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18 May 2006
AMSTERDAM — Ayaan Hirsi Ali is more than welcome to relocate to America regardless of uncertainty about her status in the Netherlands, Deputy US Secretary of State Robert Zoellick had indicated.
"We recognise that she is a very courageous and impressive woman and she is welcome in the US," Zoellick told a press conference in The Hague on Thursday.
In response to press questions, he was full of praise for Hirsi Ali. "She is a very important figure from whom we in Europe and the US all can learn." But the decision on Hirsi Ali's status in the Netherlands is one for the Dutch government, the number two at the US State Department said.
Somali-born Hirsi Ali is famous for her campaigning for the rights of Muslim women and her criticism of aspects of Islam as incompatible with Western Democracy. She resigned as a member of parliament for the Dutch Liberal party (VVD) on Tuesday and announced she is taking up a job with a neo-conservative think tank in Washington.
Hirsi Ali said she is leaving the Netherlands for several reasons. Going to the US gives her the opportunity to address a wider audience. On the negative side a Dutch court has ordered her out of her home because her neighbours are worried her presence could compromise their safety.
The lawmaker has received numerous death threats in recent years for her views on Islam. She went into hiding after the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh in November 2004. They collaborated on the movie Submission which takes a critical view of how women are treated in Islamic societies.
She was going to resign from parliament in September but accelerated her plans after Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk cast doubt on whether she was ever a Dutch citizen.
Verdonk based her 'observation' on the fact Hirsi Ali gave false details about herself to get asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. She was naturalised a Dutch citizen five years later. The Minister contends it is likely that these lies invalidated the naturalisation.
Zoellick stopped off in the Netherlands for meetings with government ministers while on route to Tunisia.
Verdonk said on Thursday that she would implement a motion passed by parliament on Wednesday morning to compel her to investigate over the next six weeks whether Hirsi Ali can keep Dutch nationality. A second motion called on Verdonk to quickly grant Hirsi Ali citizenship if she found the 1997 naturalisation was invalid.
"I will use all the possibilities there are and invite her to tell me about possible room in the law," Verdonk said. "I understand from her lawyer that the lawyer sees there is this room".
"I will also activity look for possibilities," the Minister said.
Verdonk made her latest comment after being summoned to a meeting on Thursday with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and deputy prime ministers Gerrit Zalm and Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.
On Wednesday evening Verdonk told a meeting of her supporters within the VVD that "rules are rules" and as much as she would like to, she could not make an exception for Hirsi Ali.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news
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