Immigration has become the conversation-killer at water coolers, dinner parties and other gatherings of friends, and sometimes worse on the streets. An argument at a Waffle House in Asheville, N.C., turns into a shooting spree, and voters in San Bernardino, Calif., decide soon whether to bar even renting houses and apartments to illegal aliens. But in America we usually have the luxury of talking statistics. The conversations are more difficult when the argument wears a human face.
In the Netherlands the controversy is over a Muslim woman who became a member of the Dutch parliament a decade after she gave a false name, age and residence to earn asylum from an arranged marriage to an old codger she didn't love.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born politician who received credible death threats when she began denouncing the brutal oppression of Muslim women. She was forced into hiding after she wrote the film script for the movie "Submission," which she made with Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker assassinated on a street in Amsterdam by an angry Islamist. She was specifically threatened in the note pinned to his body with the knife that killed him.
Anti-immigrant fever runs high in Holland, no surprise there, and a court evicted her from her apartment when the neighbors complained of her notoriety. She has apologized for lying to get her papers, but an ambitious immigration minister suddenly revoked her citizenship. Another outcry has forced the minister to reconsider the decision, but Ayaan Hirsi Ali is moving to Washington to continue her work at the American Enterprise Institute on behalf of Islamic women.
"The Caged Virgin," her passionate plea for the emancipation of Muslim women, has just been published here, an eloquent petition for simple justice for women whose abuse is often concealed, like their bodies draped in the chador. She tells Muslim women to read John Stuart Mill's 1869 essay "The Subjection of Women" to begin to understand how women in the West were finally recognized as the equal of men. She laments the way Muslim women are socialized to believe that their oppression is right and just, and she shows how "multiculturalism" insulates them in subjugation, preventing them from joining the larger culture.