Ayaan Hirsi Ali: hero or phony?
Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk claims to be decisive and consistent; she "steers a straight course through the sea". She says her immigration and asylum policies are strict but fair.
Perhaps then the Liberal Party (VVD) minister could tell us the difference between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Taida Pasic?
Somali-born Hirsi Ali lied when she was 22 in order to get asylum in the Netherlands and improve her life.
Kosovar Taida Pasic, 18, effectively lied to get a tourist visa to re-enter the Netherlands in 2005 to complete the Dutch education she was receiving before her family was refused asylum here.
Verdonk took a personal interest in ensuring Pasic, whom she publicly branded a liar, was deported from the country before she could take her final exams here. She has to do that in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
How decisive and consistent. Verdonk does not like liars, she says, and liars don't get past her immigration officials. Well not now, anyway. Hirsi Ali is a different story.
*sidebar1*Verdonk says Hirsi Ali would not have got in to the Netherlands had she been minister at the time. However Hirsi Ali has nothing to fear now despite the porkies she told 14 years ago.
News programme Zembla reported on 11 May that Hirsi Ali hid her actual name, Hirsi Magan, and her age when she sought asylum here in 1992. Immigration officials might otherwise have established she was under the care of the UNHCR in Kenya.
She was granted asylum here in a record five weeks. How come?
She told a heart-rending story about having to flee Somalia to escape an arranged marriage, went to a refugee camp in Kenya, and from there got to the Netherlands. Once here, she faced the constant fear of retribution from her angry family.
The right story for an asylum seeker. And she has made good in the intervening years. A member of parliament for the VVD, she has not flinched from her criticism of aspects of Islam and Muslim immigration despite numerous death threats.
She is accompanied by bodyguards everywhere she goes because of the threats and the murder of director Theo van Gogh. They collaborated on the short film Submission.
She has impressed the world - and annoyed many people too - by her forthright support of freedom of speech during the Danish cartoon controversy. Her ability to draw on her own experiences of the ill treatment of women and female circumcision lend great weight to her campaigning for emancipation of Muslim women.
It is disconcerting therefore to hear how cavalier Hirsi Ali can be when faced with questions about contradictions in her past. She admitted them on Zembla. She doesn't think this is a big deal.
Hirsi Ali was living in Kenya for over 10 years before coming here and didn't experience five civil wars in Somalia as prominent VVD member and current EU commissioner Neelie Kroes claimed in 2002.
Hirsi Ali said, and the VVD confirms, she told them back then she had lied to the immigration service. Why then did the VVD present Hirsi Ali as a person who survived the turmoil in Somalia?
And if Hirsi Ali was so afraid of retribution from her family why did she contact a Dutch-based family member on arrival. Why did she appear in a documentary made by the Dutch Muslim broadcaster within a year? Why did she maintain contact with her father? And why did members of her family tell Zembla that Hirsi Ali was present and happy at her wedding when she maintained she was neither.
There are some anomalies here but it is important to keep this in perspective. As she said herself: asylum seekers tend to gild the lily to ensure they get residence permits. Who among us would not have told a few white lies to ensure a better life?
Hirsi Ali has bettered her life, and has championed causes that need determined champions. But one nagging question remains. Why is this former asylum seeker a member of the same party as Verdonk? This is the minister who wants to deport gays and Christian converts back to Iran. This is the minister who has vowed to keep economic migrants masquerading as refugees from getting into the country.
Why is it OK for Hirsi Ali to lie to make a better life for herself in the Netherlands, but Pasic can't even be allowed to stay a few weeks extra to finish her exams?
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[Copyright Expatica 2006]
Subject: Dutch news