A few weeks ago, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch MP and a fierce critic of radical Islam?s treatment of women, lost her Dutch citizenship. Dutch authorities are reconsidering her case but if her citizenship is revoked, the Dutch have lost a champion of free speech; a self-described Muslim atheist who challenges current European ideas on how to deal with radical Islam; and the respect of the rest of the world.
The motivations underlying the revocation of her citizenship are unclear (she falsified some information on her immigration papers but she admitted as much in 2003 when she was vetted for running for parliament and no action was taken); some argue that she had become too much of a political liability for the Dutch government. If Holland does lose Ayaan, they will be hard pressed to find another politician willing to bluntly confront the difficult issues surrounding the assimilation of Muslim immigrants in Holland.
Ayaan commented forcefully, frequently, and forthrightly–some might say too forthrightly– on all issues within Dutch society. She was especially outspoken about how women are treated in both official and radical Islam, on how minorities behave in their adopted countries, and on the methods used by European societies and intellectuals to deal with Islam, radicalism and terrorism.
She received death threats from Islamist extremists after writing the script for the movie
Submission” about the shameful treatment of Muslim women in Holland. An Islamist fanatic killed that movie’s maker, Theo van Gogh, as he was bicycling to work one day,. Despite death threats, Ayaan continues not only to criticize Islam’s treatment of women but to warn that militant Islam is spreading unabated throughout Europe.
Ayaan is trying to raise awareness of an uncomfortable reality: Muslim immigrants of Arab and Middle Eastern origin make up significant part of the populations in Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and even Switzerland. Most are young and unassimilated. Too many have been indoctrinated by the same virulent hateful, anti-West, anti-modernity, propaganda that infects youth in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Egypt, and, often, by the same set of charismatic religious preachers who are essentially illiterate even in purely Islamic thought and philosophy. Many of these mosque imams are imported to European countries from their countries of origin to preach to disaffected, unemployed, first or second generation Muslims. The bombers of the London metro, the terrorists who struck trains in Madrid, Zacharias Moussaoui, and the killer of van Gogh, all came from such a background.
The Europeans grappling with how to deal with this sizeable minority that is largely alienated from the very place that gives them jobs and shelter face tough choices. Continue with the assimilation process while maintaining an open-door policy? Or close the doors to new immigration and start applying strict laws to those who break the law?
The Dutch in particular have strived mightily to welcome their Muslim minorities. They provide all immigrants with subsidized housing in “mixed” neighborhoods (to avoid ghettoization). They apply fairly liberal standards for education and cultural diversity. They provide recent immigrants with free “cultural clubs” that are totally unsupervised by the authorities. And, until recently, they exercised no regulation of extremist mosques and their foreign preachers.
That policy clearly has not worked. Judging by the literature being published and internet-based discussions in Arabic, disaffection and alienation among the Arab and Muslim communities is increasing.
In response to Islamic radicalization, instead of tightening the surveillance of extremists and applying the laws more strictly, the New Left of Europe are engaging in appeasement, hoping that the problem will go away if “we just try to understand them better” and “if we let them exercise their cultural and religious freedoms,” even if this means, in practice, allowing such things as sexual mutilation or abuse by family males of young girls suspected of dating or engaging in sexual activities.
This trend of appeasement, of buckling down to threats and blackmail, will sadly not achieve the desired ends. As the Europeans found out many years ago giving in to blackmailers is not only immoral but impractical.
In the end, Europe must grapple with its immigrants, Muslim or not, and create the conditions to provide them with paths of advancement and assimilation. They cannot abandon the fundamental values of Western society in the process. Stripping Ayaan of her passport and forcing her to flee is a step in the wrong direction for Europe. Ayaan will find a new home in the United States. But who in Holland will take her place before it is too late?
A. Yasmine Rassam is Director of International Policy at the Independent Women?s Forum