World's press slams Dutch over Hirsi Ali
24 May 2006, AMSTERDAM — The saga surrounding Ayaan Hirsi Ali continues to make international headlines despite efforts by Dutch ambassadors to improve the image of the Netherlands.
24 May 2006
AMSTERDAM — The saga surrounding Ayaan Hirsi Ali continues to make international headlines despite efforts by Dutch ambassadors to improve the image of the Netherlands.
The International Herald Tribune (IHT) and France's 'Le Figaro' carried front page stories about the case on Wednesday, more than a week after Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia, announced she is leaving the Netherlands and moving to the US.
Under the headline 'Fight over lawmaker divides the Dutch' in the IHT, journalist Marlise Simons of the New York Times wrote, "Once friends, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Rita Verdonk are now caught in an ugly conflict triggered by the fight for their ideas." The IHT is owned by and supplied with articles by the New York Times.
The article said Hirsi Ali "has been a lightning rod in a country that is moving to the right as it struggles with how to deal with immigrants, most of them Muslim. After two high-profile assassinations, people are deeply divided over whether to be cautious or blunt toward Muslims who settle in the Netherlands but do not adapt to the country's social mores".
Simons also noted that half the Dutch people questioned in opinion poll agreed with Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk for casting doubt on whether Hirsi Ali's naturalisation as a Dutch citizen was valid.
The international media has largely accepted this as the reason Hirsi Ali announced last week that she is leaving the country to work for a neo-conservative think tank in America.
Dutch ambassadors have been writing letters to the media since then to highlight the fact that she had decided to leave the Netherlands before the naturalisation issue arose. This is putting another spin on the story.
Hirsi Ali told a press conference that there were three main reasons for moving to the US. In the first instance, she wants a bigger stage from which to present her views. Verdonk's letter about her naturalisation and a court order forcing her of her rented apartment in The Hague caused her to accelerate the move.
Neighbours worried about their own safety convinced a judge that the government should not have moved Hirsi Ali into the apartment without consulting them.
Her decision has been a publicity nightmare for the Netherlands as news reports and columnists suggest that Hirsi Ali is being denied freedom of speech in the Netherlands.
"I don't care for the image that tolerance and freedom of speech are being oppressed in the Netherlands. There is every reason to remove this incorrect impression," Balkenende said recently.
Following confirmation by Foreign Minister Ben Bot that the affair had damaged the country’s image, Balkenende ordered Dutch ambassadors around the world to mount a charm offensive, but it doesn't seem to be working.
Conservative French newspaper 'Le Figaro' focused on Wednesday on the 'Iron Lady' Rita Verdonk. While the Minister declined to talk to the paper about her role in the Hirsi Ali affair, she was certain of one thing about herself: she will survive the political storm.
The Wall Street Journal publicised a comment piece entitled 'Dutch Disease' and Germany's 'Die Welt' carried the headline: Dutch break Islamic critic's spirit'.
International politicians have also weighed in. Daniël Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, described the case as "scandalous". He said the image of Dutch tolerance had been totally changed and he asked Verdonk of kicking Hirsi Ali when she was down.
The Flemish Liberal Party (VLD) of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has even suggested giving Hirsi Ali a Belgian passport should she lose her Dutch one.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news