PM has ‘no use’ for Hirsi Ali’s cartoon views
10 February 2006
AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Friday he did not think much of the contribution of outspoken MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the debate about the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, Hirsi Ali said she wished Balkenende had as much courage as Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Hirsi Ali said publishing the cartoons is a matter of freedom of expression.
Rasmussen has consistently refused to apologise to Muslims on behalf of the Danish newspaper that first printed the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. He contends his government has no control over the free press.
The Dutch media asked Balkenende during his weekly press conference on Friday about Hirsi Ali’s comments. He was initially reluctant to talk about the issue. When pressed, he said “I wonder whether this will help the debate in the Netherlands.”
The Prime Minister also said “we don’t have much use” for Hirsi Ali’s contribution.
Somali-born Hirsi Ali is a member of the Liberal Party (VVD) and a leading critic in the Netherlands of aspects of Islam. She wrote the script for the movie ‘Submission’ and approached director Theo van Gogh to make it. Van Gogh was murdered by Muslim extremist Mohammed Bouyeri on 2 November 2004.
Balkenende said his government was attempting to bring about a de-escalation in the cartoon row. He told parliament on Tuesday there is broad support for the coalition government’s stance.
Jozias van Aartsen, the VVD’s leader in parliament, said he had not known in advance what Hirsi Ali planned to say in Germany. Noting she had just repeated the party’s stand on freedom of speech, he said her comment about Balkenende was a personal view. “Now, yes. That is Ayaan,” he said.
Balkenende said he supported freedom of speech and totally rejected the use of violence by some opponents of the cartoons.
He said Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot and Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, will visit the Middle-East region next week for talks aimed at reducing the tension over the cartoons.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news