More on Ayaan Hirshi Ali

We’ve profiled Ms. Ali before. She has also appeared as a guest on Glenn Back. So here is another enlightening piece on what happens when you question Islam.

NEW YORK–Ayaan Hirsi Ali is untrammeled and unrepentant: “I am supposed to apologize for saying the prophet is a pervert and a tyrant,” she declares. “But that is apologizing for the truth.”

Statements such as these have brought Ms. Hirsi Ali to world-wide attention. Though she recently left her adopted country, Holland–where her friend and intellectual collaborator Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004–she is still accompanied by armed guards wherever she travels.

Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Mogadishu–into, as she puts it, “the Islamic civilization, as far as you can call it a civilization.” In 1992, at age 22, her family gave her hand to a distant relative; had the marriage ensued, she says, it would have been “an arranged rape.” But as she was shipped to the appointment via Europe, she fled, obtaining asylum in Holland. There, “through observation, through experience, through reading,” she acquainted herself with a different world. “The culture that I came to and I live in now is not perfect,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says. “But this culture, the West, the product of the Enlightenment, is the best humanity has ever achieved.”

Unease over Muslim immigration had been rising in the Low Countries for some time. For instance, when the gay right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn–“I am in favor of a cold war with Islam,” he said, and believed the borders should be closed to Muslims–was gunned down in 2002, it was widely assumed his killer was an Islamist. There was a strange sense of relief when he turned out to be a mere animal-rights activist. Ms. Hirsi Ali brought integration issues to further attention, exposing domestic abuse and even honor killings in the Dutch-Muslim “dish cities.”

In 2003, she won a seat in the parliament as a member of the center-right VVD Party, for People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. The next year, she wrote the script for a short film called “Submission.” It investigated passages from the Quran that Ms. Hirsi Ali contends authorize violence against women, and did so by projecting those passages onto naked female bodies. In retrospect, she deeply regrets the outcome: “I don’t think the film was worth the human life.”

The life in question was that of Van Gogh, a prominent controversialist and the film’s director. At the end of 2004, an Islamist named Mohammed Buyeri shot him as he was bicycling to work in downtown Amsterdam, then almost decapitated him with a curved sword. He left a manifesto impaled to the body: “I know for sure that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go down,” was its incantation. “I know for sure that you, Oh unbelieving fundamentalist, will go down.”

The shock was palpable. Holland–which has the second largest per capita population of Muslims in the EU, after France–had always prided itself on its pluralism, in which all groups would be tolerated but not integrated. The killing made clear just how apart its groups were. “Immediately after the murder,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says, “we learned Theo’s killer had access to education, he had learned the language, he had taken welfare. He made it very clear he knew what democracy meant, he knew what liberalism was, and he consciously rejected it. . . . He said, ‘I have an alternative framework. It’s Islam. It’s the Quran.’ ”

At his sentencing, Mohammed Buyeri said he would have killed his own brother, had he made “Submission” or otherwise insulted the One True Faith. “And why?” Ms. Hirsi Ali asks. “Because he said his god ordered him to do it. . . . We need to see,” she continues, “that this isn’t something that’s caused by special offense, the right, Jews, poverty. It’s religion

Ms. Hirsi Ali was forced into living underground; a hard-line VVD minister named Rita Verdonk, cracking down on immigration, canceled her citizenship for misstatements made on her asylum application–which Ms. Hirsi Ali had admitted years before and justified as a means to win quicker admission at a time of great personal vulnerability. The resulting controversy led to the collapse of Holland’s coalition government. Ms. Hirsi Ali has since decamped for America–in effect a political refugee from Western Europe–to take up a position with the American Enterprise Institute. But the crisis, she says, is “still simmering underneath and it might erupt–somewhere, anywhere.”

That partly explains why Ms. Hirsi Ali’s new autobiography, “Infidel,” is already a best seller. It may also have something to do with the way she scrambles our expectations. In person, she is modest, graceful, enthralling. Intellectually, she is fierce, even predatory: “We know exactly what it is about but we don’t have the guts to say it out loud,” she says. “We are too weak to take up our role. The West is falling apart. The open society is coming undone.”

Many liberals loathe her for disrupting an imagined “diversity” consensus: It is absurd, she argues, to pretend that cultures are all equal, or all equally desirable. But conservatives, and others, might be reasonably unnerved by her dim view of religion. She does not believe that Islam has been “hijacked” by fanatics, but that fanaticism is intrinsic in Islam itself: “Islam, even Islam in its nonviolent form, is dangerous.”

The Muslim faith has many variations, but Ms. Hirsi Ali contends that the unities are of greater significance. “Islam has a very consistent doctrine,” she says, “and I define Islam as I was taught to define it: submission to the will of Allah. His will is written in the Quran, and in the hadith and Sunna. What we are all taught is that when you want to make a distinction between right and wrong, you follow the prophet. Muhammad is the model guide for every Muslim through time, throughout history.”

This supposition justifies, in her view, a withering critique of Islam’s most holy human messenger. “You start by scrutinizing the morality of the prophet,” and then ask: “Are you prepared to follow the morality of the prophet in a society such as this one?” She draws a connection between Mohammed’s taking of child brides and modern sexual oppressions–what she calls “this imprisonment of women.” She decries the murder of adulteresses and rape victims, the wearing of the veil, arranged marriages, domestic violence, genital mutilation and other contraventions of “the most basic freedoms.”

These sufferings, she maintains, are traceable to theological imperatives. “People say it is a bad strategy,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says forcefully. “I think it is the best strategy. . . . Muslims must choose to follow their rational capacities as humans and to follow reason instead of Quranic commands. At that point Islam will be reformed.”

This worldview has led certain critics to dismiss Ms. Hirsi Ali as a secular extremist. “I have my ideas and my views,” she says, “and I want to argue them. It is our obligation to look at things critically.” As to the charges that she is an “Enlightenment fundamentalist,” she points out, rightly, that people who live in democratic societies are not supposed to settle their disagreements by killing one another.

And yet contemporary democracies, she says, accommodate the incitement of such behavior: “The multiculturalism theology, like all theologies, is cruel, is wrongheaded, and is unarguable because it is an utter dogmatism. . . . Minorities are exempted from the obligations of the rest of society, so they don’t improve. . . . With this theory you limit them, you freeze their culture, you keep them in place.”

The most grievous failing of the West is self-congratulatory passivity: We face “an external enemy that to a degree has become an internal enemy, that has infiltrated the system and wants to destroy it.” She believes a more drastic reaction is required: “It’s easy,” she says, “to weigh liberties against the damage that can be done to society and decide to deny liberties. As it should be. A free society should be prepared to recognize the patterns in front of it, and do something about them.”

She says the West must begin to think long term about its relationship with Islam–because the Islamists are. Ms. Hirsi Ali notes Muslim birth rates are vastly outstripping those elsewhere (particularly in Western Europe) and believes this is a conscious attempt to extend the faith. Muslims, she says, treat women as “these baby-machines, these son-factories. . . . We need to compete with this,” she goes on. “It is a totalitarian method. The Nazis tried it using women as incubators, literally to give birth to soldiers. Islam is now doing it. . . . It is a very effective and very frightening way of dealing with human beings.”

All of this is profoundly politically incorrect. But for this remarkable woman, ideas are not abstractions. She forces us back to first principles, and she punctures complacencies. These ought to be seen as virtues, even by those who find some of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s ideas disturbing or objectionable. Society, after all, sometimes needs to be roused from its slumbers by agitators who go too far so that others will go far enough.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009771

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5 Comments

  1. I like your blog presentation so muh. Could you please tell me how you made it look like this?
    Thank you for your time and have a nice day.

  2. Shoot me an e-mail to chin@houseofchin.com and I’ll hook you up. It would just take forever to do with replies.

  3. printed in the Philadelphia Daily News – March 13, 2007
    http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/news/opinion/16892042.htm

    SOME WOMEN MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
    By DONNA BAVER ROVITO
    ZILLA HUMMA Usman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali may be the bravest women on the planet.

    Not brave like they might lose their jobs or be insulted for speaking out about workplace inequities, or they might get cold or wet demonstrating against “Bush’s war.”

    I mean really brave, like they might be shot or stabbed or stoned or set on fire for having the courage to fight for the rights of Muslim women who are being oppressed, mutilated, abused, raped or even killed for the crime of being a woman.

    Sadly, one of these brave women, Pakistani provincial minister Usman, IS dead – killed because she wasn’t wearing a head scarf and held public office. “I just obeyed Allah’s commandment,” said gunman Mohammad Sarwar. “I will kill all those women who do not follow the right path.” Many fundamentalist Muslims apparently feel the same way, if the number of “honor killings” in Pakistan – and in Germany, Canada and Australia- is any gauge.

    The president the National Organization for Women immediately issued a statement denouncing Usman’s murder and praising her work, calling on feminists throughout the world to continue her fight for gender equality for Muslim women.

    Oh, wait… no, she didn’t.

    Neither NOW nor its Web site said anything about this brutal murder or the loss of this significant female leader. Not a word. (There is, however, an important piece on the site about how ” ‘Desperate Housewives’ Misleads Viewers About Teen Contraception.”)

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born author of “Infidel,” learned of a death threat against her when it was stabbed into the nine-times-shot-and-nearly-beheaded body of Theo Van Gogh. They had collaborated on a short film called “Submission” about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

    Forced out of her adopted home of Holland, where she was member of Parliament, Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States, where she was warmly welcomed by sister feminists from NOW, which offered her a weekly column about Muslim women’s rights on its Web site and features her writings prominently in its Books section, as well as a link to download “Submission.”

    Oh, wait… no, they didn’t.

    There isn’t a single entry about Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the NOW Web site. (But there IS a helpful video about “how advertising effects women’s body image, health and self-esteem.”)

    There isn’t a single book about Islamic gender apartheid among the 48 books on the NOW Web site. There are, however, six books bashing George Bush, a book attacking Mormon treatment of women and others advocating gay marriage – but nothing about forced marriages, honor killings, rapes, beatings or other forms of oppression suffered by Muslim women.

    Fortunately, the American Enterprise Institute does offer Ali’s books and a forum on which she can express thoughts like: “A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men… Just as we put an end to slavery, we must end the gendercide.”

    Their Web site claims that NOW’s goal is “equality for all women” and fighting those who want to “keep women in their place.” But they seem to have no outrage for the hideous place in which Islamic fundamentalists keep their women.

    NOW has plenty of outrage, though, for Christian leaders they call “the American Taliban,” anyone who doesn’t support gay marriage and unrestricted abortion, and the “bully-in-chief” himself, George W. Bush, whom they targeted in a recent “peace march” in Washington, demonstrating their solidarity with some of the worst oppressors of women in the world – fundamentalist Islamic regimes.

    In this case, I suspect that the enemy of their enemy (Bush) is not really their friend.

    All of which makes me want to paraphrase Orwell’s famous line about hypocrisy: “All women are created equal – but some women are more equal than others.”

    The women who are more equal might be identified as elitist non-religious Western feminists who support abortion, gay marriage and Hillary Clinton, and who just hate George W. Bush.

    Sadly, at least in the eyes of America’s most visible women’s group, some women who are not as equal as others apparently include those subjugated by radical – and sometimes not so radical – practitioners of Islam throughout the world.

    America and the rest of the western world’s feminists are suffering from a self-absorption that fails to see the world outside their own sphere of privilege.

    But they’re also suffering from the trivialization and politization of what once used to be a noble fight for ALL women’s rights.

    Donna Baver Rovito is an advocate for quality health care and women’s rights.

  4. Donna,

    Excellent piece. Please contact me off-line at chin@houseofchin.com. I’d like to discuss further.

  5. Reading this as an atheist born in Saudi Arabia and raised in a Salafi/Wahabi household:

    Either out of incompetence or ignorance, Ayaan Hirsi Ali sideswipes the real issue of Islam. Spewing rhetoric about the Prophet Muhammad being a perv and a tyrant is irrelevant, but it does build up her fatwas that she is proud of…. so she keeps using the rhetoric. A lot of people were tyrants and pervs back then by today’s standards. We cannot judge people hundreds of years ago by what we are practicing today (by today’s standards, Charlemagne is a perv). Also, comparing a radical Muslim to a Fascist Nazi (who were mostly Christian), shows a limited knowledge base of history and Islam as a whole. Terrorist groups, like Al-Quada, are often decentralized, non-hierarchical groups that in no way resemble the form of fascism, though ideals are debatable.

    Islam did give rights to women when it was needed back then, but the fact that the Qur’an is considered the word of Allah, not just stories, makes it unchangeable. Islam is a way of life, so that leaves the question of should it be practiced now, today, when human rights issues have surpassed the Qur’an?

    Few people, except those in the country music industry and Halliburton, have made quite as much money off of the ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


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