Dutch Islam critic Hirsi Ali declines Danish asylum offer

A former Dutch parliamentarian of Somali origin facing death threats for criticising Islam declined an asylum offer from Denmark on Tuesday, saying she wanted to return to the United States. “I am very touched and thank (Denmark) with all my heart,” said Ayaan Hirsi Ali in an interview with the Jyllands-Posten daily published Tuesday. “But my home and my work are in the United States and I am concentrating now on trying to get funds to ensure my security out there,” she said…

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: A refugee from Western Europe

By Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie As you read this, Ayaan Hirsi Ali sits in a safe house with armed men guarding her door. She is one of the most poised, intelligent and compassionate advocates of freedom of speech and conscience alive today, and for this she is despised in Muslim communities throughout the world. The details of her story have been widely reported, but bear repeating, as they illustrate how poorly equipped we are to deal with the threat of Muslim extremism in the West. Hirsi Ali first fled to the Netherlands as a refugee from Somalia in 1992 after declining to submit to a forced marriage to a man she did not know. Once there, in hiding from her family, she began working as a cleaning lady. But this cleaning lady spoke Somali, Arabic, Amharic, Swahili, English and was quickly learning Dutch, so she soon found work as a translator for other Somali refugees, many of whom, like herself, were casualties of Islam…

We Are Making Fools of Ourselves in the Eyes of the World

[ By Leon de Winter in Amsterdam] Fear of fanatical Islamists prompted Ayaan Hirsi Ali to leave the Netherlands, her adopted home, and now she has been forced to return. Paying for her bodyguards in the United States is too expensive for the Dutch government — what a disgrace. There are exactly five people that the Dutch government has to protect against death threats from radical Islamists. This sort of protection is expensive. Society bears the costs because freedom of opinion, a cornerstone of our culture, is on the line. The extremists, for their part, are prepared to risk their own lives to kill those under government protection. The costs of protection are completely disproportionate to the outcome: the continued existence of our values and norms.

Controversial Former MP Hirsi Ali Defends Committee for Ex-Muslims

{Some prominent Dutch personalities have recently collided over how to respond to the newly created Committee for Ex-Muslims. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former MP and Dutch intellectual, supports the Committee and its chairman Ehsan Jami, also a current MP. For more information about Hirsi Ali and the Committee for ex-Muslims, see the [Netherlands country profile.->http://www.euro-islam.info/spip/article.php3?id_article=294} Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial former Dutch MP who now works for a conservative American think-tank in Washington, has strongly criticised the Labour party for its attitude towards Labour councillor and chairman of the ex-Muslim committee Ehsan Jami. Hirsi Ali, who has the same spokeswoman as Jami, told the Dutch press that the Labour party seems to have more solidarity with intolerant fundamentalists than _freedom fighters’ such as Jami. Hirsi Ali said she supports Jami and condemned the _barbarians’ who attacked him. Jami was placed under police protection last week following an attack by three men believed to be Islamic fundamentalists. Jami has made a number of controversial statements about Islam. Labour leader Wouter Bos has made it clear that his party will not support the ex-Muslim committee and said he was unhappy with the way Jami has chosen to attract attention for problems within the Muslim community.

It’s time for all Muslim women to stand up to male domination wrote Mukhtar Mai

Mukhtar Mai’s compelling story is one of “Heather’s Picks.” She is a Muslim woman who has suffered terrible violence in the name of “tradition.” There are few like her who have the courage to confront their cultural misogyny. She has refused to embrace silence and is determined to overturn centuries-old attitudes. New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof has placed her in the company of history’s greatest personalities. Gloria Steinem has lauded her extraordinary character. She has inspired Muslim women who are fed up with the miserable status quo of their gender in many Muslim cultures. Unlike Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she has not rejected Islam, nor made defamatory declarations against Prophet Mohammed. Instead, she has deepened her Islamic faith, choosing to tread in the footsteps of the Prophet. Her memoir, In the Name of Honor, was recently released without much fanfare (…) Mai was determined to combat the enemy: illiteracy. As government funds dwindled, she tried to keep the school running from her own meagre savings. It was clear to her that a child’s education was far more valuable than personal wealth. As her story reached the world, donations poured in. The Canadian International Development Agency and Margaret Huber, Canada’s ambassador to Pakistan, were instrumental in providing moral and financial support. In her memoir, Mai gratefully acknowledges Canada as one of the few nations to come through in her time of need. Mai has shunned the limelight, and has no immediate plans for a book tour. Her last trip to the United States was fraught with interference from the Pakistani government. (…)

Muslim Women Glad Hirsi Ali Left Netherlands

For three years Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali galvanised Dutch society with a frank account of her traumatic past and her conviction that Islam is a violent, misogynous religion. That conviction led to death threats, the murder of her associate, filmmaker Theo van Gogh and, her critics say, the alienation of precisely those she aimed to engage as relations between Muslims and non-Muslims deteriorated as never before. Now almost a year since the former Dutch parliamentarian hit headlines worldwide for admitting she lied to gain asylum in the Netherlands, many of the Dutch-Muslim women Hirsi Ali sought to stir and inspire state bluntly they are relieved she is gone. The 37-year-old now works for a U.S. think-tank, while her international profile as an ex-Muslim critic of Islam soars. “I am glad that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is gone, because now the tone has softened, it has become less extreme and tensions have eased,” said Nermin Altintas, who runs an education centre for migrant women.

We, Myself and I

By RUTH LA FERLA FOR Aysha Hussain, getting dressed each day is a fraught negotiation. Ms. Hussain, a 24-year-old magazine writer in New York, is devoted to her pipe-stem Levi’s and determined to incorporate their brash modernity into her wardrobe while adhering to the tenets of her Muslim faith. ”It’s still a struggle,” Ms. Hussain, a Pakistani-American, confided. ”But I don’t think it’s impossible.” Ms. Hussain has worked out an artful compromise, concealing her curves under a mustard-tone cropped jacket and a tank top that is long enough to cover her hips. Some of her Muslim sisters follow a more conservative path. Leena al-Arian, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, joined a women’s worship group last Saturday night. Her companions, who sat cross-legged on prayer mats in a cramped apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood, were variously garbed in beaded tunics, harem-style trousers, gauzy veils and colorful pashminas. Ms. Arian herself wore a loose-fitting turquoise tunic over fluid jeans. She covered her hair, neck and shoulders with a brightly patterned hijab, the head scarf that is emblematic of the Islamic call to modesty. Like many of her contemporaries who come from diverse social and cultural backgrounds and nations, Ms. Arian has devised a strategy to reconcile her faith with the dictates of fashion — a challenge by turns stimulating and frustrating and, for some of her peers, a constant point of tension. Injecting fashion into a traditional Muslim wardrobe is ”walking a fine line,” said Dilshad D. Ali, the Islam editor of Beliefnet.com, a Web site for spiritual seekers. A flash point for controversy is the hijab, which is viewed by some as a politically charged symbol of radical Islam and of female subjugation that invites reactions from curiosity to outright hostility. In purely aesthetic terms, the devout must work to evolve a style that is attractive but not provocative, demure but not dour — friendly to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. ”Some young women follow the letter of the rule,” Ms. Ali observed. Others are more flexible. ”Maybe their shirts are tight. Maybe the scarf is not really covering their chest, and older Muslim women’s tongues will wag.” The search for balance makes getting dressed ”a really intentional, mindful event in our lives every day,” said Asra Nomani, the outspoken author of ”Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam” (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). Clothing is all the more significant, Ms. Nomani said, because what a Muslim woman chooses to wear ”is a critical part of her identity.” Many younger women seek proactively to shape that identity, adopting the hijab without pressure from family or friends, or from the Koran, which does not mandate covering the head. ”Family pressure is the exception, not the rule,” said Ausma Khan, the editor of Muslim Girl, a new magazine aimed at young women who, when it come to dress, ”make their own personal choice.” The decision can be difficult. Today few retailers cater to a growing American Muslim population that is variously estimated to be in the range of three to seven million. ”Looking for clothes that are covering can be a real challenge when you go to a typical store,” Ms. Khan said. Only a couple of years ago, Nordstrom conducted a fashion seminar at the Tysons Corner Center mall in McLean, Va., a magnet for affluent Muslim women in suburban Washington. The store sought to entice them with a profusion of head scarves, patterned blouses and subdued tailored pieces, but for the most part missed the nuances, said shoppers who attended the event. They were shown calf-length skirts and short-sleeve jackets of a type prohibited for the orthodox, who cover their legs and arms entirely. ”For me the biggest struggle is to find clothes in the department stores,” said Ms. Arian, who has worn the hijab since she was 13. She scours the Web and stores like Bebe, Zara, Express and H & M for skirts long enough to meet her standards. The majority, gathered through the hips, are ”not very flattering on women with curves,” she said, chuckling ruefully, ”and a lot of Middle Eastern women have curves.” Maryah Qureshi, a graduate student in Chicago, has a similarly tricky time navigating conventional stores. ”When we do find a sister-friendly item,” she said, ”we tend to buy it in every color.” Tam Naveed, a young freelance writer in New York, has devised an urbane uniform, tweed pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a snugly fastened scarf that dramatically sets off her features. Ms. Nomani, the author, improvises her own head covering by wearing a hoodie or a baseball cap to mosque. ”I call it ghetto hijab,” she said tartly. For everyday, she buys shirtdresses at the Gap. ”They cover your backside, but they’re still the Gap. That kind of gives you a visa between the two worlds.” In its fashion pages, Muslim Girl addresses concerns about fashion by encouraging young readers to mix and match current designs from a variety of sources, and reinforces the message that religion and fashion need not be mutually exclusive. ”We are trying to keep our finger on the pulse of what women want,” Ms. Khan said. Fashion pages, shown alongside columns offering romantic advice and articles on saving the environment, are among the more popular for the magazine’s teenage readers, she said, adding that the magazine’s circulation of 50,000 is expected to double next year. Aspiring style-setters also find inspiration on retail Web sites like Artizara.com, which offers a high-neck white lace shirtdress and a sleeveless wrap jumper; and thehijabshop.com, with its elasticized hijabs, which can be slipped over the head. Some women seek out fashions from a handful of designers who cater to them. ”I think people like me are starting to see that Muslim women make up a significant market and are expressing their entrepreneurial spirit,” said Brooke Samad, a 28-year-old Muslim woman who designs kimono-sleeve wrap coats and floor-length interpretations of the pencil skirt out of a guest room in her home in Highland Hills, N.J. ”We follow trends, but we do keep to our guidelines,” said Ms. Samad, whose label is called Marabo. ”And we’re careful with the fabrics to make sure they aren’t too clingy.” Today fashion itself is more in tune with the values of Islam, revealing styles having given way to a relatively modest layered look. Elena Kovyrzina, the creative director of Muslim Girl, pointed to of-the-moment runway designs, any one of which might be appropriate for the magazine’s fashion pages: a voluminous Ungaro blouse with a high neck and full, flowing sleeves; a billowing Marni coat discreetly belted at the waist; and a Prada satin turban. Among the more free-spirited looks Ms. Kovyrzina singled out was a DKNY long-sleeve shirt and man-tailored trousers, topped with a hair-concealing baseball cap. There are Muslim women who choose to cover as part of a journey of self-discovery. In ”Infidel” (Free Press, 2007), her memoir of rebellion, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recalls as a girl wearing a concealing long black robe. ”It had a thrill to it,” Ms. Hirsi Ali writes, ”a sensuous feeling. It made me feel powerful: underneath this screen lay a previously unsuspected but potentially lethal femininity. I was unique.” But adopting the hijab also invites adversity. A survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last year found that nearly half of Americans believe that Islam encourages the oppression of women. Referring to that survey, Ms. Hussain, the New York journalist, observed, ”Many of these people think, ‘Oh, if a woman is covered, she must be oppressed.’ ” Still, after 9/11, Ms. Hussain made a point of wearing the hijab. ”Politically,” she said, ”it lets people know you’re not trying to hide from them.” Among the young, Ms. Nomani said, ”there is a pressure to show your colors.” ”Young people aren’t empowered enough to change foreign policy,” she said, so they adopt a hybrid of modern and Muslim garb, which is ”their way to say, ‘I’m Muslim and I’m proud.’ ” Such bravado has its perils.
Jenan Mohajir, a member of the prayer group near the University of Chicago, spoke with some bitterness about being waylaid as she traveled. Ms. Mohajir, who works with the Interfaith Youth Core, which promotes cooperation among religions, recalled an official at airport security telling her: ”You might as well step aside. You have too many clothes on.” What was she wearing? ”Jeans, a tunic, sandals and a scarf.” Ms. Hussain no longer covers her head but has adopted a look meant to play down misconceptions without compromising her piety. ”Living in New York,” she said, ”has made me want to experiment more with colors and in general to be more bold. I don’t want to scare people. I want them to say, ‘Wow!’ ” She has noticed a like-minded tendency among her peers. ”In the way that we present ourselves to the rest of the world, we are definitely lightening up.”

Analysis: The Dutch Cover Their Faces Before The Radicalization Of Islam

Before leaving the Netherlands for the United States last summer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali said: “I am leaving, but the questions about the future of Islam in our country remain.” With the exile of the Somali congresswoman, the combat against Muslim integrationists escalated, and the polemic over Islam and integration seems to be stomped out in this country. After the 2002 assassination of populist Pim Fortuyn, who described Islam as a “backwards culture”, and the 2004 assassination (by an islamist) of Theo Van Gogh, people no longer dare to publicly combat islamism. {(continued below in French)} Ayaan Hirsi Ali, avant de quitter les Pays-Bas, l’_t_ dernier, pour les _tats-Unis avait lanc_ : _ Je pars, mais les questions sur l’avenir de l’islam dans notre pays demeurent. _ Pourtant, avec l’exil de l’ancienne parlementaire d’origine somalienne, _g_rie du combat contre les int_gristes musulmans, les pol_miques sur l’islam et l’int_gration semblent s’_tre estomp_es dans ce pays. Apr_s l’assassinat, en 2002, du populiste Pim Fortuyn, qui qualifiait l’islam de _ culture arri_r_e _, puis celui, en 2004, du cin_aste Th_o Van Gogh par un islamiste, plus personne n’ose mener de combat public contre l’islamisme. L’immigration, l’_chec du multiculturalisme et les tensions intercommunautaires ont _t_ largement absents de la campagne _lectorale des l_gislatives de fin novembre. Il y a d_sormais consensus des principaux partis politiques pour mettre un frein _ l’immigration. Les lois tr_s strictes mises en place ces derniers mois par le ministre de l’Int_gration, Rita Verdonk, ne sont pas remises en cause. Mais dans la soci_t_ n_erlandaise, l’inqui_tude est toujours sensible. Selon une _tude publi_e l’_t_ dernier, 63 % des N_erlandais pensent, comme Ayaan Hirsi Ali, que _ l’islam est incompatible avec les valeurs occidentales _. Et la moiti_ d’entre eux affirment _ craindre ___l’islam et son influence sur la soci_t_ n_erlandaise _. Le relatif succ_s du nouveau Parti de la libert_ (9 si_ges), cr?_ par Geert Wilders, un ancien lib_ral qui veut _ arr_ter l’islamisation des Pays-Bas _, refl_te ce malaise. Mais alors que plusieurs groupes terroristes viennent d’_tre d_mantel_s, que les _ crimes d’honneur _ font une victime chaque mois dans le pays et qu’une r_cente _tude met en _vidence le risque d’une progression de l’islam radical aux Pays-Bas, c’est encore la _gedoogcultuur, cette culture de la tol_rance pouss_e jusqu’_ la permissivit_, qui pr_vaut. _ Le sentiment l_gitime de culpabilit_ issu du colonialisme, du racisme, de l’apartheid et de l’Holocauste a engendr_ une attention exclusive et particuli_re envers les ethnies et les cultures des communaut_s minoritaires, diabolisant au passage celles de la majorit_ autochtone _, explique _Ren_ Cuperus, membre du think-tank du parti travailliste PvdA. _ Rotterdam, les travaillistes, majoritaires au conseil municipal, viennent d’approuver un projet controvers_ : la construction du premier h_pital islamique d’Europe. Avec des d_partements s_par_s pour hommes et femmes. _ Utrecht, la commission pour l’_galit_ des chances vient de donner raison _ une jeune musulmane, professeur d’_conomie, qui refusait de serrer la main des hommes. Le coll_ge qui voulait la renvoyer a _t_ qualifi_ de _ trop ethnocentrique _. Par ailleurs, l’une des principales banques n_erlandaises, Rabobank, _tudie la possibilit_ de proposer des _ pr_ts halal _, sans int_r_ts, afin de satisfaire aux pr_ceptes de l’islam. Une institution financi_re islamique, Bila Riba (_ sans int_r_ts _ en arabe), a _t_ cr?_e il y a quelques mois _ Leiden. Enfin, pour refl_ter _ l’_volution de la soci_t_ _, un syndicat chr_tien propose de remplacer un jour f_ri_ chr_tien par un jour f_ri_ musulman… _ Pourquoi construire cet h_pital islamique alors que les _tablissements existants proposent d_j_, depuis longtemps, nourriture halal et lieux de pri_re ?, s’_tonne Rasit Bal, directeur de l’ISBO, l’organisation qui chapeaute les quarante-sept _coles islamiques du pays. Pourquoi imaginer des pr_ts sans int_r_ts alors qu’ailleurs en Europe les musulmans se satisfont des syst_mes bancaires occidentaux ? _ Dans un livre paru en septembre, l’ancien ministre de la Justice, le chr_tien-d_mocrate Piet Hein Donner, va plus loin : _ Le ton du d_bat politique ne me pla_t pas, affirme-t-il. _Tu t’assimileras, tu adopteras nos normes et nos valeurs, sois raisonnable, fais comme nous.* Ce n’est pas comme cela que j’envisage les choses. _ Et dans un _lan, semble-t-il, de bonne volont_ envers les musulmans, il assure que _ si les deux tiers des N_erlandais voulaient introduire la charia, ce serait scandaleux de dire : c’est impossible. C’est la majorit_ qui compte, voil_ l’essence de la d_mocratie _… Des propos qui ont suscit_ un toll_, mais qui t_moignent du profond d_sarroi de la classe politique locale envers l’islam. Le premier vote, le 30 novembre, du nouveau Parlement – o_ l’extr_me gauche est entr_e en force – a _t_ l’amnistie g_n_rale pour les quelque 26 000 d_bout_s du droit d’asile, entr_s au Pays-Bas avant avril 2001. Au m_me moment, une p_tition s’organisait contre le projet du gouvernement sortant d’interdire le port de la burqa… Pourtant, les N_erlandais continuent de remettre en cause le mod_le multiculturel: ils sont 70 % _ penser que les minorit_s doivent s’adapter _ leur culture. Les _tudes montrent que le sentiment x_nophobe appara_t surtout dans les grandes villes, chez les femmes et les homosexuels, inquiets de l’intol_rance des musulmans. _ L’id_e de soci_t_ multiculturelle est peut-_tre s_duisante aux yeux des immigrants, mais il n’emp_che qu’elle a fait beaucoup de d_g_ts, _affirme Ren_ Cuperus. Au lieu de contribuer _ faire accepter l’immigration, le concept de soci_t_ multiculturelle alimente dangereusement le ressentiment et la x_nophobie des autochtones, allant jusqu’_ sugg_rer que ces derniers ne sont ni plus ni moins qu’une minorit_ parmi les minorit_s. _ L’Am_ricain Francis Fukuyama, observateur attentif du syst_me multiculturel outre-Atlantique, met lui aussi en garde : _ Je consid_re que les Europ_ens, notamment les N_erlandais, font la politique de l’autruche. J’ai la conviction que le concept de soci_t_ multiculturelle est une _norme erreur. Cela n’a pas donn_ naissance _ une soci_t_ lib_rale, mais _ une s_rie de groupes qui ne se parlent pas. _ mon avis, on ne peut pas appeler cela une nation. _