Citizenship and Loyalty: Time to Attach Some Strings

Commentary, Education, Amanda Achtman

I would like to congratulate the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education on a wonderfully successful launch with their first public event hosted by Preston Manning and featuring guest speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ayaan has a remarkable life story. She was born in Somalia and raised in a strict Muslim household where she survived female mutilation and harsh beatings. Fleeing from arranged marriage, she sought asylum in the Netherlands where she earned a political science degree and was elected to the Dutch parliament.  She now works at the American Enterprise Institute. Ayaan is courageous in her bold condemnation of Islamism, the radical political ideology that she fiercely rejects and heroically escaped.

Ayaan’s message centred around the following three points:

1. In western society, citizens have to realize that citizenship and loyalty are inseparable. Citizenship without loyalty is an empty concept.

2. Loyalty cannot be achieved without education about the community with whom one shares a history and an identity. We should ask newcomers what values they are willing to die for.

3. “The Women Factor”: When it comes to assimilating newcomers, empowering women will help integration, especially when these women educate young citizens, their children.

Ayaan spoke about the recent “honour killings” in Canada. Preston Manning asked Ayaan how we can address such issues without being seen as grossly interfering. Ayaan immediately responded: “By not worrying about gross interference!” She insisted on doing the right thing and standing up for truth, especially when it is controversial and
unpopular. Ayaan insists that there is no middle ground in matters of life or death.

Repeatedly she urged for strings to be attached in matters of citizenship and immigration. Ayaan spoke about her personal experience of becoming a Dutch citizen and how she was perplexed that it was as anticlimactic as going to the dentist or getting a driver’s license. This is a missed opportunity for the expectations and values of the state to be measured against the expectations and values of the newcomer.

She urges western democracies to outline to newcomers specific expectations of
loyalties and to ask the questions: “What would you die for?” and “Why do you belong here.”

Ayaan said that the biggest priority should be instilling the value of life, of
one’s own life and of the lives of others. She says that all humans are equal, but not all religions and cultures are equal.

Ayaan began her message explaining that much of what she says is controversial and stirs debate. Her goal, she says, is to encourage people to think. Ayaan is a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and I encourage you to read her articles in addition to her books Infidel and Nomad.