Dutch Minister Loses Party Leadership Vote

By TOBY STERLING AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The Dutch immigration minister who set off a political firestorm by threatening to revoke the citizenship of a Somali-born lawmaker lost a party leadership contest Wednesday seen as a referendum on the country’s tough immigration policies. The hardline minister Rita Verdonk caused the political downfall of lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the country’s most outspoken critic of fundamentalist Islam. Hirsi Ali became internationally known when Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in November 2004 by a Muslim radical incensed by the short film “Submission,” a critique of the treatment of women under Islam which she wrote the script for. Verdonk was the front-runner in the contest to lead the free-market VVD party into elections next year until she threatened earlier this month to revoke Hirsi Ali’s passport. Hirsi Ali — also a member of the VVD — quit after Verdonk said her naturalization was invalid because she gave a false name when she moved to the Netherlands in 1992. Hirsi Ali, 36, has acknowledged her real name was Ayaan Hirsi Magan, and said she fabricated her name because she feared reprisals from her family after fleeing an arranged marriage. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende conceded Wednesday that her resignation had damaged the Netherlands’ reputation as a haven of tolerance. “Everything that’s happened has brought negative publicity,” Balkenende said at a lunch with the Dutch foreign press association. “I read the international papers too, but the question is, will it have a lasting effect? I believe not.” Verdonk was defeated by the more moderate Mark Rutte in the party primary. She retains her cabinet post. Rutte won 51 percent of votes, while Verdonk got 46 percent, the party said. Many prominent members of the VVD, including EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, shifted their support from Verdonk to Rutte after the Hirsi Ali affair. A former deputy prison warden, Verdonk built her reputation as a strict enforcer of the country’s immigration policies, among the toughest in Europe. Since taking office in 2003, Verdonk has ordered citizenship classes and tests for immigrants, raised visa fees by hundreds of dollars and began imprisoning rejected asylum-seekers before deporting them. As a result, immigration is half what it was in 2000. Verdonk, 50, had in the past benefited in the polls from decisions similar to the one on Hirsi Ali. She denied citizenship to an Ivory Coast-born soccer player Salomon Kalou, and deporting a young refugee from Kosovo just a month before she was due to graduate from Dutch high school. But after Hirsi Ali’s resignation, Verdonk was skewered in a 10-hour emergency debate in parliament, in which she was criticized by all sides for acting too hastily. Verdonk was forced to review Hirsi Ali’s case, and agree to reprocess her naturalization under her true name if necessary. Hirsi Ali continues to live in her apartment in The Hague under police protection because of threats to her life from radicals. She is unable to speak in public while her immigration case is under review and plans to move to the United States to join The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Rutte, 39, will now stand in national elections next May, with an outside chance of becoming prime minister as leader of the country’s third-largest party.

Dutch May Revoke Lawmaker’s Citizenship

The Dutch immigration minister said Monday that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who became one of the most prominent members of Dutch parliament, was improperly granted citizenship in 1997 and it may be revoked. Hirsi Ali, an opponent of fundamentalist Islam and an advocate for immigrant women’s rights, returned abruptly from a book tour in the United States last week after a political firestorm over her past erupted in the Netherlands. Critics called for her to resign after a television program aired Thursday detailing how she lied on her asylum application when she fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage. Hirsi Ali had admitted the fabrications publicly when she was vetted as a candidate for parliament in 2002, and the country’s immigration minister said Friday she did not face any sanctions over the matter. But on Monday, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk sent a letter to parliament saying that, after reviewing the facts “it must be assumed she (Hirsi Ali) will be considered to never have received Dutch citizenship.” She said Hirsi Ali will have six weeks to formally respond. Hirsi Ali’s spokeswoman Ingrid Pouw said the lawmaker would hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss her position. Earlier Monday, Dutch media reported that Hirsi Ali would announce her retirement from politics this week and would join the American Enterprise Institute starting in September to work on a new book. Pouw could not confirm that. Hirsi Ali’s political downfall would be remarkable, given the prominent role she has played in the Netherlands’ national debate on Islam in the past several years. She became internationally known when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in November 2004. Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay for his movie “Submission,” which criticized the treatment of women under Islam and offended many Muslims. She received numerous death threats and has been under continuous police protection since the Van Gogh murder. The Dutch state is currently scrambling to arrange new housing for her after her neighbors in The Hague complained successfully that security arrangements for her had become an unfair nuisance for them. On the TV documentary program Zembla, she repeated that when she arrived in 1992 she changed her name and birth date on her asylum application and did not reveal that she had lived in three different countries after leaving Somalia. Several of her critics called for her to be deported. On Saturday, she told the AP she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

Closing The Door To Immigrants

PARIS – The curtain falls on a bevy of near-naked dancers in feathered headdresses, and Adir Rafael Pires glides into action. As a set-changer at the Lido, the racy cabaret on Paris’ Champs-Elysees, Pires could not be farther from his desert birthplace: Cape Verde, a rocky, drought-stricken archipelago off West Africa’s coast. But the door that allowed Pires to make France his home may now be closing. France, like other European countries, is taking a harder look at the immigrants it lets in. The drive toward “selective” immigration is inspired by electoral politics, by fears that some immigrants are not integrating and may even be vectors for terrorism and militant Islam, and by widely shared concerns that immigrants overtax welfare systems and compete for scarce jobs. French Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy championed a bill that would make it more difficult for poor immigrants with little education and few skills to start a new life in France — long one of Europe’s most coveted destinations for immigrants. Pires, 24, reached the ultimate goal — acquiring French nationality — at a naturalization ceremony last month after spending more than half his life in France — much of it as an illegal immigrant. His mother, Vitalina, came to France in 1990 on a tourist visa, then stayed on as a live-in maid with a Parisian family. Pires visited her for summer vacation, and never returned to Cape Verde. Nearly 16 years later, mother and son became French thanks to a provision that allows foreigners to apply for citizenship after 10 years in the country — even if they were in France illegally. That is one of many immigrant-friendly provisions that would be scrapped?under Sarkozy’s immigration bill. Sarkozy, whose father immigrated to France from Hungary, argues that France should take a more active approach to immigration by hand-picking foreign workers. His arguments gained resonance after riots ripped through heavily immigrant French suburbs last fall. Sarkozy acknowledges that he wants to court voters away from the far right, which argued that the riots showed the perils of immigration. If passed, the law would form part of France’s multi-pronged offensive against clandestine immigration that also includes stepped-up border controls and deportations. Under Sarkozy, deportations have increased 72 percent over the past two years, with a record 20,000 illegal immigrants expelled in 2005. “France cannot be the only country in the world that refuses to adapt its immigration policy to its economic needs and its capacity to absorb new arrivals,” Sarkozy said recently. “We cannot continue to welcome people whom we have neither jobs nor housing to offer.” Pires spent most of his first year in France in a cramped apartment he shared with one of his mother’s friends. He did not attend school, but learned French from watching daytime television. He saw his mother on weekends. When another friend offered Vitalina an unheated attic room, mother and son moved in together. They shared the kitchen-less, 110-square-foot room for nearly seven years. Still, it was a step up from S_o Vicente, one of nine desert islands that make up the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde and the one where Pires was born. The country’s economy relies largely on foreign aid and remittances from emigrants — which accounted for more than 20 percent of the gross domestic product in 2005. Pires does not send money back. There is no one left to send it to. After he and Vitalina left, Pires’ estranged father decamped, too. He now lives in Amsterdam, and has become a Dutch citizen. Most of Pires’ other relatives live in Europe or Brazil. Under Sarkozy’s draft bill, foreigners would have a harder time bringing their families to France. Immigrants would have to prove that their salaries alone — and not government subsidies — suffice to support their offspring. Pires says that if his mother had been subjected to such stringent requirements, she wouldn’t have made the cut. “Her salary was really low,” he said. Sponsored by his mother’s French friend, Pires enrolled in school. After a teacher told him he “wasn’t college material,” he opted to attend a technical high school where he specialized in operating theater sets. That led to the job at the Lido. “Here, I have the life of an average European — which I finally am,” he said. While it would target people like Pires and Vitalina, the immigration bill would favor a new breed of “highly qualified” workers who — with their higher degrees and sought-after skills — could just as easily move to New York or Toronto as Paris. “ `Highly qualified’ is just a code word for rich,” Pires said. He called a provision that would establish a renewable, three-year residence permit based on capacity and talent “a ploy to keep out the poor.” “Immigrant labor rebuilt this country after the war,” he said. “It’s not right to try to exclude us now.’

Multi-Culturalism Is Not Wanted In Italy: Premier

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has attacked immigration and foreign cultures in an apparent bid to raise his poor ratings before a general election in two weeks’ time. We don’t want Italy to become a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country. We are proud of our culture and traditions, Berlusconi told Italian public radio in an interview. We want to accept foreigners who are fleeing countries where their life and freedom are threatened but we don’t want to open our doors to everyone who comes here, creating problems and dangers for Italians, he said. Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, which also includes the xenophobic far-right Northern League, is trailing the centre-left opposition in the opinion polls. The latest survey, published on March 24, credited the centre-left alliance led by Romano Prodi with more than 51% of the vote in the April 9-10 election, compared to nearly 47% for the right-wing coalition led by Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. On a personal level, only 34.5% favoured Berlusconi to lead Italy again, compared to 43.4% for Prodi, a former president of the European Commission. But, perhaps crucially for the prime minister, the survey showed around 30% of the electorate were still undecided. I shivered the other day when I heard (Communist Party leader Oliviero) Diliberto say on television that he had no problem with the introduction of lessons on _Qur’anic religion’ in schools because, according to him, in a few years’ time half the pupils would be Catholic and the other half Muslims, Berlusconi said. His comments drew a sharp reaction from the Democrats of the Left (DS), the leading party in the centre-left opposition alliance.The fact that the head of the government has not yet realised that Italy is already a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious country says a lot about the government’s understanding of immigration, a leading DS politician commented. A report published earlier on Monday showed the number of immigrants had doubled to 3.3mn between 2002 and 2005, of whom 540,000 were illegal migrants. The report by the ISMU foundation on multi-ethnic studies said immigrants owned 14% of the country’s property and made up 32.2% of its prison population, even though they represented just 5.7% of the population nationwide.

Nicolas Sarkozy Présente Son Projet De Loi Sur L’immigration

Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkiozy presented his proposal on immigration to the Council of Ministers. The objective of the new law is to make French immigration more “choosy”. More details on the bill and reactions are in the complete story. {(Article continues below in French)} Le texte pr_voit ainsi que l’obtention d’un visa de long s_jour sera indispensable pour la d_livrance d’une carte de s_jour temporaire, “sauf quelques exceptions”, lit-on dans un communiqu_ du gouvernement. Les migrants admis pour la premi_re fois en France et souhaitant s’y installer durablement devront signer un “contrat d’accueil et d’int_gration” pr_voyant une formation civique et linguistique. Avant d’obtenir une carte de r_sident de dix ans, l’_tranger devra satisfaire _ trois conditions d’int_gration: l’engagement personnel de respecter les “principes qui r_gissent la R_publique fran_aise”, le “respect effectif de ces principes” et une “connaissance suffisante” de la langue fran_aise. La d_livrance et le renouvellement des titres de s_jour des _tudiants _trangers seront facilit_s d_s lors que leur projet d’_tude aura _t_ valid_ dans leur pays avant leur d_part. Les jeunes dipl_m_s _trangers obtenant leur master en France pourront compl_ter leur formation par une premi_re exp_rience professionnelle, _galement en France, “dans la perspective du retour dans leur pays d’origine”. La r_gle subordonnant l’entr_e d’un travailleur _tranger _ l’autorisation de l’administration du travail sera assouplie dans les m_tiers et les zones g_ographiques qui connaissent des difficult_s de recrutement. La cr_ation d’une carte de s_jour “comp_tences et talents”, d’une dur_e de trois ans, facilitera l’accueil d’_trangers “dont la personnalit_ et le projet constituent des atouts pour le d_veloppement et le rayonnement de la France”. Le projet de loi transpose en outre des directives europ_ennes permettant de simplifier le r_gime du s_jour des Europ_ens en France. REGROUPEMENT FAMILIAL Un deuxi_me volet d_finit les conditions de d_livrance des cartes de s_jour temporaire pour “vie priv_e et familiale”. Ainsi, la possibilit_ pour un _tranger en situation irr_guli_re depuis dix ans de se voir d_livrer automatiquement une telle carte est supprim_e. Afin de lutter contre les “mariages de complaisance”, la carte de r_sident de dix ans ne sera attribu_e au conjoint de Fran_ais qu’apr_s trois ans de mariage au lieu de deux. Le conjoint devra en outre manifester “son int_gration _ la soci_t_ fran_aise” et faire preuve d’une “connaissance suffisante de la langue fran_aise”. Le d_lai de communaut_ de vie permettant aux conjoints de Fran_ais d’acqu_rir la nationalit_ fran_aise sera port_ de d_claration de deux _ quatre ans, et _ cinq ans en l’absence de r_sidence en France pendant trois ans. Un immigr_ ne pourra demander _ _tre rejoint par sa famille qu’apr_s une dur_e de s_jour r_gulier en France de dix-huit mois, et non plus d’un an. Ses ressources, d’un montant au moins _gal au smic, devront provenir de son travail et non des revenus d’assistance. Il devra, en outre, d_montrer qu’il “se conforme aux principes qui r_gissent la R_publique fran_aise”. “Lorsqu’il y a neuf personnes qui demandent _ immigrer en France, il y en a huit qui, aujourd’hui, le font pour des raisons familiales et une seule qui le fait pour des raisons _conomiques”, a expliqu_ le porte-parole du gouvernement lors du compte rendu du conseil des ministres. “Donc, _ l’instar de ce qui se fait dans un certain nombre d’autres pays europ_ens, l’id_e est de r?_quilibrer un peu les choses”, a ajout_ Jean-Fran_ois Cop_.

Terrorism and Community Relations

In this report we consider how the threat of international terrorism has affected relations between communities in this country. We outline existing problems of community relations, examining developments since the riots in the summer of 2001. We recall government policy initiatives based on analyses such as the Cantle report, as well as issues such as asylum and immigration, which although separate from community relations, have frequently been confused with them. We also note efforts to tackle racism in police forces, following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

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Dutch Convert To Islam: Veiled And Viewed As A ‘Traitor’

A Woman’s Experience Illustrates Europe’s Struggle With Its Identity Rabi’a Frank sees her Dutch home town through the narrow slit of the black veil that covers her face. The looks she receives from the townspeople are seldom kindly. On a recent winter afternoon, the wind tugged at her ankle-length taupe skirt, olive head scarf and black, rectangular face veil as she walked to her car from an Islamic prayer meeting in downtown Breda. Two blond teenagers on bicycles stared, their faces screwed into hostile snarls. Other passersby gawked. Some stepped off the sidewalk to avoid coming too near. She tried to act like it didn’t offend her. But it did. She knows what they think of Muslim women like her. “If you cover yourself, you are oppressed — that’s it,” said Frank, a lanky, 29-year-old Dutch woman who converted to Islam 11 years ago, about the time she married her Moroccan husband. “You are being brainwashed by your husband or your friends.” Or, you’re a potential terrorist. “Sometimes I make a joke and say, ‘Oh, you don’t have to be scared of me.’ ” Other times, she gets so fed up that she yanks up her hand under her robe like it’s a pistol and shouts, “Boom!” Frank spoke on a recent day in her living room in this city of 162,000 people near the Netherlands’ southern border with Belgium. “They don’t have the right to treat me different,” she said. “It’s like staring at someone in a wheelchair. It’s not polite. I’m human, even if you don’t like the way I appear.” This day-to-day struggle for acceptance on the streets of her home town is one woman’s confrontation with a deepening rift in West European societies, where the emergence of a 15 million-member Muslim minority is reshaping concepts of national and personal identity. Some European governments have passed laws they say are intended to help preserve national identity. Critics argue that the measures reflect Islamophobia and fears of terrorism triggered by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent transit bombings in Madrid and London. The Netherlands, with nearly 1 million Muslims, almost 6 percent of its population, is particularly on edge. The 2002 assassination of an anti-immigrant politician, Pim Fortuyn, by an animal rights activist was followed by the execution-style murder in 2004 of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had just released a controversial film seen as anti-Islamic. A young Muslim radical admitted to the killing. A country with a history of tolerance is now adopting or debating some of the most restrictive anti-immigration and anti-Muslim laws in Europe. One proposed measure would ban women from wearing face veils, called niqab , in public. Another would outlaw the speaking of languages other than Dutch on the street. Immigrants must learn some Dutch, pass a history and geography test and, to get a feel for whether they can live in this society, watch a film on Dutch culture that includes two gay men kissing and a topless woman walking on a beach. Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, said he was drafting a bill that would ban all immigration for the next five years. “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism,” Wilders said in an interview in his tiny office in the parliament building in The Hague. “We should not be ashamed of it. This is who we are and who we should stay.” In Belgium, some cities have banned women from wearing face veils and burqas , which cover the entire body and face, in public places. A year ago, France barred women and girls from wearing head scarves in public schools. A London school district has imposed a similar ban. The Path of a Convert For natives such as Frank who have converted to Islam, the hostility is often greater than that directed at immigrants. “They think you are a traitor,” said Frank, whose thin, pale face is framed by long blondish-brown curls. “You’re not acting like a Dutch girl anymore. “I’m a Muslim, a woman and also Dutch,” she continued. “What upsets people is that I’m a Muslim first.” Frank can recall the instant she decided to wear a face veil: She had just stepped into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last year after making her first hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and going to Medina, in Saudi Arabia. They are the holiest sites in Islam. It is more difficult, she said, to describe the evolution that took the former Rebecca Frank to her dramatic decision. It began at age 14 as teenage defiance. She developed a crush on a 16-year-old Moroccan boy named Ali who had moved to the Netherlands as a child with his parents. He was exotic, he was different — and, to the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, he was off-limits. Over the years, as the relationship became more serious, Ali told Rebecca he could not marry her because she was not Muslim, even though he was not particularly religious. It’s not about Islam, he explained, it’s about culture. Without consulting him, she began reading books about Moroccan culture and Islam. Then she decided to read the Koran. “I felt like, ‘This is it,’ ” said Frank, whose parents were divorced and who, like many teenagers, was searching for an identity. When Ali took her to meet his mother and announced they planned to marry, his mother said she would “break both legs” if he did that, Frank said. Her future husband didn’t see his family for the next three months. Her own mother was so upset over the wedding that she brought flowers to the 18-year-old bride, broke down in tears and left before the Islamic ceremony began. Her father did attend the wedding. Clothing as a Statement Like most of her Muslim convert friends, Frank said, she found that the process of fully embracing Islamic thinking and dress was gradual. But eventually the clothing became the outward statement of her identity. “I smiled at all the Muslim women I saw in the streets,” she said. “But to them, I was just a plain Dutch girl with brown hair and blue eyes. I wanted to be recognized as a Muslim woman.” She changed her name from Rebecca to Rabi’a and began giving lectures about Islam. After she published an article on Islam in a local newspaper, a woman wrote her a letter demanding: “Go back to your own country.” “I’m in it now!” she thought angrily. The more Frank studied her religion, the more convinced she became that she should take the final step and wear not only a head scarf but a face veil. “It took me two years to convince my husband I wanted to do it,” Frank said. “He really didn’t want me to wear it because of the reaction when we go out together.” Frank had begun focusing on the words of one of the Koran’s foremost ancient interpreters, Rasulullah, who warned that “a woman who reveals her body” violates the tenets of Islam. During her pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with her husband and mother-in-law, she covered her face in public for the first time. Far from feeling oppressed, she said, she felt liberated. “It’s like the song,” Frank said. She began softly singing the English lyrics of “The Veil,” a popular song on Muslim Web sites. They tell her, ‘Girl, don’t you know this is the West and you are free? / You don’t need to be oppressed, ashamed of your femininity.’ / She just shakes her head and speaks so assuredly. . . ./ This Hijab, this mark of piety / Is an act of faith, a symbol / For all the world to see. But on the streets of Breda, covered by her veil, Frank stands out as an anomaly — a curiosity to some, a freak to others. A few weeks ago, her middle son, 7-year-old Ismail, pleaded with her, “Why don’t you take it off? The children are laughing at you at school.” “I won’t take it off,” she insisted. “For me, it’s like driving a car without a seat belt.” She gazed out her living room window at the street that winds through her suburban enclave of brick townhouses and front gardens browned by winter frosts. “I am a Muslim,” she said with finality. “That’s my identity.”

Immigrants Have To Pass A Racy Test; Netherlands Shows Its Liberal Culture

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Want to go Dutch? The Netherlands now has a test for would-be immigrants to see whether they’re ready to participate in the liberal Dutch culture. It includes watching a film of gay men kissing in a park and a woman, topless, emerging from the sea to walk on a crowded beach. Can’t stomach that, don’t apply. Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands’ new entrance examination. The test — the first of its kind in the world — became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies. Taking the exam costs $420. The price for a preparation package that includes the film, a CD-ROM and a picture album of famous Dutch people is $75. The test is part of a broader crackdown on immigration that has been gathering momentum in the Netherlands since 2001. Anti-immigration sentiment peaked with filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s murder by a Dutch national of Moroccan descent in November 2004. Both praise and scorn have been poured on Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, the architect of the new test and other policies that have reduced immigration by at least a third. “If you pass, you’re more than welcome,” Verdonk said. “It is in the interest of Dutch society and those concerned.” Not everyone is happy with the new test. Dutch theologian Karel Steenbrink criticized the 105-minute movie, saying it would be offensive to some Muslims. “It is not a prudent way of welcoming people to the Netherlands,” said Steenbrink, a professor at the University of Utrecht. “Minister Verdonk has radical ideas.” But Mohammed Sini, the chairman of Islam and Citizenship, a national Muslim organization, defended the film, saying that homosexuality is “a reality.” Sini urged all immigrants “to embrace modernity.”

Muslim Groups Slam German State’s Immigrant Test

BERLIN – Islamic groups on Monday vowed to fight a test introduced by a German state this month for potential immigrants which they said singled out Muslims for discrimination. “We will not rest until the state government withdraws the questionnaire,” the spokesman for the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Mounir Azzaoui, said. The conservative-ruled southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg introduced the battery of questions January 1 in which candidates for immigration who are considered unlikely to integrate are asked about their personal views.

‘Conscience Testing’ Spreads to Hessen in Germany

Hessen State plans to implement the conscious test, which Baden Wurttemberg State has been implementing for those who want to become German citizens. Hessen Internal Minister Volker Bouffier made a statement to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Newspaper informing of their plan to implement a test named Information and Values in one month’s time for immigrants who want to become German citizens. Bouffier noted those who want to become German citizens in the future should prove they share the same values of German citizens. Bouffier said everybody, who wants to be a German citizen, would be expected to know and understand the basic foundations of citizenship and added: The internal dependence condition, which is demanded, in the immigration law, cannot be provided with written statements demanded from immigrants. The questioning of becoming a citizen is more than spending a time in a particular country and signature.