Today’s Wall Street Journal features a maddening front-page story on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch parliamentarian of Somali birth who has been facing death threats for her opposition to Islamism. She has just announced that she is finally leaving Holland following protests from…her neighbors at the luxury housing complex where she lives in opulent high security! They have launched a campaign to evict her, and actually had the chutzpah to argue in court that her peresence in the building was a violation of their “human rights” because the threat of terrorist attack is driving down property values and the security measures mean long waits for the elevator! The courts rejected these scurrilous arguments, but ruled Hirsi Ali must leave anyway because her presence poses a physical threat to her neighbors, and does therefore violate their “human rights.” She was given four months to leave in April. Hirsi Ali responded by invoking bitter memories of World War II: “My neighbors seem to confirm the critical veiw that very few Dutch people were brave enough during the Nazi occupation.”
Hirsi Ali’s trouble started when she wrote and narrated the 2002 film Submission, which sought to make a point about the status of women in Islam by featuring semi-clad women with Koranic verses scrawled on their bodies. In November 2004, the film’s producer Theo van Gogh was assassinated by a second-generation Dutchman of Moroccan descent, who plunged a knife into the film-maker’s chest and left a note pinned to the corpse warning that Hirsi Ali was next. She started to receive official police protection. She is now working on a sequel to Submission—this one taking aim at the treatment of gays under Islam.
So far it sounds like she is on the side of freedom and courage. Then it gets tricky. The neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington has offered her a post, and it looks like she is going to take it. Earlier this month, she joined Vice President Dick Cheney and others in Philadelphia to honor Bernard Lewis, the British-born scholar who coined the phrase “clash of civilizations” and helped shape post-9-11 White House thinking on the Middle East.
So it is the same old dilemma—the seduction of principled opposition to Islamist totalitarianism by the sinister neocon agenda—but with an odd Dutch twist: in Holland, authoritarianism, xenophobia and cultural supremacy are explicitly posed as a defense of feminism, gay rights and (somehow) civil liberties. Has Hirsi Ali grappled with this contradiction? Cheney and the neocons may oppose the Islamists, but they are no friends of feminism, gay rights and civil liberties. As should be painfully obvious.
The uncritical World War II analogy also seems to indicate trouble. The comparison of Islamism and Nazism is not entirely spurious. But neither are those of Hitler’s aggression in Poland and Bush’s in Iraq, as we have noted. The Netherlands are a member of Bush’s “coalition of the willing,” and Hirsi Ali took office just before the invasion. Did she vote in favor of the deployment? Her Wikipedia page notes her principled opposition to female cicumcision and oppression of women, but does not include this rather salient fact.
The article also notes that Flemming Rose, the culture editor at Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten who commissioned the notorious anti-Islam cartoons, is considering leaving Europe following a wave of death threats. See our last post on the cartoon crisis.
See WW4 REPORT #35 for more on the wacky politics of the Netherlands.