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THE HAGUE, Netherlands - A Somali-born lawmaker and fierce critic of radical Islam tearfully announced Tuesday that she is leaving the Netherlands, reportedly for the U.S., after the government threatened to revoke her citizenship for lying on her asylum application.
The threat to strip Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Dutch citizenship unleashed a fierce debate in parliament at a time of heightened anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
Hirsi Ali, 36, has been under police guard since a short film she wrote criticizing the treatment of women under Islam provoked the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh, by an Islamic radical.
She said she decided Monday night to resign from parliament after Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk told her "she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship."
"I am therefore preparing to leave Holland," Hirsi Ali told reporters in The Hague, her voice choking with emotion.
She declined to say what she will do next, or to comment on Dutch media reports that she will join the American Enterprise Institute in the United States. A spokesman for the institute, Andrew Pappas, said Hirsi Ali was offered a position as a resident fellow at the conservative think tank but said he could not confirm that she had accepted. The U.S. Embassy in The Hague declined comment.
She declined to revoke Hirsi Ali's citizenship appeared driven by domestic Dutch politics — and drew criticism from Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who said he was "surprised by the speed" with which Verdonk acted and asked her for an explanation.
He said Verdonk bore "individual responsibility" for decisions in immigration cases.
Hirsi Ali falsified her name and date of birth on an asylum application when she arrived in 1992, fearing reprisals from her family after she fled an arranged marriage.
She was granted a passport in 1997 and acknowledged the falsification in 2002 during vetting as a candidate for parliament. There were no objections then.
But after a television program revived the matter last week, one of Hirsi Ali's political opponents, far-right lawmaker Hilbrand Nawijn, brought pressure on Verdonk to revoke her citizenship.
Verdonk reviewed the case and found naturalization had been improperly granted: a ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court in 2005 found that passports issued to people with false names are automatically invalid.
Hirsi Ali became internationally known after the murder of van Gogh in November 2004. She wrote the script for his 11-minute film "Submission," which offended many Muslims. She said Tuesday she would continue to voice criticism of fundamentalist Islam and that she plans a sequel to "Submission."
"I am leaving. However, the questions remain," she said. "The questions about the future of Islam in our country, the subjugation of women in Islamic culture, the integration of the many Muslims in the West. It is a self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear."
Van Gogh's murderer left a note threatening Hirsi Ali, and she has been under police protection ever since. The Dutch state had been scrambling to arrange housing for her after her neighbors in The Hague complained successfully last month that her security arrangements had become an unbearable nuisance.
"It is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection," Hirsi Ali said. "It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have no where to live. All that is difficult but not impossible. It has become impossible since last night."
Parliament held an emergency debate over Hirsi Ali's resignation, and Verdonk said she did not regret her decision.
"I understand my colleagues' emotions, but we're living in a country that prides itself on respecting the law. Rules and laws apply to everyone, and I'm not making any exceptions," she told lawmakers. But she said the case was still under review, and Hirsi Ali had six weeks to respond.
Domestic politics appeared to have played a role in Verdonk's decision. She is standing for head of the conservative Liberal Party — of which Hirsi Ali is also a member. The two say they are friends.
But tomorrow is new day and new chance. -- Alija
Nel cielo biancazzurro brilla un'altra stella - In the lightblue sky another star shines. Alija tu non sarai mai sola. Alija you will never be alone.