Etter å ha lest Christopher Caldwells seks sider lange portrett av Ayaan Hirsi Ali har min aktelse for henne steget betraktelig. I Nederland eksisterer noe som heter Friends of Ayaan. Count me in.

I europeiske medier er Ayaan fremstilt som en noe endimensjonal person: filmen «Submission» var provoserende (unødig?), og hennes opptreden er også slik at den må provosere muslimer. Er det oppmerksomhet hun vil ha? hvorfor søker hun ikke dialog?

Det er underteksten i omtalen.

I New York Times-essayet fremstår hun som en begavet, intelligent, mangesidig person. En som er vanskelig å rubrisere, en som bryter med de vante kategoriene i nederlandsk politikk. Det skaper full forvirring. Ayaan lar seg ikke plassere langs en høyre-venstre akse.

Hun er også langt mer skolert enn jeg var klar over. Hennes største ideal er opplysningsfilosofene, og fremfor alle Spinoza.

Vi som lever trygt kan tenke at det er noe teatralsk og overdrevet over det voldsomme sikkerhetsopplegget som omgir henne.

Last spring, Ayaan Hirsi Ali took her »Dutch mother» — the woman who taught her the language and cared for her after she arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee in 1992 — to lunch at the Dudok brasserie, near the Parliament in The Hague. As always, Hirsi Ali’s armed security detail was there. They have been her companions since she started receiving death threats in September 2002.

That day at the Dudok, several dozen vocational students were taking up the 2_kommentar restaurant, so she and her guards parked at two tables near the bar. Hirsi Ali had her back to the restaurant when one of the students, apparently a Dutch convert to Islam, tapped her on the shoulder. »I turned around,» she recalls in her elegant English, »and saw this sweet, young Dutch guy, about 24 years old. With freckles! And he was like, ‘Madam, I hope the mujahedeen get you and kill you.’ » Hirsi Ali handed him her knife and told him, »Why don’t you do it yourself?»

Den som lever omgitt av sikkerhetsvakter døgnet rundt befinner seg i virkeligheten i et fengsel. Det gjelder å bryte ned offeret psykisk. I Nederland er det anlagt flere rettssaker mot Ayaan fordi hun påstås å krenke muslimers følelser. Nylig måtte hun i retten for å forsvare sin beskrivelse av islam.

Dette er post-Salman Rushdie. Så vant ikke Vesten den kampen likevel, selv om Rushdie overlevde?

Ayaan er like viktig. Det vil være et tap for hele Europa hvis noe skulle tilstøte henne.


irsi Ali was born into Somalia’s Darod clan. Her rebellion against her Islamic roots has estranged her somewhat from her father, Hirsi Magan Isse, whom she had always emulated. Her father, who now lives in England, was an iconoclastic Somali intellectual and politician who studied in Italy and earned a degree from Columbia University in 1966. He returned to Africa strengthened in his Muslim faith, his daughter says, but also deeply touched by North America. »If such a young nation as the U.S. could make it to superpower status,» she recalls him saying, »we could do it as well.» An anti-Communist, he agitated against the Marxist dictatorship of Mohammed Siad Barre, who came to power in 1969, the year Hirsi Ali was born.

Hirsi Magan spent part of the 1980’s as a leader of a guerrilla force in the Democratic Front for the Salvation of Somalia. Hirsi Ali’s mother — the second of the two wives Hirsi Magan had at the time — was illiterate but wielded domestic clout. Women had certain narrowly defined areas of power. It was Hirsi Ali’s grandmother who managed, following regional custom, to have Hirsi Ali and her sister ritually »circumcised» at age 5, against the wishes (and without the knowledge) of Hirsi Magan.

From age 6, Hirsi Ali and her siblings shared their father’s political exile, in Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia and then, for 10 years, in Kenya. In the course of her travels, Hirsi Ali learned five languages: Somali, Arabic, Amharic, Swahili and English, which she speaks in a lilting accent picked up from the Indian teachers who taught her at the Muslim Girls’ Secondary School on Park Road in Nairobi.


A crisis came in 1992, when her father contracted her in marriage to a Somali-Canadian cousin she did not know. After a wedding ceremony in Kenya, she followed him on a flight to Canada. During a layover in Germany, scheduled for the completion of her immigration paperwork, she decided to bolt — an idea that did not occur to her, she says, until she arrived in Europe. She fled across the border on a train to the Netherlands, fearful that the Somali-German guardian assigned her by her clan would find her if she stayed in Germany.

She found a job as a cleaning lady (»I would rather clean than beg») in the Riedel juice factory in Ede, a heavily Moroccan city that has since become notorious in the Netherlands as the place where a television camera caught children and teenagers celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Oversetter for innvandrere

She also worked as a translator for immigration and social-service agencies. She interviewed Muslim women married off to reprobate cousins because they had lost their honor (virginity) and no one outside the family would have them. She interviewed battered wives and women infected with the AIDS virus who were under the impression that Muslims could not contract it. She came to marvel — and despair — at the tenacity of traditional Islam’s grip on women who, now living in the West, seemingly had little reason to fear it.

Mediene grep henne

I 1995 begynte Ayaan på universitetet i Leiden, hvor hun studerte statsvitenskap og politisk filosofi i fem år.

911 forandret livet hennes. Nederlandske medier var på utkikk etter innvandrere/asylsøkere som kunne være kritiske, si noe originalt.

Soon she had the chance to talk this way in public. Television interviewers were clamoring for immigrant analysts. She took the floor at a conference in an Amsterdam political club to say that what Islam needed was not understanding from others but its own Voltaire. The national daily Trouw had her write an op-ed on the matter. Asked her opinion of Pim Fortuyn’s characterization of Islam as a »backward religion,» Hirsi Ali replied that by certain measures, including the treatment of women, Fortuyn’s statement was not an opinion but a fact. Muslim leaders began to threaten her and her employers. »Every time I went on TV,» she says, »I got a threat.» In London, her father received menacing calls about her from Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands. Not only Muslims but also multiculturalists were outraged. Hirsi Ali wasn’t impressed. »I was like, ‘I can’t say that?’ » she recalls. » ‘For five long years in Leiden, you taught me to state facts. Now I do.’ »

Det er så man ser for seg en lignende situasjon i Norge: hvis man tar idealene på alvor, får man høre at «det går det ikke an å si», hvis man anvender det på virkeligheten. Det var det Ayaan gjorde. Hun er uredd.


Det er mange ting ved Nederland som minner om den nordiske modellen: innvandrere skal integreres og samtidig bevare sin egen identitet.
Noe av den store sensitiviteten overfor asylsøkere, skyldes at de nederlandske jøder ble sendt rett i undergangen.

Et spesielt trekk ved Nederland er polder-systemet. I 1917 kom man frem en en live-and let- live politikk mellom protestanter, katolikker, ikke-religiøse og andre. De fikk dyrke sine egne kirker, skoler, aviser og menigheter. Da Nederland fikk store innvandrerminoriteter trodde man at man kunne gjenta modellen. Det har ikke fungert.

Frits Bolkestein, den tidligere leder for høyrepartiet VVD, advarte på begynnelsen av 90-tallet mot den gryende konflikten. Han ble stemplet som ytterliggående. Idag deler alle hans syn, men ingen vet helt hvordan man griper problemet fatt.

He argued that certain identities, unlike the old Catholic and Protestant ones, would, if 2_kommentartained, undermine the individual rights that are at the heart of the Dutch constitution. He cited the practice of bigamy, for instance. Where clashes occurred, Bolkestein insisted, Dutch norms must prevail. For this observation, he was condemned as a rightist and a racist. Today, most Dutch accept the validity of Bolkestein’s critique, even if they can’t agree on what to do about it.

Ayaan var opprinnelig parlamentsmedlem for Arbeiderpartiet. Det var Bolkestein som overtalte henne til å stille for VVD ved neste valg. Han ble hennes politiske mentor.

Idag er det en helt annen villighet til å ta opp problemene.

In February, the daily Volkskrant ran an expose of widespread bigamy among Dutch Moroccans. Muslim views on virginity have led to other clashes. There are clinics that specialize in the surgical repair of broken hymens, a practice that was often covered by national insurance until the ministry of health blocked it last May. Genital mutilation, of the sort practiced on Hirsi Ali and 98 percent of girls in Somalia, has been illegal in Holland since 1993 but still occurs.


Ayaan har også motstandere blant nederlandsk establishment. Akademikere som mener at hun glorifiserer vestlig individualisme, og ikke ser skyggesidene.

Andreas Kinneging, professor of legal philosophy at Leiden, and leader of a conservative intellectual revival in the Netherlands, has a mixed view of these matters. Kinneging, who knows Hirsi Ali from her time at the university, shares some of her worries: that the Dutch model of cozy consensus-building among the »pillars» of society is dangerously out of date, for instance. But he is equally put off by the antitraditional agenda of the radical Enlightenment. »Many of the things that happened in the last 40 years,» he says, advance »ultraliberal values that I think are wrong. In some areas — decency, respect, loyalty, care for one’s wife — Islam could actually have a positive influence on our culture. Ayaan comes from a backward country. For her this 60’s liberal culture is only sunshine. She doesn’t see the dark side of it.» Yet Kinneging also says he admires Hirsi Ali as »a politician in the grand style. For 95 percent of the Dutch public, politics has always been a matter of get along and go along. They haven’t a clue how to deal with her.»

Bolkestein mener Ayaans vei er den eneste måten å få til debatt på:

Hirsi Ali describes Bolkestein, the VVD statesman, as her mentor. The affection is reciprocal. He finds her tactics both understandable and necessary. »The lesson I have learned in this country is Geen rel, geen debat,» he says. No ruckus, no debate. Such thinking also appeals to the Friends of Ayaan, as they are sometimes invidiously called in the press — an ideologically varied circle that ranges from far right to far left and includes many of the leading thinkers in the country.


Nederland har sin del av konsensuspolitikere som tror at med en pragmatisk innstilling vil det meste ordne seg. De frykter at Ayaans linje betyr borgerkrig, hvis det slippes løs. Det tror ikke Ayaan. Hun tror man må tore å ta en konflikt. For den er der uansett. Det er bare et spørsmål hvordan og når den dukker opp. Hva skjer når innvandrerne blir så mange at de begynner å diktere politikken. Hva om de ikke ønsker å gi så mye til kunst og kultur? De ser ikke verdien, for det er ikke en del av deres kultur. De vil heller bruke pengene på kommunitetshus, eller moskeer. Hva da?

Bedre å ta konfrontasjonen nå, for ellers vil ytre høyre etablere seg som kraften som står imot. Det er mye farligere.

The present Dutch crisis looks very different if you believe a tribal principle is at work. It can look apocalyptic, in fact. In late February, sitting in an empty conference room in The Hague, clutching her black woolen wrap, Hirsi Ali speculated on one consequence. »The Netherlands is an art country,» she said. »If the citizens of Amsterdam, 60 percent of whom will soon be of non-Western origin, are not made part of that, all of this will decay and be destroyed. When the municipality has to vote on whether funds go to preserve art or build a mosque, they may ask, ‘Why should I pay for this stupid painting?’ They may do a host of other things that are undemocratic, illiberal and unfriendly toward women and homosexuals and unbelievers.» Hirsi Ali fears that inaction will be grist for the mill of an extreme right that is on the rise. »If we don’t take effective measures, now,» she said, »the Netherlands could be torn between two extreme rights»: an Islamic one and a non-Islamic one.

Etter at Theo van Gogh var drept 2. november, rullet politiet opp en gruppe som fikk navnet Hofstad. Flere jenter tilhørte gruppen.

De Volkskrant interviewed several women associated with the Hofstad Group, one of whom bragged of the group’s patience and said they hoped a woman would commit the murder, so that it would have greater impact. In November, a woman came to the Legislature, claiming to be a big fan of Hirsi Ali’s, with a gift for her, a book. She waited for Hirsi Ali to come outside the security perimeter. Hirsi Ali was delayed in a meeting. After a long wait, the girl left, and left the book. It was a call to jihad that had been written under a pseudonym by van Gogh’s accused killer.

Daughter of the Enlightenment

Published: April 3, 2005