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Ayaan Hersi Seeks French Protection

Sunday, February 10, 2008

PARIS (AFP) - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former Dutch deputy threatened with death for her outspoken criticism of Islam, was in Paris on Sunday to seek European protection and possible French citizenship.
    "I expected nothing. But with the support that I have received for months from French intellectuals, I hope to obtain French citizenship," the 38-year-old told the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper.
    "In terms of security, my personal situation has become more and more dangerous," said Hirsi Ali, who has been living under tight police protection since the murder of her associate, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, in 2004.
    French star philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and several newspapers have led a campaign for her to receive honorary citizenship. A support meeting is planned for Sunday night in Paris, before she heads to Brussels on Thursday to meet a delegation of European deputies.
    She is also due to receive the Simone de Beauvoir prize for women's freedom, which she was co-awarded with the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.
    Hirsi Ali is threatened with death for her role in writing the script of the film "Submission" about the treatment of women under Islam, whose director Van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic extremist in 2004. A note targeting her by name was found on his body.
    She 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 Netherlands asylum request.
    But Hirsi Ali no longer receives financial support for her protection from the Dutch government, and for legal reasons the United States cannot cover the costs either, she said.
    She is currently raising funds to pay for her own protection and works for a conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
    Thursday she heads to Brussels where around 60 European deputies are trying to obtain the 393 signatures needed to secure funding for her protection.
    Born into an orthodox Muslim family in Somalia in 1969, excised at the age of five and later exiled with her family in Kenya, Hirsi Ali fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage.
    She obtained political asylum, followed by Dutch nationality five years later, becoming a deputy for the VVD party in 2002.
    Hirsi Ali says she broke definitively with Islam following the September 11 attacks in the United States, and has since become a fierce defender of secularism and Muslim women's rights.
    She shocked public opinion in 2002 by describing Islam as a "backward culture", and again in 2004 by calling the Prophet Mohammed a "pervert" and a "tyrant". In a recent interview with British newspaper The Independent, she described Islam as a "new facism".

Source: AFP, Feb 10, 208