- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali member of the Dutch parliament, yesterday returned to public life after having hidden for 10 weeks. She had received death threats by Muslim fundamentalist after cooperating with Theo van Gogh, the recently assassinated Dutch film director. Ms Hirsi Ali promised she would keep on working against Muslim "oppression of women" despite the death threats.
37-year-old Ms Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage. Here, she has made a political career in the liberal VVD party, an old political grouping that rejects any kind of religious interference in public life, but at the same time accepts all religions. For Ms Hirsi Ali, who terms Islam a "backward" religion, the liberal platform became a valid alternative.
The Dutch-Somali parliamentarian made headlines for her outspoken views on Islam, which however were not any more radical than typical European comments on Christianity. That these views could be dangerous for a Muslim woman in the Netherlands, however, became clear when her close friend, filmmaker van Gogh, was murdered by Muslim fundamentalists on 2 November 2004.
The dead body of the film director had a note attached to it. It was a death list, including the name of Ms Hirsi Ali. Since that, the Somali MP was not seen in public.
Only yesterday, Ms Hirsi Ali returned to the Dutch parliament. Here, she and her colleagues from the VVP gave a press conference, declaring that she would defy the threats and her own fear. "I will go on with my work here in parliament. I will attend all the meetings, I will control our government. And, beyond that I will keep on writing articles," she told the press.
The female Muslim MP also said she would continue doing what probably had made her name appear on the death list. Besides being a politician Ms Hirsi Ali is also a writer, and she had cooperated with van Gogh in the writing of hid film 'Submission', which tackles the position of women in Islam in a very critical way.
- I will keep on writing scripts for not just 'Submission Part II', but 'Part III' and so on, Ms Hirsi Ali said. "I will do anything in my power to keep the oppression of women on the agenda," she promised.
Despite her overcoming of the fears attached to the death threat, Ms Hirsi Ali now has agreed to a tough security regime. The MP turned up with several bodyguards, which is an unusual sight in the Dutch parliament. "I am scared now and again, but I will go on. I must go on," she said. "I am convinced that you cannot give in to threats and terrorism."
- What Theo [van Gogh] and I had in common was an awareness of the threat formed by radical Islam, Ms Hirsi Ali explained. "The attack on 2 November brought Dutch society face to face with Muslim terrorism for the first time. We are talking about an international phenomenon here, not just a local incident."
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