I won't be intimidated for expressing my views

27th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

People who object to her criticism of Islam should take her to court rather than take the law into their own hands, Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells Abi Daruvalla.

Hirsi Ali has been moved to a safe house following new death threats and the publication of her private address on an Islamic website just four days after her controversial film 'Submission' was screened on Dutch TV.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was always irritated at the lack of freedom under Islam

Somali-born Hirsi Ali, 34, is herself a former Muslim and an outspoken critic of Islam's treatment of women. Her film 'Submission' which depicts the text of the Koran on the naked flesh of Muslim women, is provoking a furore in the Netherlands.

With the assassination of right-wing political leader Pim Fortuyn in May 2002 still horribly fresh in people’s minds, the Dutch security services are clearly taking no chances and have mounted round-the-clock protection.

But Hirsi Ali is undaunted: "Reactions to my film have been varied and I accept some people are offended, that's legitimate, but in a democracy it is not legitimate to intimidate and threaten someone for expressing her views. I made the film to publicise an injustice that is being ignored not only in Holland but throughout the world."

Hirsi Ali reflects the spirit of today's Dutch society with her conviction that 'tolerance' means Muslims in the Netherlands – almost one million in a total population of 16 million – must accept Western values.

"That means people from non-Western countries need to be educated about democratic values which include the freedom of expression," said Hirsi Ali. If people feel she has gone too far with her film they must take her to court and not take the law into their own hands, she said defiantly. "Otherwise the rule of the jungle will prevail," she added.

Veteran Dutch feminist Cisca Dresselhuys

In 2002, Hirsi Ali left the country and went into hiding in the US for a few weeks following death threats after she accused Islam of being a "backward religion". It was not the first time Hirsi Ali has had to flee persecution. The daughter of a leading Somali opposition leader, she was forced into exile when she was just 10 and was brought up in Kenya.

Even as a child, Hirsi Ali said she had trouble in submitting her will to Allah and her irritation at the lack of freedom imposed on her by her religion became stronger as the years past and she became integrated into Dutch society (she sought refuge in Holland in 1991 to avoid an arranged marriage). "I wanted to be part of Dutch society, to be financially independent, take off my headscarf and drink alcohol." She finally gave up her faith two years ago.

Hirsi Ali constantly seeks confrontation with her outspoken views against Islam and has written two books on its harsh treatment of women: The Son Factory in 2003, and The Virgin Cage, which was published at the end of August (both in Dutch).

An actress reveals the naked truth of domestic violence in 'Submission'

'Submission' is written and narrated in English by Hirsi Ali. The 11-minute film takes the form of four monologues by women praying to Allah: one has been whipped for having an illicit love affair; another faces an arranged marriage to a man she finds sexually repulsive, a third was beaten by her husband and the last is pregnant after being raped by her uncle. Their injuries are clearly visible through their transparent chador.

Hirsi Ali claims more than 60 percent of those fleeing domestic violence in Dutch women’s shelters are Muslim. But Muslim organisations say 'Submission' contributes nothing towards a solution.

Canan Ujar of the women’s federation of Holland's biggest Muslim organisation, Milli Görüs: "This film is worthless and the nudity unnecessary. Emancipation has to come from within the Muslim community itself and we are already working on this by encouraging women to talk about domestic violence, organizing workshops to educate women on their rights and teaching them how to handle threatening situations."

To others, the film resembles more an 'erotic' art film than a political statement. Cisca Dresselhuys, Holland’s veteran feminist, concedes that the carefully choreographed scenes conjure up erotic as

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