Keep your Ayaan her
Recently President Bush and other Republicans have starting sounding the tocsin on "the immigration problem". To hear them put it, a wave of brown, poor, and by implication undesirable illegals are pouring into America and corrupting our essential values. Our brave Prez is responding by sending troops to the border, to Save America From This Threat, which has conveniently only come to his attention, and required a vigorous response, as midterm elections draw nigh and his polls plummet.
Amid this brouhaha, it's useful to take a look at a country where immigration really is threatening the social fabric, or at least raising serious questions about law and culture. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian-born Dutch politican, gained notoriety several years ago for speaking out publically against what she saw as excessively tolerant Dutch attitudes towards Muslim immigrants. Muslims in Holland, she claimed, were being allowed to practice abuse of women, punishment for homosexuality, and other ostensibly Shariah-compliant behaviors counter to Dutch law in the interests of cultural sensitivity. Ali argued that this Eurotolerance had gone too far, and Muslim immigrants to Holland should have to live by Dutch social law. She wrote a film on the subject by the name of Submission
, whose Dutch director Theo van Gogh was killed by a radical Islamist in 2004.
This week news reports revealed that Ali lied on her application for asylum in Holland, which had been an open secret. The immigration minister investigated and has declared Ali's Dutch citizenship will be revoked, leading her to resign from her position as a member of parliament. While the Prime Minister has asked for the decision to be reconsidered, Ali has been offered a position with the conservative American Enterprise Institute in the US, and may well take it. Ali's case
is fascinating in a number of ways. Is liberal cultural sensitivity fundamentally incompatible with liberal social values in a world that contains dramatically different ideas of freedom and equality? Can European societies walk a line between allowing religious expression for Muslims but enforcing Western ideals of human and civil rights? Is Ali's stature in raising these issues diminished by her inaccurate asylum petition? (She claimed she used a false name to prevent family members, enraged at her departure, from pursuing and harming her.) From a political standpoint, what would Ali's presence at the AEI do to and for the American debate about religion, tolerance, and law?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions, other than that I do side with those who feel the ideal of cultural sensitivity has been overapplied in the case of Dutch social law and Muslim immigrants. Leaving aside the question of just how many of the points of conflict are sanctioned by Shariah (it is hard to deny that at least some aspects of Islamic law run counter to Western ideals) I believe it is not incumbent on a society, however tolerant, to permit violations of universal human rights in the name of religion. But whatever the answers to these questions may be, this case, and this issue, is infinitely more important and more interesting than the fear-mongering farce passing for an immigration debate we are having in this country.