Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Atheist and the Apostate


Over at the Los Angeles Times, Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, and Salman Rushdie chide the Dutch government for "abandoning Ayaan Hirsi Ali to fanatics." (The LAT version seems to have disappeared, though it can still be read here.) Breeze through the first half, which is mostly a recapitulation of Hirsi Ali's now well-known history, to get the meat: Rushdie and Harris's harsh words for Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende:

It is important to realize that Hirsi Ali may be the first refugee from Western Europe since the Holocaust. As such, she is a unique and indispensable witness to both the strength and weakness of the West: to the splendor of open society, and to the boundless energy of its antagonists. She knows the challenges we face in our struggle to contain the misogyny and religious fanaticism of the Muslim world, and she lives with the consequences of our failure each day. There is no one in a better position to remind us that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.

The Dutch Parliament will be debating Hirsi Ali's case this week. As it stands, the government's decision to protect her only within the borders of the Netherlands is genuinely perverse. While the Dutch have been protecting Hirsi Ali in the United States, it is actually far more expensive for them to protect her in the Netherlands, as the risk to her is greatest there.

There is also the matter of broken promises: Hirsi Ali was persuaded to run for Parliament, and to become the world's most visible and imperiled spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women, on the understanding that she would be provided security for as long as she needed it. Gerrit Zalm, in his capacity as both the deputy prime minister and the minister of finance, promised her such security without qualification. Most shamefully, Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister, has recommended that Hirsi Ali simply quit the Netherlands, while refusing to grant her even a week's protection outside the country during which she might raise funds to hire security of her own. Is this a craven attempt to placate Muslim fanatics? A warning to other Dutch dissidents not to stir up trouble by speaking too frankly about Islam? Or just pure thoughtlessness?

Be sure to check out Rogier van Bakel's interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali from the November issue of reason, and Shikha Dalmia's August/September 2005 interview with Salman Rushdie.