Friday, January 21, 2005

Ayaan Hirsi Ali defying death threats

A Dutch politician who received death threats after writing a script for the murdered film-maker Theo van Gogh yesterday made a defiant return to public life.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali vowed not to cave into the pressures of her critics as she was escorted into the Dutch parliament by security guards after 75 days in hiding.

Somali-born Ms Hirsi Ali has been under police protection since receiving repeated death threats after writing the script for the film Submission , a critique of violence against women in Islamic societies.

Her collaborator, MrVan Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam last November in protest against the film. Pinned to his body with a knife was a five-page letter addressed toMs Hirsi Ali, accusing her of "terrorising Muslims and Islam".

Yesterday, Ms Hirsi Ali described how although she remained fearful, she felt she had to confront her critics and fulfil her duties as a politician. "I am scared now and again, but I will go on. I must go on," she said. "I am convinced that you cannot give in to threats and terrorism.

"What Theo and I had in common was an awareness of the threat formed by radical Islam. The attack on 2 November brought Dutch society face to face with Muslim terrorism for the first time. We are talking about an international phenomenon here, not just a local incident."

Ms Hirsi Ali, 37, a member of the lower house of parliament for two years with the VVD liberals, launched her political career after fleeing to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage.

A Dutch-Moroccan man with suspected links to a network of Islamic militants has been charged with Mr Van Gogh's murder, which in turn led to a string of retaliatory attacks on mosques, religious schools and churches.