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Muslim Activist Could Lose Dutch Citizenship

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The Netherlands most famous immigrant is looking for another place to live. Ayaan Hirsi Ali unexpectedly announced her resignation from Dutch Parliament today, after she was told she would be stripped of her Dutch Citizenship. Hirsi Ali is known for her outspoken criticism of conservative Islam and the mistreatment of Muslim women. She says she fled Somalia after being forced into an arranged marriage. Her version of that story was questioned again, in a recent TV documentary, and she says the reaction is one reason why she decided to quit Parliament and leave Holland. Joining me now is Perro de Yong, he's a European editor for Radio Netherlands, and Perro, tell us briefly, what is Ayaan Hirsi Ali accused of?

MR. PERRO DE YONG (European editor; Radio Netherlands): Well she's accused, if that is the word, of having lied when she put in her application for asylum in 1992, after she had come to the Netherlands. There are three elements there. One is that she used another name. The name by which she is known is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but her real name is Ayaan Hirsi Magan. Also, she lied about the date of her birth; putting it at 1967 when she was really born in 1969. And thirdly, she implied that she had come to the Netherlands directly from Somalia; which was then on the A list of asylum countries - where at least there were humanitarian or other disasters, so that any citizen from those countries would automatically get asylum in the Netherlands - whereas she had spent a fairly long period in Kenya and had actually come to the Netherlands from Kenya.

BRAND: Now I understand that she's not denying this, that she said that repeatedly, she lied on purpose.

Mr. DE YONG: She has, in fact, been very open about this from the very start. She's saying the reason she did have to go to the length of going to these subterfuges, was that otherwise, her life would have been in danger from her family in the Netherlands, even in her country of refuge.

BRAND: So why the furor now, if this has been out in the media for many years now?

Mr. DE YONG: Well this is a very good question, in fact, and it's something that people have been speculating about. One element is that when Ms. Hirsi Ali began her political career, Rita Verdonk was not yet Immigration Minister. She became Immigration Minister in 2003 and she has become known for her extremely hard line and straight-laced policies, saying that she will not make any exceptions for anyone. And obviously, there was a very different climate in force, three years ago, when all of this started.

BRAND: So it appears that it's primarily this Immigration Minister who's leading the cause to eject her from the country?

Mr. DE YONG: Well, the Immigration Minister herself, would argue that it's simply a legal issue, and that what she is doing is simply implementing a law that she has not herself made, or been in any way, active about. The only thing is that, yes, there have been aspersions cast on the approach that Rita Verdonk, the Immigration Minister, has taken. One of Ms. Hirsi Ali's fellow party members made a bit of a cynical joke, saying that, well if, if every single asylum application in the Netherlands - or every single inquiry into the asylum status, the legal details - proceeded as fast as this particular one, which was all wrapped up within a couple of days, then there would not be an immigration backlog. So one of the things that has really been creating a lot of debate is how fast all of this has been going.

BRAND: And she says in her statement today, that she has applied for a job here in the United States at the American Enterprise Institute - that's a conservative think tank in Washington. So, any indication that she might seek citizenship here?

Mr. DE YONG: Well this is interesting, yes. At the moment, there's a lot of confusion here about whether she can even seek citizenship in the United States because she has, effectively, been stripped of her passport. Ms. Hirsi Ali herself, said she was under strict orders from her lawyer not to comment on any and all of these legal implications.

BRAND: Perro de Yong is an editor with Radio Netherlands.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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