In Human Events this morning I discuss the New Yorker’s recent attack on Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an ex-Muslim who is guarded round-the-clock because of Islamic jihadist threats to murder her. She is also a fearless champion of human rights and especially the rights of women who suffer under the institutionalized discrimination mandated for them by Islamic law. One would think that she would be a heroine to the enlightened liberals of the New Yorker magazine. Think again: it turns out that for the New Yorker, multiculturalism trumps feminism, and so Hirsi Ali is just another “Islamophobe.”
The liberal rag last week published an attack on Hirsi Ali that bordered on the obscene in its extenuation of evil and denigration of those fighting against it: “Islamismism: How should Western intellectuals respond to Muslim scholars?” by Pankaj Mishra. Mishra suggests that Hirsi Ali believes Islam’s prophet Muhammad to have been “a pervert and a tyrant,” and that Islam promotes terrorism and enslaves women, simply because she experienced “bigotry and intolerance among her former co-religionists,” was “genitally mutilated as a child in Somalia,” was “briefly radicalized,” and so on. In other words, if she hadn’t had such terrible personal experiences with Islam, she wouldn’t regard it with such a gimlet eye today.
But actually, the question of whether or not Muhammad was a pervert and a tyrant has nothing whatsoever to do with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s experiences, whatever they may have been. The question of what Muhammad was can only be answered by consulting the early Islamic sources about Muhammad (and they do show indeed that he was a pervert and a tyrant). Even the question of whether Islam enslaves women cannot be answered by Hirsi Ali’s personal experience, as illuminating as it may be of the condition of women in Islam. It has to be answered by reference to Islamic texts and teachings about women, and by a look at how those texts and teachings are put into practice in various parts of the Islamic world.
By making it all about Hirsi Ali’s negative experiences, Pankaj Mishra abuses her again, by devaluing her judgment and implying that if she had been born into different circumstances, she would think something different about Islam. And it gets worse. Mishra compares Hirsi Ali’s critique of Islam to European anti-Semitism: “Hirsi Ali, recording her horror of ghettoized Muslim life in Whitechapel, seems unaware of the similarly contemptuous accounts of Jewish refugees who made the East End of London their home after fleeing the pogroms.”
Or in short, as the new saying goes, “Muslims are the new Jews.” There is just one problem with this ghastly equation, which trivializes the mass-murders of Jews in Europe and defames Hirsi Ali: Jews never carried out terrorist attacks in Europe, and never boasted about how they were one day going to take over (in contrast to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s boast that Muslims would soon conquer Rome and all of Europe — a boast that other Islamic leaders have echoed). The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a forgery, and there was no factual basis for all the conspiracy theories about Jews scheming to control the world, any more than there is today….