Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Print: How do you see immigration conflicts reflected in Dutch visual culture?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The government tried to encourage people who are on welfare to go to the museums, and then discovered that no one was going—all the discounts were being used by the very rich. They started to take art into the poor areas sometimes, and the nudes of one artist were spread across a wall in Amsterdam West. The Muslims were so angry, so offended, that they started to throw paint bombs on the wall. How did the government respond? They apologized and moved the paintings.

What do you think of the government’s making an Islam-friendly version of its film To the Netherlands?

The whole idea of making this film was telling potential migrants who want to spend the rest of their lives in Holland: Hey, this is how we live. We have people who are gay, and

we accept people sunbathing nude. For the government to censor its own film to suit the taste of the radicals, the message you’re getting across is: If you shout hard enough, we will adopt our society to your tastes.

Do Dutch artists have a responsibility to speak out about religion and immigration?

When I read the history of Western society I discover a line, an evolution of ideas. The people in the West were not emancipated from absolutism by the state—they were emancipated by thinkers, writers, filmmakers. Images are so strong. That is precisely why I made [the film] Submission. We take the freedoms we have now for granted.

What kind of poster would you design for your country?

It would say that people should think for themselves. This is the project of my life—looking for a meaning in reason. Islam isn’t a violent religion, and there were posters during the cartoon controversy that were appalling: “Kill those who insult Islam.” “Europe, you will pay; 9/11 is on its way.” The poster’s message wouldn’t be to abolish religion. But spirituality can’t be an answer to everything, and they want it to be an answer to everything.

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