Saturday 13 May 2006

Poster child hung in a frame of lies

More Dutch than the Dutch

The most prominent integrated immigrant in the Netherlands is probably Ayaan Hirsi-Ali a Member of Parliament in the Liberal Party (VVD).

Being a Somalian, we have to date been fed with tales of how she had suffered brutality borne of religious intolerance and coercion, part of which led to her escaping from an enforced arranged marriage to eventually seek refuge in the Netherlands.

The then 22-year-old told a sorry tale that convinced the immigration authorities in a slightly more liberal Netherlands to give her asylum in a record short time of five weeks.

She has done well, earning degree in Political Science and being a strong advocate for the emancipation of female rights in Islam whilst speaking up for immigration and asylum issues.

Beyond that, some of her views on Islam and immigration have alienated the very set of people who would constitute her naturally wider constituency.

Representative African – Not!

Having an African heritage, it is unlikely that many African see the Netherlands through the same lenses as her. Her work in the film Submission, whilst it cannot be condemned for matters of freedom of expression, has polarised communities to the extent that she lives in secluded and secure protection especially since the film maker was murdered on an Amsterdam street.

The question becomes what the point is of integration is if you have sacrificed your liberty and freedom for the pulpit of knocking down the self-same traditions that constituted part of your upbringing.

There might be things that are inspiring about the lady, but as a whole package, she is hardly a role model for those who come from similar backgrounds.

We live here as products of multiple cultures, we cannot abrogate our history and culture for the domination of Dutch culture in the quest to be more Dutch than the Dutch. Rather, we must elect the best of all our cultures together with the host culture to present ourselves equitable, respectable and worthy members of our host societies.

Lost constituency

It informs my concerns that whilst the articulate and erudite Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a poster child to the West of those who have thrived out of Africa as refugees and speak up for the Western stereotype, she might for the West be worthy of nomination for the Nobel Prize, but not for doing anything in relation to helping people in similar circumstances integrate better beyond the opportunistic political sound-bite.

It transpires that she has been caught in a number of lies regarding how the immigration service was hoodwinked with her sorry tale. The then head of the immigration service who has recently aligned himself to more right-wing causes has called for the revocation of her Dutch citizenship.

That is a bit too drastic, but then he is not known for being the most level-headed man. My best minister aspiring for leadership of the Liberal Party and the minister in charge of emigration and dis-integration (tongue in cheek) has condemned lying but would not exact sanctions - A rare example of ministerial magnanimity.

However, what is most interesting is the way this story would run as some condemn the lies and others seek to shield the poster child – albeit in a frame of probably more lies.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali: hero or phony?

Liberals don't care Hirsi Ali lied to get asylum in 1992

Lying can lead to loss of asylum - expert

Understanding freedom, responsibility and tact

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