In today's edition of The Globe and Mail
, Doug Saunders has written ("Political star stripped of citizenship"
about the effective lustration of former Dutch citizen and former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali
. She lied on her refugee papers, and now, notoriously strict Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has removed her physical presence from the Dutch polity.
Her falsehoods were of a sort committed by many refugee claimants. Rather than coming to Holland directly from Somalia in 1992, as she had told officials, she had come first to Germany with a forced-marriage husband, a Canadian cousin, then left him and fled on the train to Amsterdam. And she had changed her name on the form -- her real name is Ayaan Hirsi Magan -- to keep her family from finding her.
The Immigration Minister said that, even though the party had known about these falsehoods for years and they had been part of Ms. Ali's official biography, as a party opposed to illegal immigration they had no choice but to force their own star MP out of government.
During an emergency debate over Ms. Ali's citizenship in Dutch parliament yesterday, Ms. Verdonk defended the move: "I understand my colleagues' emotions, but we're living in a country that prides itself on respecting the law. Rules and laws apply to everyone, and I'm not making any exceptions."
Even Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende seemed shocked, saying he was "surprised by the speed" with which his minister acted, though he said she alone was responsible for the matter.
has noted ("Has Ayaan Hirsi Ali been hounded out of the Netherlands?"
) the tragedy of the fact that Hirsi Ali was steadily being marginalized from the moment of the assassination of her former colleague Theo van Gogh in 2004, neglected by a left supposedly committed to the universality of freedom and cruelly treated by her allies on the right.
The left deserted her when she spoke out against the Muslim patriarchy. They drove her into the arms of a political party that scarcely sympathised with her for any reason other than her opposition to Shariah. You can hardly blame her for trying to find a niche in politics as a platform from which to expound her ideas. Clearly it was the wrong sort of platform for a person with such a single-minded focus on a single issue. But the options she was given were not very wide either. Now she has fallen into the arms of the American right who will, no doubt, want to use her for the same purpose that her erstwhile party did. I'm not trying to deny her own agency in reaching this situation, but it is scandalous that an immigrant has to join an anti-immigration party and then a radical right-wing think tank in order to put across a feminist message.
This is quite true. It's also quite true, unfortunately, that for many people this commitment to Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment values is only tactical where people of immigrant stock are concerned, that this is used as a cudgel with which to bludgeon outsiders. As Saunders noted, Hirsi Ali isn't the only person of immigrant stock in the Netherlands to be strung up by Verdonk's strict application of the laws:
The harsh turn against immigration in the Netherlands seems to be costing the country many of its most loyal citizens. Earlier this year, Ms. Verdonk insisted on deporting Taida Pasic, a straight-A high-school student who had become a star of her community after arriving as a refugee from Kosovo at age 12. On the grounds that she had applied using the wrong procedure, Ms. Verdonk ordered the girl expelled. Immigration officials handcuffed her in front of her classmates and deported her, two months before her final exams.
Ms. Ali has somewhat better prospects. She said yesterday that she had taken a job with the American Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think-tank in Washington.
The law applied without room for mercy leaves those people with social capital better off than those people without. "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
Here's to the forlorn hope that, one day soon, a bit of this majestic equality will be shed for humanity's sake, by which I mean to say for the sake of the Other.