One of the foremost heroes of our age, Ayaan Hirsi Ali — a name that future generations will venerate if the light of freedom continues to shine anywhere in the world — discusses something that most of the learned analysts on this side of the Atlantic, both liberal and conservative, dare not discuss: the necessity for Muslims to “think clearly about the Prophet’s moral example,” and reject that example where necessary.
Most analysts think that if they discuss this, they will be undermining moderate Muslims. If we criticize Muhammad, goes the thinking, we’ll just alienate those Muslims who are on our side. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth: it is the politically correct pseudo-experts on both the Left and the Right who are undermining any possible headway that moderate Muslims could make in the Islamic world by denying them the freedom to challenge the root sources of violence within Islam.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one brilliant and fearless exception.
From Prospect, with thanks to all who sent this in:
After the carnage of the terrorist bombings in London, Tony Blair defined the situation as a battle of values. “Our values will long outlast theirs,” he said, to the silent acquiescence of the world leaders who stood alongside him. “Whatever [the terrorists] do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.”
But which values are we fighting for? Those who love freedom know that the open society relies on a few key shared concepts. They believe that all humans are born free, are endowed with reason and have inalienable rights. Governments are checked by the rule of law, so that civil liberties are protected. They ensure freedom of conscience and of expression, and ensure that men and women, homosexuals and heterosexuals, are treated equally under the law. People can trade freely, and may spend their recreational time as they wish.
The terrorists, and the Shari’a-based societies to which they aspire, have an entirely different philosophy. Humans are born to serve Allah through a series of obligations that are prescribed in an ancient body of writings. These edicts vary from rituals of birth and funeral rites to the most intimate details of human life; they descend to the point of absurdity in matters such as how to blow your nose, and with what foot to step into a toilet. Muslims, according to this philosophy, must kill those among them who leave the faith, and are required to be hostile to people of other religions and ways of life. This hostility requires them to murder innocent people and makes no distinction between civilians and the military. In Shari’a societies, women are made subordinate to men. They must be confined to their houses, beaten if found disobedient, forced into marriage and hidden behind the veil. The hands of thieves are cut off and capital punishment is performed in crowded public squares in front of cheering crowds. The terrorists seek to impose this way of life not only on Islamic countries, but, as Blair said, on western societies too.
At the core of this fundamental challenge to the west lies a pre-medieval figure to whom the London terrorists””along with all faithful Muslims in our modern world””look for guidance: Muhammad. All faithful Muslims believe that they must emulate this man, in principle and practical matters, under all circumstances. When trying to understand Islamic terrorism, most politicians and other commentators have avoided the core issue, which is Muhammad’s example. The west, before embarking on a battle of ideas, must attempt to understand this figure, and his presence in the daily lives and homes of faithful Muslims today.
It is apparent on reading the Koran and the traditional writings that Muhammad’s life not only provides rules for the daily lives of Muslims; it also demonstrates the means by which his values can be imposed. Muhammad himself constructed the House of Islam using military tactics that included mass killing, torture, targeted assassination, lying and the indiscriminate destruction of productive goods. This may be embarrassing to moderate Muslims, but the propaganda produced by modern terrorists constantly quotes Muhammad’s deeds and edicts to justify their actions and to call on other Muslims to support their cause.
Muslims in Europe and across the world may be divided into roughly three groups. Firstly, there are the terrorists, who resort to violence (and their allies, the fundamentalists, who do not kill or maim, but provide terrorists with material and immaterial assistance). The second group, the reformers, are the polar opposite of the terrorists and may one day provide an intellectual counterweight to them. This group of people””although tiny, it is growing””may be characterised by its questioning of the relevance and moral soundness of Muhammad’s example. I, who was born and bred a Muslim, count myself among them. We in this group have embraced the open society as a true alternative to a society based on the laws of Muhammad””a better way to build a framework for human life.
The terrorists have far more power and resources than the reformers, but both groups vie to influence the thinking of the third group””the vast majority of Muslims. The reformers use only non-violent means to draw attention to debates over core values and the example of Muhammad. The terrorists and fundamentalists, however, use force, the threat of force, appeals to pity (“look at what the west is doing to Islam and Muslims”) and ad hominem smears. Their unwitting allies in the west defend so-called victims of Islamophobia; meanwhile, the reformers are shunned by their families and communities, and may even live under the fear of assassination. In short, the core of the debate is made taboo, and the fundamentalists attain a near-monopoly on the hearts and minds of the largest group of Muslims, the undecided.
Read it all.