Here's an interesting piece (and I may add one I don't entirely agree with) about the Hirsi Ali controversy in Holland. In it a lot of important details are made clear that right wing bloggers and journalists in the US are happy to ignore.
The Dutch-Muslim Culture War
By Deborah Scroggins
27 June 2005 Issue
In the United States, where few people have had the chance to read or see her critiques of Islam, the 35-year-old Hirsi Ali has been almost exclusively portrayed as a champion of free speech and women's rights. In the Netherlands, however, she remains the subject of intense controversy. Well before van Gogh's murder, she had become a major hate figure among Dutch Muslims, who accuse her of stirring up Islamophobia on behalf of a cabal of right-wing politicians and columnists. Since the murder, a surprising number of native-born Dutch intellectuals have come around to the Muslim point of view.
In a series of "Letters to Hirsi Ali" published this spring in the newspaper De Volkskrant, several well-known, mostly male writers charged her with poisoning the political atmosphere with her strident attacks on Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They argued that by pandering to Dutch prejudices and putting Muslims on the defensive, she contributes to the very Islamic radicalization she claims to want to stop. In a book rushed into print in February, the popular historian Geert Mak went so far as to compare Submission to Joseph Goebbels's infamous Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew. He warned that the Netherlands could be on the road to civil war. "When the time comes for us to tell our grandchildren, how will we tell the story of the last months of 2004?" Mak asked breathlessly. "The tone, the new tone that suddenly had taken hold? Where did it all begin?"
The backlash against Hirsi Ali has astonished and disappointed many Dutch feminists, who continue to count themselves among her biggest fans. Margreet Fogteloo, editor of the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, said flatly that Mak is crazy. "People like him feel guilty because they were closing their eyes for such a long time to what was going on," she said. In what appears to be a Europe-wide pattern, some feminists are aligning themselves with the anti-immigrant right against their former multiculturalist allies on the left. Joining them in this exodus to the right are gay activists, who blame Muslim immigrants for the rising number of attacks on gay couples.
Hirsi Ali's many critics contend that far from being a revolutionary, she brings a message that the West is all too willing to hear. They say that in calling for European governments to protect Muslim women from Muslim men, she and her admirers recycle the same Orientalist tropes that the West has used since colonial times as an excuse to control and subjugate Muslims. "White men saving black women from black men - it's a very old fantasy that is always popular," Annelies Moors, a University of Amsterdam anthropologist who writes about Islamic gender relations, said dryly. "But I don't think male violence against women, a phenomenon known to every society in history, can be explained by a few Koranic verses."
Moors and others don't dispute the existence of the social problems Hirsi Ali identifies. Many Dutch Muslim women do live in segregated "parallel cities" where Islamic social codes are enforced. Muslims make up only 5.5 percent of the Dutch population, but they account for more than half the women in battered women's shelters and more than half of those seeking abortions. Muslim girls have far higher suicide rates than non-Muslim girls. Some Muslim girls, mostly African, are genitally mutilated. But in putting all the blame on Islam, they say, Hirsi Ali ignores the influence of patriarchal custom as well as the work of a generation of Muslim feminists. They point to thinkers like Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud, who have shown that Islam's sacred texts can be interpreted in a more female-friendly way. And they say Hirsi Ali avoids mention of the role the West has played and continues to play in assisting the rise of the Islamist movements. "The rightist forces and the radical Islamists feed on each other, and she contributes to that," Moors said.
Karima Belhaj is the director of the largest women's shelter in Amsterdam. She's also one of the organizers of the "Stop the Witchhunt!" campaign against what she sees as anti-Muslim hysteria. On the day we talked, she was despondent. Arsonists had set fire for the second time to an Islamic school in the town of Uden. A few days later a regional police unit warned that the rise of right-wing Dutch youth gangs potentially presents a more dangerous threat to the country than Islamist terrorism. "The rise of Islamism is not the problem," Belhaj said. "The problem is that hatred against Arabs and Muslims is shown in this country without any shame." With her message that Muslim women must give up their faith and their families if they want to be liberated, Hirsi Ali is actually driving women into the arms of the fundamentalists, said Belhaj: "She attacks their values, so they are wearing more and more veils. It frightens me. I'm losing my country. I'm losing my people."
If Belhaj was sad, another "Stop the Witchhunt!" organizer was angry. Like Belhaj, Miriyam Aouragh is a second-generation immigrant of Moroccan background. A self-described peace and women's activist, Aouragh was the first in her family to attend university. She's now studying for a PhD in anthropology. She scoffs at the idea that Hirsi Ali is a champion of oppressed Muslim women. "She's nothing but an Uncle Tom," Aouragh said. "She has never fought for the oppressed. In fact, she's done the opposite. She uses these problems as a cover to attack Islam. She insults me and she makes my life as a feminist ten times harder because she forces me to be associated with anti-Muslim attacks."
Aouragh accuses Hirsi Ali and her political allies of deliberately fostering the hostility that has led to the attacks on Islamic institutions and to police brutality against young Muslim men. "I'm surprised the Arab-Muslim community isn't more angry with her," Aouragh said. "When she talks about Muslims as violent people, and Muslim men as rapists, this is very insulting. She calls the Prophet a pedophile. Theo van Gogh called the Prophet a pimp, a goat-****er. Well, no, we don't accept that."
Although the press has focused on the threats against critics of Islam like Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, Aouragh says that there have been many more attacks on Dutch Muslims than on non-Muslims. She suspects that what the Dutch really fear is not Islamic fundamentalism but the prospect of having to deal with a new generation of highly educated young Muslims who demand a fair hearing for their values. "We are telling them, 'We have rights, too. You have to change your idea about freedom or face the consequences.'"
Whatever happens to Hirsi Ali, the debate she helped polarize over women and Islam is sure to spread and intensify all over Europe in the next few years. As Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris have argued in their book Rising Tide, the true clash of opinions between Islam and the West is not about democracy but sex. Successive World Values Surveys, in which social scientists polled public opinion in more than eighty countries between 1981 and 2001, have shown that people in Muslim countries share broadly the same views on political participation as people in the West. What they disagree strongly about is gender equality and sexual liberalization.
Denmark has been widely criticized for passing a law in 2002 establishing a number of tests for citizens or residents who wish to bring spouses into the country from overseas: Both partners must be at least 24 years old. They must demonstrate that the marriage is voluntary. They must have a certain income and own a residence with at least two rooms. And they must show a stronger connection to Denmark than to any other country. As a result, the number of people from outside the European Union who were allowed to join Danish spouses or other close family members fell from 10,950 in 2001 to 3,835 last year. In November the Netherlands became the first to follow Denmark's example, raising the age to 21 to qualify for family reunion.
When the Danish measure was proposed, Muslim groups opposed it vigorously. But Storhaug quotes immigrant parents who now say the law has released them from family pressures to use their children as "human visas." And she says young Muslims can continue their education without fear of being married off. "It's rubbish to say the Danish policy is racist," she said. "It's the best policy for women in Europe."