Northern Light

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The threats are a consequence of my participation in the public debate

The fight for the right to free speech and threats against it doesn’t stop at national borders. It’s a global struggle, but in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali the Dutch government seems to think otherwise. They have refused to pay for her security outside Holland, though she is still af Dutch citizen and the threats against her life are a consequence of her participation in the public debate in Holland. 17 leading French intellectuals have called on their government to make Hirsi Ali an honary citizen of France and pay for her security.
Last week Hirsi Ali spoke to Jyllands-Posten. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Why should Holland protect you when you have decided to live in the US?

“I perfectly understand if ordinary people ask the question. But I have
to say that I wasn’t born with all these threats on my head. They are a
consequence of my participation in the public debate in Holland. The
threats don’t stop at the Dutch border, and my right to citizenship
doesn’t stop there either. But my point is that even though I am
dissapointed by the outcome and it may put my life in danger it’s the
result of a democratic process which I respect.”

But you don’t do so silently?

“No, because at its core this isn’t about me and my security. I am
privileged, and hopefully I will be able to raise the necessary money.
But we haven’t solved the fundamental problem that has confronted us
since 9/11: What do we do with people whose lives are being threatenend
when they use their right to free speech? Especially, how do we treat
people who have decided to leave Islam? Danish cartoonists are being
threatenend because they have made a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. I
am being threatenend because I have left Islam.”

But for you and others responsibility doesn’t stop at the border?

“No, and unfortunately only few politicians seem to get it. I am happy
to hear that Danish Prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has made it
clear that every liberal democracy has an obligation to guarantee
citizens like me the right to speak freely and at the same time feel
safe. But I would like to hear more heads of state speak out and
unequivocally make it clear that the right to free speech is protected
no matter if you say something that the government doesn’t like, and no
matter where you live.”

Why do you think so many politicians have kept silent in your case?

“Primarily because they still think in terms of the nation state and
believe that radical Muslims respect national borders. The groups who
were behind the bombings in New York, Madrid, London, the killing of
Theo van Gogh and the threats against the Danish cartoonists are of the
same kind, though they may have different names. I am talking about
people inspired by Islam that use threats and violence and don’t respect
any borders. They are willing to kill and die for their faith. Because
they are convinced that they will be rewarded in paradise. That’s the
kind of thing we are confronted with. And that’s what we have to
discuss. Not me as an individual.”

What do you think European governments ought to do?

“It’s of crucial importance that European politicians initiate a
principal debate about how someone like me should be treated, and the
Danish Prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has more experience
than any other European leader when it comes to insisting on the right
to free speech could take the lead. Do I have the right to speak out,
but only at the cost of my right to live where I choose? Do I have to
adapt my point of view?
Many people are calling on Muslim dissidents to support Western values,
but how can we do this, if we at the same time cannot count on your
support and protection? So, the fundamental question is: What is the
price of free speech? How much are we willing to pay for it? How strong
is the political will to support it? The answers will determine the kind
of debate we are going to have in the future, especially about Islam.”