For three years Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali galvanized Dutch society with a frank account of her traumatic past and her conviction that Islam is a violent, misogynous religion.
That conviction led to death threats, the murder of her associate, filmmaker Theo van Gogh and, her critics say, the alienation of precisely those she aimed to engage as relations between Muslims and non-Muslims deteriorated as never before.
Now almost a year since the former Dutch parliamentarian hit headlines worldwide for admitting she lied to gain asylum in the Netherlands, many of the Dutch-Muslim women Hirsi Ali sought to stir and inspire state bluntly they are relieved she is gone.
The 37-year-old now works for a U.S. think-tank, while her international profile as an ex-Muslim critic of Islam soars.
“I am glad that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is gone, because now the tone has softened, it has become less extreme and tensions have eased,” said Nermin Altintas, who runs an education centre for migrant women.
Hirsi Ali is held responsible by many in the Muslim community for “Islamising” the Netherlands’ migrants, polarizing communities and diverting attention from those trying to boost integration in what they see as a more constructive approach.
“Let her call one woman forward and show how she really helped her,” said Famile Arslan, a 35-year-old family lawyer. “We worked for 10, 15, 20 years to help emancipate Muslim women… and she stole the respect we should have had as grass-roots movements working for change.”