Why the jig is up for Hirsi Ali in Holland

Why the jig is up for Hirsi Ali in Holland

She catered to the worst prejudices about Muslims, Islam says Haroon Siddiqui

Toronto Star, 21 May 2006

The sudden fall from grace of Dutch Muslim MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali offers a cautionary tale about Western gullibility in these Islamophobic times.

She has been exposed as the equivalent of such Iraqi exiles as Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Allawi. They told the tall tales the Bush administration wanted to hear to wage war. She told the stories the Dutch, and many Europeans, craved, to confirm their anti-Muslim prejudices.

Like the Iraqi exiles, she knew exactly which buttons to push.

She was an abused wife who had fled a forced marriage and also her vengeful family and clan. An “ex-Muslim,” she was out to liberate Muslim women and tame Islam to her liking and those of her benefactors.

She wrote and narrated the Theo Van Gogh documentary Submission about the subjugation of Muslim women that led to his murder and to death threats against her, placing her under 24-hour guard.

Along the way she let it be known she had lied about her name, age and how she had entered Holland in 1992, not directly from her homeland of Somalia but via Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Germany, a fact that would have undermined her claim, rather than expedited it.

The Dutch didn’t mind. Many refugee claimants embellish their stories. Besides, she was a heroine they had embraced, a “moderate” Muslim waging war against “fanatical” believers.

To her detractors, hers was a case, at best, of bitter personal experience passed off as the norm for all Muslims, and, at worst, relentless self-promotion that had won her fame and invitations from such places as Toronto during the so-called sharia debate and to the U.S. to bask in the company of Dick Cheney and Bernard Lewis.

Her well-ordered world came crashing down recently when a TV documentary suggested her entire claim to stardom was a fraud; not only had there been no forced marriage and no family vendetta but that she enjoyed good relations with her family and husband, both before and after settling in Holland.

Professor Jytte Klausen of Brandeis University, author of The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe, who knows Hirsi Ali and has followed her case closely, said in a telephone interview Thursday:

“She wasn’t forced into a marriage. She had an amicable relationship with her husband, as well as with the rest of her family. It was not true that she had to hide from her family for years.”

Why, then, has her estranged/former husband not spoken up?

“Because Hirsi Ali has asked him not to. They parted company amicably.”

The revelation, Klausen said, proved the last straw for Ali’s colleagues in government.

The ruling right-wing VVD party was already running out of patience with her, not because it had discovered multicultural tolerance or political correctness but because “it was just tired of her jumping up like a jack-in-a-box” anytime anyone poked holes in her neatly knitted tale or differed with her.

For example, when a government think-tank issued a report last month puncturing the prevailing anti-Islamic orthodoxy, she accused its authors of “sticking their heads in the sand.”

The Scientific Council for Government Policy had simply stated the obvious: Islam, like any religion, has many strands, conservative to liberal, with varying attitudes toward gender parity, and that Muslim nations “do not satisfy contemporary international standards on democracy and human rights, (but) in this, they do not differ from many other developing countries.”

The council also condemned “the climate of confrontation and stereotypical thinking,” the turf Hirsi Ali plays on.

The jig is up for Hirsi Ali in Holland. She may move to the U.S., as a fellow at the neo-con American Enterprise Institute.

She would be welcomed in certain circles, which, Klausen warned, “want to see in American politics the development of a kind of Islam-bashing we’ve seen in Europe for a while.”

The American ambassador to The Hague has already met her to pave the way.

She and the Bush administration may deserve each other.

Also, it goes without saying that she is fully entitled to her views, however provocative.

The problem lies elsewhere – in the readiness of the paranoiac post-9/11 world to hear and believe the worst about Muslims and Islam. Hirsi Ali is just one of many to cater to that demand.