Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Wilders channels anger
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has returned to the Netherlands with the same message as when she left: Islam needs its own period of 'Enlightenment'.Hirsi Ali is back for one week to promote her most recent book, Nomad. It's her first substantial visit since leaving the Dutch parliament four years ago to live in the United States.
Her main point still is that Muslim integration into Dutch society can only succeed if Muslim immigrants fully embrace Dutch values and leave their own values behind. The two systems of thought cannot be combined.
"The idea that the two can be combined is why the problem has lasted so long, and become so entrenched as to be nearly intractable: people have contradictory expectations."
Once a rising star
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is living proof of what an individual immigrant from a Muslim background can accomplish.
Born in Somalia, but raised in three other countries, she gained refugee status in the Netherlands in 1992, under what were later revealed to be false pretences.
After learning Dutch and pursuing higher education she first went to work for the Dutch Labour Party's research institute.
She received protection from the government after making the film Submission with Theo van Gogh, who was later murdered by a Muslim extremist. Revelations about lying to gain refugee status indirectly led to the fall of the government, and she emigrated to the United States.
Four years later, Hirsi Ali has tempered her approach, if not her ideas. She continues to live under constant protection in the US, at her own expense. But she enjoys greater anonymity and a freer lifestyle than she had in the Netherlands.
In her criticism of Muslim integration, the former Dutch conservative VVD party MP echoes many of the ideas of Geert Wilders, once her VVD colleague and now leader of his 'own' Freedom Party (PVV). Wilders' party is likely to become one of the largest, if not the largest, in the country after the general election on 9 June.
He is currently on trial facing charges of inciting hatred toward Muslims. Hirsi Ali disagrees. She says that on the contrary, Wilders is preventing violence by allowing a segment of the population to channel their anger by voting rather than rioting. Wilders is good for the Netherlands she says.
But she also criticises the Freedom Party leader for raising false expectations.
"I have also learned that you have to translate political proposals into policy, and my critique for Geert Wilders is that his proposals have raised expectations that cannot be translated into policy."
Hirsi Ali portrays herself as more pragmatic than Wilders.
Hirsi Ali's future remains uncertain. The publication of her latest book here in the Netherlands, and the publicity tour she has organised, reveal her ongoing interest in Dutch affairs.
And, in case anyone forgot, she can still stir things up. An avowed atheist, she says the government should promote the Enlightenment - the period in and around the 18th century when many in Europe began to emphasise the importance of science and reason over religion - as an alternative to Islam.
"And for those who really cannot live without God, better a caring Jesus than a warlord like Mohammed."
Nomad is Ayaan Hirsi Ali's third book.