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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Time magazine has named Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an influential thinker
Somali-born former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, known for her outspoken criticism of conservative Islam, seems unable to avoid controversy.

Caught up in a row over her Dutch citizenship, she resigned from parliament in May and said she would leave the Netherlands.

Her troubles began when Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said she should be stripped of her passport because of falsifications in her asylum application when she came to the Netherlands in 1992.

But after the decision sparked uproar, Ms Verdonk made a major U-turn and said Ms Hirsi Ali could keep her Dutch citizenship after all.

It will not be enough to keep the 36-year-old in the country, however.

She has been offered a job at a Washington-based conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute, starting in September.

Death threats

As one of the Netherlands' most prominent politicians, the swiftness of Ms Hirsi Ali's fall took observers by surprise.

She rose to international attention in 2004 as the writer of a controversial film on violence against Muslim women, Submission, after her collaborator, filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was murdered by a radical Islamist.

1992 - arrives in the Netherlands, gives false name and age and claims to have come directly from Somalia; granted political asylum
1997 - receives Dutch citizenship
2002 - Vetted as candidate for VVD party; tells party and media that she lied on her asylum application
2003 - elected to the Netherlands' lower house
2004 - goes into hiding after her collaborator on the film Submission, filmmaker Theo van Gogh, is murdered
2005 - returns to parliament and announces plans to write sequels to Submission
May 2006 - resigns as MP and announces departure for US after documentary ignites a row over her citizenship
June 2006 - Dutch immigration minister says she can keep full citizenship
Having received repeated death threats over her challenges to Islam's treatment of women, she has been living under 24-hour police guard.

The latest furore erupted after a television documentary highlighted lies she had told about her name, age and how she had reached the Netherlands when she applied for asylum 14 years ago.

Ms Hirsi Ali had admitted the falsifications in several media interviews since 2002 and also informed her party, the liberal-conservative VVD, before standing for parliament in 2003.

But where the documentary seems to have hit her reputation hardest is in interviewing members of her family who contested her claim that she was fleeing a forced marriage when she arrived in the Netherlands aged 22.

The MP has previously explained not giving her real name, Ayaan Hirsi Magan, and saying she was born in 1967, not 1969, because she was afraid her family would find her.

She also told officials she had come directly from Somalia, rather than via Kenya and Germany, thus accelerating her claim for asylum.

Ms Verdonk said in May that the falsifications made her application for citizenship, granted in 1997, invalid.

But a month later, Ms Verdonk wrote to the Dutch parliament saying she had found a loophole which made it legitimate for Ms Hirsi Ali to have used her grandfather's name in her asylum claim.

Outspoken views

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Hirsi Ali said that despite having lived in many countries, it was "extremely important" to her to be a Dutch citizen.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is known her for hardline stance

"I define citizenship as declaring political allegiance to the community you belong [to] - and that for me is Holland," she told BBC World Service.

She said she had been "very open" about her asylum application when she was asked to stand for parliament and had been reassured by her party that her candidature was acceptable.

Dutch commentator Perro de Jong, of Radio Netherlands, said the uproar over Ms Hirsi Ali's status had been fuelled by recent debate over asylum and immigration in the Netherlands.

And he suggested that while the VVD benefited from the publicity Ms Hirsi Ali attracted, some within the party found it difficult to accept her outspoken views.

"You could argue that everyone liked her as a token... but maybe they weren't willing, because she was a woman and an immigrant, to accept her as an intellectual force - someone with her own agenda who would speak out," he said.

She may expect a warmer welcome in the US, where Time magazine has named her one of the most influential thinkers of our time.

Dutch ex-MP retains citizenship
27 Jun 06 |  Europe
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16 May 06 |  Europe
Dutch MP defies Muslim pressure
24 Jan 06 |  Europe
Dutch MP plans third Islam film
15 Dec 05 |  Entertainment

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