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Europe

Controversy Over Dutch Politician Divides The Netherlands

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch lawmaker and outspoken Islam critic, is resigning and leaving the country. Her citizenship is to be revoked after she lied on her asylum claim. But officials may back down on their decision.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be heading to the United States

The Dutch parliament demanded on Wednesday that immigration minister Rita Verdonk reconsider her decision to revoke a Somali-born lawmaker's citizenship for lying on her asylum application 14 years ago.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali had announced at an emotional news conference on Tuesday that she was resigning after Verdonk, a member of her own VVD liberal party, told her she would lose her Dutch passport because of the false information. Hirsi Ali publicly admitted in 2002 that she deliberately changed her name and birth date to escape a forced marriage.

Verdonk's decision sparked a storm of criticism even from within the VVD and parliament called an emergency debate on the matter which lasted until the early morning hours Wednesday.

Majority of Dutch public support Verdo n k's decisio n

Rita Verdonk

Immigration minister Verdonk is dubbed "Iron Rita" for her tough policies

Dutch journalist Rütger van Santan from Radio Netherlands said no one understood why the decision was taken now, over three years after the fact.

"A lot of parliamentarians say it must have something to do with the fact that Verdonk is being engaged in a fight within her own party about the party leadership and that is what is being criticized most," van Santan told DW-RADIO.

Van Santan said that recent polls indicated around 70 percent of the Dutch public agreed with Verdonk's decision.

Va n Gogh's murderer threate n ed Hirsi Ali

Immigration has been a hot topic in The Netherlands since a Muslim extremist murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004.

Jahresrückblick 2004 November Theo van Gogh

Filmmaker Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim militant

Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay for the Islam-critical film "Submission." Van Gogh's murderer pinned a note on his body threatening Hirsi Ali. She was forced into temporary hiding after the murder and now has constant police protection.

"It is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection," Hirsi Ali said.

Hirsi Ali regrets havi n g to leave The Netherla n ds

In her resignation speech, Hirsi Ali said the problems of Islam and integration were still prominent.

"I leave, but the questions remain of the future of Islam in our country, the suppression of women in Islamic culture and about the integration of many Muslims in the West," she said. "I will leave the Netherlands sad and relieved. I will pack my suitcases again and I will go on."

Hirsi Ali said she regretted leaving the country which had given her so many opportunities.

Hirsi Ali will be heading to the United States to take on a position at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. She said she plans to continue the debate on the emancipation of Muslim women and the complex relations between Islam and the West.

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