Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the outspoken critic of Islam, is still looking for safe harbor. After Holland and the US both declined to pay for her bodyguards to protect her from Islamists extremists, she has asked France for citizenship.
The odyssey has been a long one for Ayaan Hirsi Ali: persecuted in Somalia, abandoned by the Netherlands and underprotected in America.
Now, though, the former Dutch lawmaker is turning a new direction in her quest for a safe place to live. She has now asked France to grant her citizenship because, she says, she cannot be assured of her own safety in the Netherlands or the US.
"I would be very honored and grateful if I were to become a French citizen, and the question of my protection could be resolved once and for all," said Hirsi Ali, speaking in English in an interview on Sunday with France-2 television.
Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia who fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage, has long been an outspoken critic of Islam (more...). She wrote the screenplay for "Submission," a film that equated Islamic culture with the abuse of women and depicted nearly naked women with passages of the Koran written on their bodies. The film's director, Theo van Gogh, was murdered in 2004 by a Muslim extremist on the streets of Amsterdam. A note attached to van Gogh's body threatened Hirsi Ali with a similar fate.
Since then she has lived under constant security surveillance, and in 2006 she left Europe for the United States. The Dutch government announced last October (more...) that it would no longer cover the cost of her around-the-clock protection. The American government refused to pick up the tab because she is a foreign national, obliging her to find independent funding.
"I live under protection now, but it's a protection in which I still have to move from place to place, and look for donors to pay for my protection," she said.
Hirsi Ali said that she chose France because she had received support from French intellectuals and sympathy from French political leaders.
French Philosopher Henri Levy has championed Hirsi Ali's bid for French citizenship. He has described her as a "brave woman" who "has already proved that she is French."
France's Human Rights Minister, Rama Yade, stopped short of guaranteeing citizenship for Hirsi Ali, but said on a France-2 news program that France would lobby for the creation of a European Union-wide fund to cover the security of citizens who live under religiously motivated threats like that against Hirsi Ali. The fund has the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as France's Socialist Party and about 70 European Parliament members.
"We believe in France that Ayaan Hirsi Ali must be protected," Yade said on a France-2 news program.
Hirsi Ali, who is 37, won election to the Dutch national assembly as a conservative politician famed for her near-blanket criticism of Islam and Muslim culture. She was embraced by anti-Islamic activists in Europe, but drew the ire of left-wing politicians who felt that she encourages intolerance. Hirsi Ali resigned her seat in parliament and left the Netherlands after the government threatened to revoke her passport because she used a fake name to seek asylum in the country 14 years earlier.