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Dutch MP Resigns Over False Asylum Claims


A prominent, Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament is leaving both her job and the country after being stripped of her Dutch citizenship. The move came after Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who gained international acclaim after her filmmaker partner Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist two years, ago-admitted falsifying information on her asylum claim.

Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali gave an emotional farewell to the country she says has given her so many opportunities. I may be packing my bags once again, she said, but I am not deserting my people or my work.

"I don't see it as a desertion," said Ayaan Hirsi Ali. "My voice can still be heard in Holland. We're living in a technological era that when I say something now or write something down, it's immediately in Dutch newspapers. My views on these issues are very well known; some hate it, some love it, there's no way in between that. "

The controversial Hirsi Ali made a name for herself here as an outspoken critic of Islam, which she called a "backward culture." She has been receiving death threats ever since.

But after the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh - who made a movie based on a script she wrote that was critical of the way Islam treats women - she has been living virtually on the run with round-the clock police protection. After a recent court decision that she must again leave her home in The Hague because her presence is a threat to neighbors, her position here, she says, is untenable.

"It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live," she said. But it has become impossible since Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk told her Monday night that her citizenship is being revoked.

Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands as a refugee 14 years ago after fleeing an arranged marriage. But at the time, she lied to authorities about her name and birth date and didn't mention that she already had refugee status in Kenya. On the basis of those false claims, she was quickly granted asylum.

Although she admitted her lies a few years ago, there was no repercussion until a TV show last week re-opened the controversy. Immigration minister Verdonk - who is from the same political party as Hirsi Ali and is running for party leader - now says her citizenship was improperly granted.

Hirsi Ali says she has accomplished her goals - getting the plight of immigrant women, particularly those from Muslim countries, on the political agenda. But she says the broader policy issues for Dutch society remain.

"I think the confusion of the multi-cultural society and immigration still reigns on and this is a symptom of that," she said. "That's how I see it. There's no clarity yet which way to go."

As for Hirsi Ali, she'll be going to the United States, although her lawyers have advised her not to talk about any future plans while she is appealing the minister's decision.

Verdonk has come under widespread criticism for the way she's treated Hirsi Ali and parliament met in an emergency debate to discuss the decision Hirsi Ali herself calls astonishing.

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