"I come here to ask you ... to establish a European fund to finance the protection of people like me, whose only crime is free speech."
 
Pilot project

Encouraged by French intellectuals and members of the French Socialist party, dozens of politicians, including Hans-Gert Poettering, the president of the European parliament, signed a declaration urging the EU legislature or other EU institutions to create such a fund.

EU regulations have no provision for its funding but Benoit Hamon, a French socialist and the author of the declaration, suggested parliament could establish a fund as a pilot project.

The declaration, which supporters want approved by the full house, said: "Religious fundamentalism, when it threatens death to anyone who dares criticise the symbols or ideology of a religion, is a direct threat to the fundamental freedoms of the individual."

Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia, left the Netherlands to join a US think-tank in 2006, and is now paying for her own protection from donations.

She had been in hiding and then under close protection since the 2004 murder of film director Theo van Gogh, with whom she wrote a script for his film about the harsh treatment of women in many Muslim families.

A note threatening her was pinned to van Gogh's body by his assassin.

False application

Hirsi Ali resigned at a Dutch member of parliament in 2006 and left the Netherlands after admitting she had lied when applying for asylum in the country in 1992.

She asked Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, for French citizenship this month and won backing from many French intellectuals and politicians.

Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher and activist, told the hearing: "Europe needs to defend her because she has defended Europe."

The Dutch government says it is willing to pay for Hirsi Ali's protection while she is in the Netherlands, but not abroad.

The US says it does not pay for security protection for individuals.