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The Hague in turmoil: Ayaan versus "Iron" Rita

by Nomad Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:35:49 PM EST

Promoted & slightly edited by DoDo

   As much as I appreciate living in the Netherlands, today I am not proud. Today, the Netherlands show once again their tremendous pettiness they can level against flamboyant persons and characters. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial member of parliament from the (right-wing) party VVD, who wrote the script of the equally controversial movie "Submission", resigned today from the Dutch parliament with an emotional speech, flanked by Minister of Finances Zalm (also VVD), who was similarly emotional.

Even pettier is that Ayaan, although she had already announced her upcoming departure from the Netherlands, is being sacrificed in the internal power-struggle within the VVD.

It's instructive to follow how Hirsi Ali seems to have ended up in the power struggle within the VVD between Rita Verdonk, the Minister of Integration, and Mark Rutte, now Secretary of Education.

Even as I write, Rita Verdonk, the mover behind this emotional storm, may find she has overplayed her card. The Dutch Parliament is wroth and a motion is in the making to change the course Verdonk has set - possibly creating a collision course which could even lead to the resignation of Verdonk. Although I personally think the latter is not likely to happen, this is a night of turmoil in The Hague.

Update [2006-5-17 3:43:11 by Nomad]:: As expected, Verdonk buckled under the motion and now needs to "reconsider" her conclusions. What this probably means is that she'll shelve the report, dig up more dirt and return after three to the parliament with the exact same conclusions... Bah.


The laughing third in this affair and completely absent this night is Mark Rutte, Secretary of Education. I'm fairly certain he has opened a bottle of champagne together with his campaign team and is watching the live feed of the debate within The Hague. It is Rutte who has been locked for the past weeks in a direct confrontation with Rita Verdonk for the party leadership of the VVD, to be chosen within the next weeks. And Rutte, a rising star within the VVD ranks, is probably one of the scariest people I've seen in current politics: he seems nice enough, he's young, has the looks, some debating skills and has buffed up his resume with smear attacks on the Labour party during the local election of past March, and is commercialising the higher education of the Netherlands following the Anglo-Saxon model. Mark Rutte is, in fact, a marketista through and through and should be kept from the steering wheel of the Netherlands as far as possible. Which is why I hope he will win the party leadership - for reasons I'll tell below.

In fact, the stir-up around Ayaan may be the key event leading to that and to Verdonk's downfall.

It all started the past weekend with a documentary by the public television, Zembla, wherein it was "revealed" that Hirsi Ali had received her citizenship under false pretences, using a different name than the one she was born with. Remarkably, in the book that Hirsi Ali wrote about her life and which was released in 2002, the first sentence reads that she was born in Somalia as Ayaan Hirsi Magan. Even more remarkable is that her e-mail address for the Dutch parliament is also Magan, but never mind all that.

The response of Rita Verdonk, the minister of Integration - who already had to face two votes of no confidence against her in parliament, which she survived by a hair's breadth - must be one of the fastest U-turns in political history. On Friday, she responded on the documentary that no investigation was needed for these new "facts", on Saturday she announced that an investigation would start and on Monday, that the investigation had been completed. A press release followed immediately, stating that Ayaan had most likely given a false name during her procedure to become a Dutch citizen and therefore, according to the letter of the law, her citizenship is scheduled to be revoked, barring further information. She has six weeks to respond, according to Verdonk.

Ayaan had little choice than to resign in this situation - and she did so this afternoon. In tears, but with her back straight. But that is not all. Ayaan, who admitted herself that she only has people either opposing her or supporting her, has driven splits deep within the VVD party which is now fracturing. Bibi de Vries (another of the Scary People around Mark Rutte) has openly called Verdonk's behaviour "insane" and has insinuated that if now something happens to Ayaan Verdonk will have blood on her hands. Verdonk has turned not only the opposition against her, but also CDA, the coalition partner of VVD, and most of the MPs of her own party. The only prominent parliament member loudly applauding the minister for her behaviour would be Nawijn, of LPF fame (the party of Pim Fortuyn) and who is openly working together with the nationalist (racist) Flemish party Vlaams Belang.

In the debate tonight, some remarkable facts stood out. Verdonk had informed the prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, prior to the investigation and prior to the release of the announcement. However, she did so the last time by leaving him a message on his voice mail, and not waiting for his response on this matter. Or did Verdonk not realise that the release would be hugely damaging for Hirsi Ali and did not see the implications it would have? I doubt it, and so did her own party, which had made her promise to wait with the release of the denouncing letter since it would immediately affect a prominent member of the VVD and MP. Yet Verdonk released the letter within one hour after the meeting, setting off the current chain of events. And it so appears that Rita Verdonk, although proudly VVD member herself, has not once sent an e-mail to Ayaan Hirsi Ali during her period as minister on Integration - which she declared angrily in her response to expressed disbelief by the opposition that Verdonk would not be aware of Ayaan's e-mail address. Verdonk now looks either hell-bent on destroying Ayaan's career or completely anti-social with the rest of her party, even with those working on Integration problems, such as Hirsi Ali!

Prominent members of her own party now denounce Verdonk's course of action and the word "incompetent" has been a favourite one this night. This coming from members of her own party, it is especially damning. Not surprisingly, these members will most likely sign for Mark Rutte as party-leader... I'd say, let them. Since if Mark Rutte will lead the VVD during election year next year, and will be crushed at the ballot box - his resignation would almost be a given. Rid of Verdonk and Mark Rutte within the span of a year. A man can dream, no?

But aside from Verdonk, Ayaan too is showing her true colours. She has decided to work for the American Enterprise Institute, as afew already flagged in the Breakfast thread. This being the think-tank that's so far to the right in the United States that I have no tag for it, the think-tank still endorsing the Iraq invasion, I begin to wonder where Ayaan's principles really lie.

The lessons of today: the Dutch politics are making a farce of themselves, Rita Verdonk has exposed herself even further as a xenophobic, border-line racist populist and Ayaan Hirsi Ali could be turning more islamophobic than is even healthy for her. Even so, losing her from the Dutch parliament I consider a loss for the Netherlands and her role in the debate on integrating Islam within the Netherlands in which she led the charge will be sorely missed.

I generally don't report on politics as it depresses me, but the Rutte-Verdonk-Ayaan triangulation was too insightful to leave it lying about. Now I need a drink...

Display:
From what I hear, it is not simply her name. It is that she lied about fleeing the Somalia civil war when in fact she had been living in Kenya for 12 years and that it is also possible she lied about having an arranged marriage (although the second point is much more questionable). Either way, it undermines here life narrative, which she uses as a means of legitimizing her attacks on Islam as some kind of latter day Soltzyzyn (sp?).

I think that her journey to the AEI is not surprising in the least. I'm surprised you can't see here obvious ideological affinity with the institution. She supported the Iraq War. She has basically an anti-Islamic neoconservative. She makes some valuable criticisms of Islam, but she also quite clearly a provocateur who has personal axes to grind and doesn't really show a great deal of ability for useful dialogue or ways forward. Becauase Islam isn't simply going away, even if she may hate the religion.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 12:11:35 AM EST
The debate in parliament, and even Verdonk, focusses especially on the issue of her name - that is it. That she was living in Kenia, or was "married" are both complete non-issues.

I've argued before that for a healthy debate provocateurs and appeasers are both needed in right quantities. The Netherlands was in a desperate need of people like Hirsi Ali who confronted not just the Islam society within the country, but the entire country itself.

Perhaps the Ayaan news is not surprising, but it's stigmatic for the Netherlands.

by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 03:31:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This (from Hirsi Ali's resignation speech) makes me wonder why now? I suppose because back in 2002 she was not a prominent MP but just a persecuted writer?
I have been very open about the fact that when I applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, I did so under a false name and with a fabricated story. In 2002, I spoke on national television about the conditions of my arrival, and I said then that I fabricated a story in order to be able to receive asylum here. Since that TV program I have repeated this dozens of times, in Dutch and international media. Many times I have truthfully named my father and given my correct date of birth. (You will find a selection of these articles in the press folder). I also informed the VVD leadership and members of this fact when I was invited to stand for parliament.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hirsi Ali made the switch from PvdA (Labour) to the VVD and thus was there from day one Rita Verdonk was taking control on Integration matters in the Balkenende governments (I and II). She was an MP in those days, rather prominent and already fastly becoming famous in the Netherlands. Why now? Who knows, but it reeks of petty spite, and a cheap populist stunt of Verdonk, as suggested below.
by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 08:24:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely Rutte's free-market liberalism fits within the traditions of the VVD which has always been on the right wing of the Liberal International, in contrast to D66 who are more closely aligned with the "social democratic" wing of the Liberal Democrats of the UK. Your comments seem to suggest that the VVD is moving even further to the right which surely makes their commitment to the ELD group in the European Parliament even more strange. I would have thought their natural home would be with the UK Conservatives within the EPP.
by Londonbear on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 01:02:21 AM EST
In the whole spectre of Dutch politics, there has been a shift to the right, in response to the phenomenon of Pim Fortuyn.

Yes, VVD has always been with the free-market liberalism, but Rutte (and Van Aartsen, the previous party-leader) preach an even more radical adaption of it. I agree that the course of Rutte is in some ways schismatic with the VVD EPs in Brussels, but Rutte is also very pro-Europe (unlike a big fraction of the UK Tories).

by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 03:37:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As pointed out honestly by Cameron, the natural home of the UK Conservatives is not the EPP-ED (and they are not currently part of the "Christian-Democrat" European Popular Party but of the "European Democrats").

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only support I would give Hirsi Magan/Ali is, first, that I think stripping someone of their nationality for changing their name on the application form (with apparently no actual fraudulent intent, meaning, this change was not designed to help her gain the nationality she was seeking), is appalling, and so Verdonk's attitude stinks.

Secondly, Hirsi Ali criticizes Islam, in a sense, from within, by which I mean that's the religious culture she comes from, and I support Muslims (or ex-) who fight to change the culture they know and originate from.

OTOH... She'd already announced that, though an elected representative in the Netherlands, she was leaving for the States. And she'd already shown that her critique of Islam was one that lined up with a clashista or neo-con view. It's not surprising she's off to work with the AEI.

So, overall, good riddance. And if, as you suggest, this divides and weakens the right, so much the better.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:16:55 AM EST
In Hirsi Ali's own words:
You probably are wondering, what is my real name?

I am Ayaan, the daughter of Hirsi, who is the son of a man who took the name of Magan. Magan was the son of Isse, who was the son of Guleid, who was the son of Ali. He was the son of Wai'ays, who was the son of Muhammad. He was the son of Ali, who was the son of Umar. Umar was the son of Osman, who was the son of Mahamud. This is my clan, and therefore, in Somalia, this is my name: Ayaan Hirsi Magan Isse Guleid Ali Wai'ays Muhammad Ali Umar Osman Mahamud.

(My emphasis) If she wanted to mount a challenge to Verdonk's decision she could.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:39:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good pick.

But I note the 9/11 hijackers from Germany, both in the US and back home, made use of the possibility to write their Arab names in a lot of different ways.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:42:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have said many times that I am not proud that I lied when I sought asylum in the Netherlands. It was wrong to do so. I did it because I felt I had no choice. I was frightened that if I simply said I was fleeing a forced marriage, I would be sent back to my family. And I was frightened that if I gave my real name, my clan would hunt me down and find me. So I chose a name that I thought I could disappear with - the real name of my grandfather, who was given the birth-name Ali. I claimed that my name was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, although I should have said it was Ayaan Hirsi Magan.
In the other paragraph she says her Grandfather "took the name Magan".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:44:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This could be a translation error.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:49:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it is correct, her Grandfather was names Ali but changed his name to Magan so that became the legal name of his descendants. But in traditional societies people often know other people by their nicknames, or even by their parents' or grandparents' names or nicknames. This is all bullshit.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:54:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In any case, I think my point that she did not take on a false name with intent to defraud, stands. Fairly obviously this has been brought up now to score cheap points off her by sticking a knife in her back as she leaves -- and is possibly backfiring by making Verdonk look as bad as she should.

Still don't like Hirsi Magan/Ali for other reasons...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 07:09:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the Wikipedia biography is accurate, she has an interesting trajectory, from (sympathising with) the Muslim Brotherhood to the American Enterprise Institute.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 07:10:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've to take issue on that one, afew. Even while Hirsi Ali is an "one issue" woman, she has done tremendous work in the Netherlands to map out the structural flaws within the Islam society in the Netherlands and later on within the Islam itself. Now, on the latter, I think she's starting to head into a direction I do not particularly favour, and she has never been a tremendously gifted politician, but no one can fault her for not trying. But for the Netherlands as a nation, it is bad riddance, even while it was becoming inevitable she'd choose an even larger stage eventually.

But I'd sincerely believe that a self-made free-thinker as Hirsi Ali would be much better at place here in Europe than surrounded by the arch conservatives in the United States, a country with a very low Islam minority. In fact, I would not be surprised that the people within the AEI are suddenly faced with internal dilemma's themselves: I read that Ayaan for instance promoted pre-marriage, safe sex for women in Islamic countries, an issue which is at complete odds with the conservative christian moral dominant through the AEI! There is every bit of potential fireworks with her next move. The story of Hirsi Ali is far from being over and she remains in my opinion a person whose movements and writings should be closely tracked.

by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 09:05:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair enough, you know more of the details than I do. But as you say, she'd be better in a complicated European situation than a dogmatically manichean American one, yet that is where she has chosen to go, and with an unequivocal AEI ticket.

It will in fact be interesting to see if she sticks to her guns in opposing religiously-inspired sexual taboos (of Islamic origin) when faced with the same (of Judeo-Christian origin).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 10:31:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It will in fact be interesting to see if she sticks to her guns in opposing religiously-inspired sexual taboos (of Islamic origin) when faced with the same (of Judeo-Christian origin).

I agree wholeheartedly with that. Interesting might just be scratching the surface of descriptive terms...

by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:04:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Netherlands does not seem like the best place for her, to be honest...
The direct cause for the ending of my membership in parliament is that on April 27 of this year, a Dutch court ruled that I must once again leave my home, because my neighbors filed a complaint that they could not feel safe living next to me. The Dutch government will appeal this verdict and I grateful for that, because how on earth will other people whose lives are threatened manage to find a place to stay if this verdict is allowed to rest?


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 04:06:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shades of Salman Rushdie's story. He left Britain in large part because of people (not jst right-wing) who'd opine that he should shut up and be grateful for the  millions spent on his personal defence rather than cause more trouble with stating his opinions or walking around town; and also types who opined that Muslim anger is rightful in his case.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 19th, 2006 at 07:51:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, I may've updated this story a little too pessimistic. There's a fair chance a "speciality case" will be adopted for Hirsi Ali so she can retain her Dutch citizenship after all (for as long as she wants to have it, anyway). But also jurists have already expressed their surprise at the brief period it took Verdonk to reach her conclusions and there's a lot of ground to cover if Verdonk stubbornly returns to her course.
by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 08:50:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this!

I don't understand Verdonk. This whole affair seems a suicidal operation.What could she have thought, how else would this move be received? "We don't make exceptions" law-and-orderism? Or, maybe, she feared that not acting would lead to accusations of VVD cronyism?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:38:08 AM EST
BTW, I tried to clean up some confusing HTML and English grammar in your post. Please check whether I haven't over-done it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:39:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now I even promoted it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 05:50:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote this late in night and in a frustrated mood - definitely not the way how I've written previous diaries. Thanks for the corrections, and also (I guess) for the exposure...
by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 08:51:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...relentless on the "law and orderism" yesterday night, citing a case of an Iranian family that was send back because the father had not provided the right name. Cronyism never even entered the picture, as far as I can tell. Not that Verdonk allowed time for it...

The criticism of the opposition is scoring points: the laws on naturalisation should not be adopted so rigidly in the first place.

by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 10:08:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just what America needs: a Muslim Michele Malkin!

</snark>

Seriously, is there a sense in any European country today that you guys have a stake in fighting global, corporatist neoconism? (Maybe Spain is the exception that proves the rule?)

by Matt in NYC on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 10:00:49 AM EST
I know you're snarking, but if you hinted on Hirsi Ali still adhering Muslim faith, you're mistaken... She's an atheist. In some Muslim countries, she could be killed for that alone.
by Nomad on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 10:11:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But this makes her even more attractive to neocons. An apostate Ay-rab! Why, even Arabs think their fellow Arabs are such dangerous brutes, they need to be exterminated at every turn! She is going to be the darling of the Malkin/Sullivan/O'Reilly/Friedman set!

Of course, "she could be killed for that alone." But you could look at this another way: isn't her stand evidence that at least some Arab politicians/thinkers are brave enough to risk death in the struggle for rights most Europeans (and Americans) take for granted?

That was my point: it seems that all we ever hear coming out of Europe these days is support for the neocon notion that (all) Arabs/Muslims, not (just) the fundamentalists, are the new "Communists."

by Matt in NYC on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 08:31:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand better now, thanks. And if true you're only hearing only European thinkers in line with the (pratically racist) Muslims equals Bad dogma, something is, say, imbalanced in the news. Certainly in the Netherlands there is a strong camp of intellectuals and politicians appeasing the line of Hirsi Ali and beside the few radical racists like Geert Wilders and some of the dregs of the party of Pim Fortuyn, there are practically no politicians who'd share that nation. How in the name could they? Most parties have muslim representatives.

I really think that the USA not having a muslim minority is a reason why this neocon idea can spread publicly without so little clamour or protest: there is no integrated brake by an assimilated muslim culture. It is really getting a "us here, them there" theme.

Hisri Ali could become the darling of the rightwing pundits, but only if they would just selectively use her (and they are selective, so who knows). Bill O'Reilly wil probably explode if Hirsi Ali will say that "Season's Greetings!" is really the right thing to say, instead of Merry Christmas. No to mention she won't get chummy with the likes of Pat Robertson by promoting pre-marriage sex for women, like I mentioned upthread... Nor, I suspect, will she get good friends with Cheney's wife, who (I read) has been distributing anti-feminist papers from the AEI, while one of Hirsi Ali's best friends is the frontwoman of the feminist movement in the Netherlands... On several aspects, Hirsi Ali does not fit within the AEI at all with wath her history shows us.

by Nomad on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:47:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's going to be fascinating to watch. I don't know enough about Hisri Ali to predict how she'll behave under Neocon pressure/seduction, but her seeming willingness to work for the American Enterprise Institute is NOT a good omen. And she may simply disappear from public view if she isn't willing to say the "right" things on Fox and CNN. Americans do not like complex "characters" on their media.

To be continued ....

by Matt in NYC on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:47:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does the Dutch system allow the Immigration Minister to make personal decisions on the cases of people known to her? Using immigration law (possibly) as a weapon against a factional rival within her own party would surely be as wrong as to grant favourable treatment to a political ally.

Surely it would have been better for a civil servant to apply the law and administrative procedures fairly, so that justice could not only be done but be seen to be done.

by Gary J on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 04:28:22 PM EST
I shoulds also mention that, even if the actual decision taker was a civil servant, the speed with which the decision was taken strongly suggests that the Minister's interest in the case was well known.

One of the things that got David Blunkett (former prominent British Labour minister) into trouble, was having his private office contact the official dealing with his lovers nanny's immigration case. That resulted in an unusually speedy decision, but nowhere near as fast as the one being considered in this thread.

by Gary J on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 04:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, one would think that she would have been required to recuse herself on the basis of a conflict of interest. One would think that this must violate some type of conflict of interest regulations in place in the Netherlands for Civil Service and Ministerial discretion.

I like the silence of a church, before the service begins better than any preaching. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
by Norwegian Chef (hephaestion@surfbirder.com) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 09:35:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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