The transition to a continental state in Europe requires increased migration - to break up the mono-ethnic and monocultural populations, which characterise the nation states. It requires migration not only within the European Union, but between the EU and non-member states in eastern Europe, and across the Mediterranean. It also requires multilingualism among the non-migrant population, since the typical monolingualism of nation states hinders communication with 'non-nationals'.
However, the political trend in the EU is in the opposite direction. Xenophobic parties and movements are increasingly active, mainstream parties have adopted xenophobic principles, and the entire political culture has become hostile to immigration. The dominant attitude is, that migration is wrong in itself, that it harms society, and that the individual migrant is always a negative factor. The dominant reaction is an assertive, backward-looking nationalism, with the emphasis on a closed, uniform, homogeneous national culture, and a uniform national language. Historically, these goals led to persecutions, expulsions and pogroms - but they are wrong even if peaceful. The current xenophobic movements often promote assimilation policies - but they are usually not prepared to accept assimilated immigrants as 'true members' of the national community. Probably, their emphasis will soon shift to repatriation policy, rather than assimilation.
Ayaan Hirsi Magan, who calls herself Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has become one of the most prominent xenophobic nationalists in Europe. She is driven by a personal crusade against Islam, but she uses her status as an African woman migrant (and victim of Islamic attitudes to women) to promote a 100% European ideology. The central theme of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is that an Islamic threat to Europe and its values requires a return to the classic 19th-century nation state - with a uniform population, a uniform culture, a uniform shared history, and a uniform language.
That is not very logical or rational, but then nationalism never is. The Netherlands nation was never intended as 'contra-Islamic', and (unlike Spain) Islam played no role in its national history. The fact that most immigrants are now Muslims, has suggested false equivalences: "The opposite of Netherlander is foreigner, foreigners in the Netherlands are Muslims, therefore the opposite of Netherlander is Muslim, and therefore Netherlands culture is the opposite of Islamic culture". From such false logic, Ayaan Hirsi Ali derived her idea of monocultural 'Hollandism', as the antidote to Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic oppression. Others, such as the right-wing academics Paul Scheffer, Afshin Ellian, and Paul Cliteur, promote a similar ideology, and have influenced her campaign.
To understand the political nature of this campaign, it is necessary to understand essential elements in the general nationalist ideology, and classic Netherlands nationalism:
Her promotion of nationalist ideology and national culture, as an 'answer to Islam', makes Ayaan Hirsi Ali different from general Islam-bashers (such as Oriana Fallaci). Her position on the assimilation of immigrants is derived from this ideology, and she emphasises it repeatedly. Since the presence of non-nationals contradicts the nationalist ideal, she demands a total switch in cultural and political allegiance. Ayaan Hirsi Ali reflects the obsession of Dutch xenophobes with 'double loyalties' and mixed identities, and their suspicion of immigrants as a fifth column. Nominally her party, the VVD, supports classic-liberal freedoms - but she wants the state to control marriages with foreigners, and ban foreign television. These are new versions of old nationalist demands - nationalists traditionally view foreign influences as a contamination of the nation.Nations are the natural units of humanity. Their existence, and their existence rights, are beyond discussion.
Nations have a monopoly of state formation. No entity which is not a nation may hold territory, and no non-national state is legitimate.
Nations together include all humans: there is no human who does not belong to a nation. No-one can validly claim not to belong to any nation.
Nations are sacred: within each society the nation deserves supreme respect. If loyalties conflict, national loyalty overrides all other loyalties, to region, family, or religion.
Nations may not be ended, singly or collectively. No process which ends nations is legitimate. The world order of nation states may not be terminated.
As a nation state, the Netherlands has an absolute existence right, for an unlimited time.
The Dutch people consists of the descendants of those who lived in the Netherlands in past centuries. The Dutch people derives its right to existence, and its claim to the territory of the Netherlands, from this descent.
Netherlandership, the quality of being Dutch, is transferred from generation to generation, from parents to children. The children of Dutch parents are Dutch. Those who are not children of Dutch parents, can become Dutch only with the permission of the first group, and on the conditions they set.
The Netherlands is a land for Netherlanders with a Netherlands culture - a uniform culture on the entire national territory. The permanent inhabitants of the Netherlands shall have this culture. They shall be loyal to the Netherlands, as nation and as nation state.
The permanent presence of non-Netherlanders disrupts the unity of land, people, and culture.
The Dutch culture is an inheritance from past generations of Netherlanders. Cultural change is only permitted when this inheritance is not damaged. The national identity is primarily derived from this bond with past generations of Dutch people, and not from any future vision of the Netherlands or Europe. The Netherlands is not a utopian or ethical community, but a transgenerational ethnic community (volksgemeenschap).
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is fundamentally opposed to the European ideal (that is, the end of the nation state). She is a danger to that ideal: her proposals imply not only a nationalist revival, but political repression of the supporters of the European ideal. In this respect she is similar to Pim Fortuyn, and within Netherlands politics she can be considered his successor, or one of his successors.
The trend to language bans in the Netherlands, which is now visible in Germany and Belgium as well, illustrates the dangers of her rigid mono-culturalism. In Rotterdam, a new code prohibits the public use of any language except Dutch. Integration Minister Rita Verdonk, also a member of the VVD, suggested a national obligation to speak Dutch. The Rotterdam ban has no legal force, as yet, but other national and local policies do. Although the prime targets are Arabic, Tamazight, Turkish and Kurdish, students at schools and polytechnics are banned from speaking official EU languages such as French, and recognised minority languages such as Frisian and Low Saxon. In the Amsterdam borough De Baarsjes, for instance, parents are required to sign a contract, banning their children from speaking any non-Dutch language, in or near the school. Either they speak Dutch, or they are banned from speaking. Educationally this is a disaster - forcing immigrant children to be silent in school will damage their linguistic development. The political intention of such language bans is to promote a uniform national culture, which is seen as a self-evident necessity. Afshin Ellian explicitly claims that monolingualism is inherent in the western democratic order: "Dutch is our constitutional language, which codifies the rights and duties of citizens and government - all other languages are merely private". Critics of monocultural and monolingual 'integration' policies, Ayaan Hirsi Ali implies, are damaging the nation. Like Ellian and Cliteur, she implies they are also complicit in Islamic oppression and barbarity.
Will banning Low Saxon help end female circumcision? It will, in her logic: regional languages and cultures undermine the Dutch national identity and national unity: less nationalism means less assimilation, and therefore more Islam. The question is: should logic like that, determine the future of Europe?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is, without doubt, also a threat to the lives of individual immigrants, because she politically represents a violent xenophobic minority, which often calls for the killing of 'foreigners'. She has used this minority to intimidate her critics in the Netherlands - with death threats as a standard tactic. In this respect, too, she is unique - an African woman immigrant, with white-nationalist supporters. She is additionally dangerous, because she has acquired political and media influence outside the Netherlands, and especially in the United States, where she will take up residence later this year. Fortuyn, and other Dutch xenophobic-populists, never succeeded in extending their influence outside the Netherlands: at most they have political contacts in Flanders.
In 2005 Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at a congress of the governing UMP party in France. She demanded that the European Union should enforce national assimilation polices. That means that policies, such as the language bans described above, would be enforced all over Europe, and that the EU would actively oppose multilingualism. In other words, she wants the EU to become an instrument of backward-looking national communities, with enforced national loyalties. And she wants to abolish freedom of conscience in this respect: she claims that a free society requires compulsory ethical values, without exemption on religious, cultural or other grounds. Her speech led me to write (30 June 2005) to Gijs de Vries, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator, and other relevant authorities, about the historical context and the political impact of her activities.
It is historically necessary that the nation state in Europe should disappear, and that is a primary justification for violence against its supporters, the nationalists. Let me summarise here why the nation state and specifically the Netherlands, should disappear.
No nation has a right to exist, and there is no ethical basis for such claims: they are simply political demands of nationalist movements. There is no reason why existing nation states should remain in existence for ever, there is no reason why an entity comparable to the Netherlands should exist in Europe. A Europe of the Nation States has no existence rights either, and no ethical priority over the alternatives.
The present borders of the nation states in Europe are the result of a long historical process, often without administrative logic. Often they are absurd, and the abolition of the nation states is justified on that ground alone. In her campaign to maintain the Netherlands nation state, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is also perpetuating border absurdities such as the separation of Vaals from Aachen, and the division of Putte and other settlements.
It is absurd and unacceptable, that urban and regional planning in Europe should be obstructed by a nationalist reactions to Islam. Let me emphasise that religion and the border are related only through the ideology of nationalism. In the case of Vaals, this perpetuates an absurdity which is itself the result of religion, so I will emphasise the details. The village of Vaals is now geographically and economically part of the city of Aachen, and one-third of the population has the German nationality. Yet the administration, the law, and the language are all separate. Vaals became part of the Netherlands for religious reasons - a Protestant territory near the Catholic city of Aachen. When Belgium seceded in 1830, it became part of Belgium. Because the city of Maastricht remained loyal to the House of Orange, Belgium later returned the eastern part of the Province of Limburg, including Vaals, to the Netherlands. All administrative and geographic logic suggests that Vaals should be annexed to Aachen, but the logic of Netherlands nationalism insists that it is part of Netherlands national territory. Ayaan Hirsi Ali promotes the absurd idea that retaining territories such as Vaals - and compelling their inhabitants to speak Dutch, to learn Dutch history, and to identify with the Netherlands - in some way negates Islamism and emancipates women in Islamic cultures.
The existing nation states in Europe define the nation, and claim its territory, on grounds of biological descent from the past inhabitants of the territory. These claims are false: it is statistically inevitable that the 'descendants' do not correspond to the present inhabitants of the territory. To maintain this false ideal of a closed (zero-migration) transgenerational group, nation states transfer citizenship on biological grounds. By definition, racism and discrimination are integral to the nation state, and that is a reason to destroy it. Nation states treat citizenship as if it was a genetic superiority of a population group, and by promoting the concept of a biologically transferable 'Netherlandership', Ayaan Hirsi Ali promotes this irrational and racist policy.
Nation states are by definition oriented to the past: the past culture of the ancestral group becomes the national culture, the nation states seeks its . preservation. The nation state is inevitably an obstacle to innovation. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her party promote an obsession with the Dutch past, insisting for instance on a national campaign to honour the naval heroes of the 17th century such as Michiel de Ruyter. By her insistence on this inevitably contra-innovative national identity, Ayaan Hirsi Ali seeks to create a museum state in the Netherlands.
By preserving the Netherlands, Ayaan Hirsi Ali also obstructs alternative uses of the national territory. Nation states are contra-utopian: the creation of utopian states in Europe would require the disappearance of the nation state. Nationalists will tolerate nothing else but their own model of a biologically defined past-oriented state, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali will tolerate no other use of the Netherlands territory. For her, as for all nationalists, it is a quasi-permanent and quasi-sacred entity. Dialogue or debate with her, as with all nationalists, is futile.
In my letter to Gijs de Vries, I expressed concern about the anti-European political activity of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her political allies. I asked for guarantees on the issue of national identity, freedom of conscience, and the creation of a non-national European state. Specifically, I asked for the following guarantees:
These guarantees have not been given. I therefore petition the European Parliament to recognise that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a threat to the European ideal.1. that supporters of the European ideal will not be persecuted, and that they can freely seek the abolition of the nation states, and the future existence of a continental state in Europe
2. that migration between the EU, and Eastern Europe / the Maghreb, will not be restricted on nationalist grounds
3. that the provisions of the Schengen accords which facilitate cross-border movement, will not be reversed
4. that freedom of conscience will apply to national identity, and that no-one will be forced or coerced, by any means, to integrate or assimilate in a nation state, or within a national community or society
5. that no person will be punished, coerced, or disadvantaged in any way, for speaking an official language of the European Union, at any place in the European Union
6. that the existing national and European guarantees for the status of minority languages, such as Frisian and Low Saxon, will be retained and implemented within the European Union.