In “60 Seconds: Ayaan Hirsi” by Andrew Williams in Metro.co.uk (thanks to all who sent this in), Ayaan Hirsi Ali says some very good things, and makes an offhand statement with which I could not disagree more strongly.
Of course, some have criticized my support for Hirsi Ali on similar grounds in the past, but I have never supported her when she takes positions like the one below. So it’s time to clarify matters again.
You were brought up a devout Muslim. What made you turn against the religion?
I knew no better than to follow the path my parents had laid out for me. I didn’t question it seriously until after 9/11. Bin Laden defined the world into Muslims and non-Muslims, and these had to either be converted or killed. I asked myself where I stood after I saw the pictures of people jumping out of the World Trade Center. As a Muslim I had to ask if I agreed with that. I was saddened to see Bin Laden’s citations were from the Koran and were consistent with the Islam I grew up with. It is just that we were passive until then. Now we had to take sides. I had completed a political science degree and could no longer use ignorance as an excuse. I had to make my own path.
The section I have put in bold is a key point — one that moderate Muslims have never adequately addressed. We hear constantly that bin Laden is a heretic, that what he is doing can’t be called Islam at all. But those who call themselves peaceful Muslims have never explained why the very people who supposedly so severely misunderstand Islam represent themselves as the exponents of “pure Islam” and make jihadists out of peaceful Muslims by referring to the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Islamic law. They have never addressed the fact that all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the Muslim umma (worldwide community) to wage war against unbelievers in order to impose Sharia upon them. They have never begun any programs in Western countries to teach Muslims that the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism is un-Islamic.
And then, despite the Emperor’s-New-Clothes character of their Islamic moderation, they turn around and accuse those who point out the traditional character and firm Islamic foundations of the jihad ideology of aiding the jihadists instead of the moderates. And keen analysts like Dinesh D’Souza affirm them in this.
Yet here is a woman raised as a Muslim in a Muslim country, who attended Qur’an school, who is honest enough to say that she realized there was little or no difference between what she was taught and bin Laden’s theology. If Muslim reformers were likewise honest about the deep Islamic roots of jihad violence and Islamic supremacism, they would be getting to the heart of the problem within Islam — but they will never be able to fix something that they won’t admit is broken.
The 9/11 attacks made you renounce your faith but radicalised other Muslims. Why?
The 74 per cent of Muslims under 24 who said in a survey that women should wear the veil and want Sharia law to be introduced have gone for the consistency that Bin Laden offers. Others have taken my path. Liberal society hasn’t paid attention to what has been happening. Radical Islam was dismissed as a fringe movement but what starts small can grow. When you look at some Arab Islamic countries, radical Islamists are in the majority. Why do we kid ourselves it can’t happen in Europe?
Are you playing into the hands of Right-wing extremists?
If there is Right-wing extremism in Europe today, it’s radical Islamic extremism. It’s the agents of radical Islam who propose a future for women that is truly horrifying – as we saw with the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Somalia today.
Then the wheels fall off and burn:
Do you see any positive sides to Islam?
That’s like asking if I see positive sides to Nazism, communism, Catholicism. Of course Islam preaches generosity and kindness and taking care of the poor and elderly and so on – but these values aren’t limited to Islam. If you weigh what is provided in terms of kindness and humanity against the evil that can come from a society built on radical Islam, you will see that liberals must stand up to this like they’ve stood up to other ideologies.
“Nazism, communism, Catholicism”? Anti-Catholicism is fashionable these days, and the sins of the Catholic Church, like those of any group of human beings, are many. However, to equate Catholicism with Nazism and Communism is a ridiculous reductionism that ignores and implicitly denies the Catholic and Christian bases of so much of Western civilization — see Thomas Woods’ excellent book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization for details.
I agree with her that “if you weigh what is provided in terms of kindness and humanity against the evil that can come from a society built on radical Islam, you will see that liberals must stand up to this like they’ve stood up to other ideologies.” However, societies built on Catholicism are not comparable in evil to societies built strictly on Sharia.
I will be discussing this in my next book, Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is — and Islam Isn’t (coming this summer from Regnery Publishing), as I believe that we cannot resist the Islamic supremacists without recovering a sense that our own culture is worth defending. And Christians and non-Christians in the West enjoy living in a culture that is still based on numerous Christian principles, although the hapless D’Souza’s cultural critique (and just that, not his attribution of the rise of the jihad to it) is not altogether wide of the mark. I have come to see that moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to many people’s understanding the reality and magnitude of the threat of Islamic supremacism. Thus here is where Hirsi Ali and I part company. I applaud and support her critique of Islamic supremacism, and will continue to do so; however, I do hope she gains an appreciation of the fact that much of what she values in the West is derived from Judeo-Christian principles — from Catholicism. She doesn’t have to be a believer to do this; I still believe that Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists all need to unite against the threat of Islamic supremacism. But we can’t do that if we are devouring each other. And until she does gain some appreciation for the differences between religions and the Christian bases of Western civilization, her focus on what we are facing and what we need to do about it will not be entirely where it should be.
A little later on she says:
Do you have any regrets about the work you’ve done?
I regret that Theo van Gogh was killed but I don’t regret making the film. I would do it again, only be more careful. I’m working on the followup to Submission: Part 1. One of the individuals in the film will be a gay man. I currently live in the US and work at a think-tank, and have all the intellectual freedom I need. Things are alright for me.
In February 2006 I spoke at the Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference in The Hague. After one of the sessions, one of the other speakers and I got into an animated conversation with a liberal writer from New York who is well acquainted with Islamic terror; she now resides in the Netherlands. The writer heatedly insisted that Christian fundamentalism was just as dangerous as the Islamic variety, and that equal attention should be devoted to defeating both. Shortly thereafter she told us that she had to be going, as she was on a bicycle and couldn’t be out after dark, or she risked being attacked. “Who is going to attack you?” asked the other speaker. “Christian fundamentalists?”
This reductio ad absurdum illustrated several points: first, although it was clear that this American writer in the Netherlands felt threatened by Muslim gangs that preyed on passersby, political correctness prevented her from saying this despite her awareness of the reality of jihad terror. Also, her own actions showed that her equation of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism was absurd. For indeed she had no fear that Christian fundamentalists would attack her on her way home, but about Islamic jihadists she could not be so sanguine. But that didn’t stop her from loudly protesting that the two threats were essentially equivalent.
Likewise, I would suggest that as Hirsi Ali mourns van Gogh, she reflect on the implications of the fact that the producers of PBS’s Hand of God about clergy abuse need not fear that some crazed Catholic will murder them on a busy street and stab them with a knife on which is attached Scripture quotes and warnings to other critics of the Catholic Church.
Unrelated final note: in a sidebar Hirsi Ali says, “We’ve told ourselves that every criticism of Islam is some sort of racism – but Islam is not a race,” which is, of course, absolutely true.