An interview with the heroic ex-Muslim Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. From The Herald, with thanks to Susan:
She’s the feisty Somali who ran away from an arranged marriage, claimed asylum in Holland and took a degree in political science. She’s the slight, beautiful Dutch MP who has publicly criticised Islam, on paper and on screen. She’s the target of Muslim fundamentalists who shout abuse at her in the street and send death threats to her office, forcing her to have round-the-clock police protection.
But Ayaan Hirsi Ali won’t be mythologised. In the airy but necessarily dull canteen of The Hague parliament building it’s difficult to do that. The clutter of cutlery being sorted into tubs echoes around the room as she places her lunch tray on the table, on it sparkling water, chicken soup, a side salad, a slice of dark bread and a slice of cheese, and speaks softly between mouthfuls.
“I wasn’t born to do this,” says the 34-year-old, in a slightly bobbled black cardigan, shirt and trousers. “I got into it accidentally and the more I got into it the more I realised how important it was. I think it’s important for some people to give it a meaning, you know, one woman fighting against Islam, you know, brave. That’s not how it feels. It feels like really hard work.”
By “hard work”, she refers not to her 11-minute film Submission, which was broadcast on Dutch television and included images of a naked Muslim woman draped with an opaque veil, nor her newspaper columns which criticise Islam; she means dealing with the reaction from the Islamic community in Holland and beyond. Since Submission was broadcast, the threats have intensified rather than died down.
“I don’t walk in the streets alone,” she says. “Groups of Muslim boys shout out ‘whore’ and all kinds of sexist remarks and threaten to kill me and so on. They’re young men, mostly unemployed, and I don’t know how much you can take that seriously but it feels horrible.
“The written threats say ‘we will kill you’ and they all go to the police. I think most people who kill someone don’t ring up first and say they’re coming to do it. It’s intimidation. They say because I have said I’m not Muslim any more – which I haven’t said, I’ve said I don’t believe in God and the hereafter – I have no right to criticise Islam. They don’t want discussion.”
That she tolerates this daily, while refusing to back down on what she lightheartedly calls her Islam Reformation Project (IRP), has earned her the title of “brave”. Admittedly, this is generally among white Dutch people who admire her confidence but don’t want to commit themselves on Islam or Dutch multicultural policy, yet it’s not without warrant. Hirsi Ali would disagree.
“It started with simply stating some facts,” she says. “For example, the position of women in Islam compared to western countries is far worse. That’s a fact. You don’t have to be brave to say that. In Islam, homosexuals are killed and disowned by their families and in some countries, Egypt for example, they are put in cages. Christians and Jews living in the Netherlands and other western countries are very tolerant towards each other, but Muslims accept only other Muslims and fundamentalists will not even talk to moderate Muslims. These are facts. You don’t have to be brave to state these things or discuss them loudly.”
Read it all. This is a woman who should be the toast of the Western world.