not negotiate immigration, a job and security arrangments in America as impulsively as the immigration minister decides that she's never been Dutch. The decision to become an American think tanker, a position from which she'll have a greater global impact, had been made in the last year, though the affair forced her to announce it now.

Here are some predictions about what will happen next:

*Ayaan will get her passport back before the end of the month. She will leave for America in dignity, where her country is left embarassed -- and rightly so.

*The damage done to Verdonk has currently split the VVD party, where the lines of disagreement on the Ayaan affair, are crystallising along the two major factions of support for the succession race: her opponent is this young schmuck called Mark Rutte, a bureaucrat in his 30s who has fallen upward from the JoVD (the youth branch of the VVD).

*Either Mark Rutte wins, and the VVD will end up too small in the next elections to be in the government, and we'll have a coalition between CDA (Christian Democrats) and PvDA ("Old Labour") and possibly the opportunistic D66; Or: Verdonk wins the intraparty battle and no one will trust the VVD anymore as she'll try to remake the fraction in parliament in her image, which will leave it without content for the decade to come.

* And either way is a lose-lose situation for the Netherlands. If PvdA ends up the largest party, we may have the horror scenario of a very long era of this vapour-head socialist punk, Wouter Bos, which is bad for the cities, bad for fiscal policy, bad for atlanticism.

Posted by: Benjamin Bilski at May 19, 2006 07:48 PM

So I predicted Ayaan would get her passport back before the end of the month, I was wrong, it's before the end of the week. She stays Dutch.

As quickly as Verdonk made the decision, as quickly as her desire to not be relieved of her function of minister of integration, she resolved the issue, to the agreement of the entire cabinet, parliament, and her political opponents from the VVD, now robbed of a hot-button issue to throw at her.

The Netherlands is, after all, a country that functions in a consensus-culture. This may confuse the observers of our political process sometimes. Do we want laws to be measure by the highest court to the constitution? It will never happen, because the lower courts are opposed to that. Legislative power does not belong only to parliament when it comes to Changing Things.

Apparently prime minister Balkenende, censured her for not making decisions "in a team spirit". The PM added, according to a report in Volkskrant today, and I translate: "This was an unfortunate week that does not merit repetition."

The Netherlands has started an international diplomatic offensive; damage control through their embassies to counter the image presented in the international outcry to the affair: "The image that the Netherlands is a country were tolerance and freedom of speech are being chewed [at], and that has no place for people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, does not please me at all.", prime minister Balkenende said on Friday. (Volkskrant)

Hear, Hear!

Posted by: Benjamin Bilski at May 20, 2006 06:44 PM

After reading this article, I felt a bit (een beetje) strange, in that I was agreeing, for once, with Douglas Murray. While I consider Ayaan Hirsi Ali to be a grievously misguided young lady, it has been a deep disgrace to treat her as a political football to be kicked into touch the moment the play becomes difficult.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at May 23, 2006 06:09 PM

If you want to hear a truly despicable bit of Euro-dhimmitude. check out a show called "Euroquest."
It's segment on Hirsi Ali incensed me with its callous glee.

Posted by: David Sucher at May 24, 2006 01:40 AM
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