February 12, 2008 2:00 am

Paris urges EU support for victims of extremism

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The French government will press the European Union to create a fund to protect individuals such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP threatened by extremists. But Paris stopped short of offering her citizenship as demanded by her French supporters.

In Paris, Ms Hirsi Ali said her position remained perilous after the Dutch parliament voted last October to stop paying for her protection while living in the US. She said she was now reliant on private funds for her security. "I would be honoured to have the possibility to become French," she told a meeting of supporters in Paris on Sunday night. "I need your help."

Rama Yade, human rights minister, said the government was considering Ms Hirsi Ali's request for naturalisation. But Ms Yade expressed emotional support at the meeting for a fellow European woman of African Muslim origin:"The eternal France, that of 1789, of Hugo, of de Gaulle, has heard you."

The Somali-born Ms Hirsi Ali, who moved to the Netherlands in 1992, went into hiding in 2004 after Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker, was murdered by an Islamist extremist in Amsterdam. Ms Hirsi Ali had collaborated with van Gogh.

In an interview on Sunday with Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Ms Hirsi Ali repeated her criticisms of Islamic fundamentalism: "The strict doctrine of Islam is incompatible with a liberal democracy. In Islam every individual must submit his will to divine law. In a liberal democracy, the individual is free and responsible, and men and women are equal in front of the law."

The Dutch newspaper Trouw commented: "Paris must feel like a warm bath for Hirsi Ali after the chill of The Hague."

Ms Hirsi Ali stepped down as a Dutch MP in 2006 and left the Netherlands after admitting that she had lied when applying for asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. She now works for a conservative think-tank in the US.

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