“We’re making fools of ourselves in the eyes of the world”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is back in the news.

Round-the-clock security keeps the Somalia-born Dutch citizen from meeting the same fate as her erstwhile collaborator, Theo van Gogh, who ended up shot eight times and half-decapitated. Hirsi Ali’s death sentence was pinned to his chest with two knives. It said in part:

There will be no mercy shown to the purveyors of injustice, only the sword will be lifted against him. No discussions, no demonstrations, no petitions… DEATH will separate the Truth from the Lies.

Sometime afterwards, Hirsi Ali was forced to leave her safe house, when a judge ruled that her presence contravened her neighbours’ rights to private and family under European law (yes, really). She then resigned from Parliament in a row over her asylum application and was nearly stripped of her citizenship (the Dutch government fell in the ensuing hoo-hah).

And then she set off for an outraged-on-her-behalf land of the free and a job at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, where she stayed until the Dutch cut off funding for her security.

In Washington, she had bodyguards paid by the Dutch government. But now the government says it cannot pay indefinitely, and it is time she took care of herself.

“It has been a considerably long period that she has gotten protection,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Friday in his weekly post-Cabinet news conference.
Hirsi Ali returned to the Netherlands on Monday after the government indicated it would give no further extensions to its 12-month offer of protection, which expired in July. She already received two reprieves.

On arrival, she was hustled to a government safe house and has not spoken to reporters. Her lawyer, Bettina Bohler, said in an e-mail that she “cannot comment on any issue regarding her case.”

Earlier this week, Bohler said her client intended to return to the United States and pay for her own protection, but needed time to make the arrangements.

Balkenende said Hirsi Ali should have begun thinking earlier about new security arrangements. “You can also take the initiative yourself,” he said.

This despite the ‘credible death threats‘ she received while in the States.

Dutch reaction: “we are making fools of ourselves in the eyes of the world.” US reaction (mainstream media): “The fight over [costs] is unseemly.” US reaction (blog-style):

What has the American government been doing? Has it offered to pay for her protection? For that matter, has the American government thought about establishing a permanent security force that can be called on whenever speakers on Islam feel the need for such protection? Otherwise, the situation will become like that in Europe, and in the Netherlands itself — where many will simply fall silent, and a large part of what constitutes free speech will have been silenced.

Update: Dutch blogger, Klein Verzet (slogan: “a little finger in an increasingly soggy dyke”) says that the Dutch PM (and Harry Potter look-alike), Jan Peter Balkenende, has advised Hirsi Ali to leave the country, while the Justice Minister wrote to her nine months ago to tell her was safe and no longer needed protection (letter here, if you read Dutch).

Balkenende was fresh from celebrating Iftar, the end of Ramadan, with the Saudi and Malaysian ambassadors.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights unites Islam and the West, he told them, arguing that both were inspired for the desire for a world “in which all people are free to choose their religion and express their opinions.”

You know as well as I do that there are tensions in the Netherlands, which are often linked to religious differences. You also know that there are people in the Netherlands who are afraid or feel excluded. At the same time, you are aware of positive developments here. We are working hard in this country to promote mutual respect, safety and trust. This is an absolute priority for the Dutch government…