French Muslim Minister Backs Hirsi Ali’s Protection Request

French Muslim minister backs Hirsi Ali's protection request

Feb 11, 2008

PARIS (AFP) A French Muslim minister and women's rights campaigner came out in support Monday of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former Dutch deputy threatened with death for her criticism of Islam.

Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara said she would ask President Nicolas Sarkozy to offer Hirsi Ali France's protection and help her cover the costs of her round-the-clock security protection.

“My country is a country of freedom, where freedom of expression is very important, so I would be very proud to be your advocate with the president,” Amara told Hirsi Ali.

Before joining Sarkozy's government, Amara was a prominent campaigner for the rights of Muslim women in France's high-immigration “banlieues”, as head of a group called Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissive).

The 38-year-old Hirsi Ali, who has been living under police protection since the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in 2004, was in Paris to seek French citizenship, with the backing French intellectuals and artists.

On Thursday she heads to Brussels where around 60 European deputies are trying to obtain the signatures needed to secure funding for her protection.

Hirsi Ali is threatened with death for her role in writing the script of Van Gogh's film “Submission”, about the treatment of women in Islam. A note targeting her by name was found on his body.

“I understand I'm provocative but it's to start a debate,” she told AFP in an interview Sunday. “I did it to show that girls and women are beaten, removed from schools, in the name of Islam.”

Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands for the United States in May 2006 following a bitter row which broke out when she admitted lying about her age and name in her Dutch asylum request.

She is currently raising funds to pay for her own protection and works for a conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Hirsi Ali does not receive financial support for her protection from the Dutch government while she is out of the country, and for legal reasons the United States cannot cover her costs.

“The American argument is: Hirsi Ali is a citizen of the Netherlands, the threats against her started when she was serving the Dutch public, therefore it is the Dutch government that has to pay the price,” she said Monday.

“The Americans would be willing to do anything else that was required of them on American soil such as intelligence gathering, which they are doing.”

Dutch deputy prime minister Wouter Bos shot back on Monday that he knew of no cases where a state continues to provide protection for a national who left the country without prior agreement.