THE HAGUE, 02/09/06 - The Dutch like to call themselves open and tolerant, but in reality they do not like divergent views. They pride themselves on being level-headed, yet the media and political debate are dominated by "emotional voyeurism," according to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The critic of Islam and former MP made her informal farewell this week to Dutch politics. Her party, the conservatives (VVD) had organised a symposium for the event on the question of what a 21st century representative of the people should be able to do. Hirsi Ali expressed her gratitude towards the Netherlands, which she said she loves and where she has had so many opportunities.
Somali-born Hirsi Ali left the Lower House this spring following a row about her Dutch passport, which fellow-party member and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk took away from her. Although she got it back again, she will start work next week at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington.
Hirsi Ali considers it paradoxical that she is seen in the US as a bridge-builder between the West and Islam, but in the Netherlands as a polemicist. "The Dutch have difficulty with dissenters. They prefer to team up with the like-minded."
Hirsi Ali also expressed her surprise at the great attention that she says is paid in the Netherlands to emotions that democratic decisions and debates bring about. She considers the media should stop this "emotional voyeurism." Then politicians would automatically give up their "emotional exhibitionism."
Former VVD leader Frits Bolkestein chaired the symposium. He argued that Islamic terrorism can only be combated by Muslims. "That is why the US war against Iraq is so unbelievably stupid. The Dutch government has allowed itself to be towed along by the US."
With Hirsi Ali, Bolkestein argued against Islamic schools. "Separate schools are a harbinger of a divided society." He thinks it will take a long time until the Islamic world will catch up on its arrears. Youngsters there are impatient, he believes. "They say, 'Yankee go home' and then, 'please take me with you."