Archive for July 6th, 2017

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: she’s changed her tune.

Thursday, July 6th, 2017
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“Not entirely free.” (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

I met Ayaan Hirsi Ali at an undisclosed time and place a few months ago. My first question to her:

In 2004, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered. A death threat targeting you was pinned to his chest with a knife. What is life like under a fatwa?

I’m surrounded by men who carry guns and who tell me where I may and may not go, and what I may and may not do. So I’m not entirely free. That’s all I can say, for security reasons.

I’d written about her before, here and here . She is an edgy and provocative thinker. Not everyone will agree with everything she says, but she’s one of the few original, out-of-the-box thinkers we have on a range of subjects. Moreover, she is perhaps the best-known feminist intellectual ever to come out of Africa. She fiercely denounces forced marriage, genital mutilation, and honor killings – one of the strongest voices on these subjects anywhere. In the West, however, the controversial Somalian activist has often been attacked for her powerful criticisms of radical Islam and Sharia law.

As a girl, she survived genital mutilation. As a woman, she fled Africa and became a member of the Dutch Parliament. She collaborated with Theo van Gogh on his film Submission, which slammed the treatment of women in Islam and led to the filmmaker’s assassination and a fatwa against her. In 2014, after a campaign denouncing her, Brandeis University revoked its honorary degree and invitation to speak. Undeterred, she wrote the bestsellers Nomad, Infidel, Heretic and The Caged Virgin, and this year’s monograph The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It (Hoover Institution Press).

When I first heard her speak in Palo Alto seven years ago, she was militantly atheistic, and said Islamic violence was inextricable from Islam itself. She’s changed her tune. Or perhaps changed key. She is now calling for religious reform and has joined forces with like-minded Muslims. Her goal? “To change people’s minds.”

My interview with her is now up at Stanford Magazine here. An excerpt:

Are we in any sense winning “the war on terrorism”?
No, because we’re not fighting it. We don’t even recognize we’re fighting an ideological war. Partly it is the arrogance. We think of radical Islam more as a nuisance. “Oh, it’s Al-Qaeda. OK, we’ll send some guys, then, and some drones. Whatever.”

Remember him…Theo van Gogh

One chapter in Heretic suggests addressing jihadi terrorism with an information campaign such as the West deployed during the Cold War. Eminent intellectuals, including Bertrand Russell, Karl Jaspers and Jacques Maritain, supported the dissemination in Eastern Europe of more than 10 million books and magazines.
And we never said our system was a moral equivalent with the Soviet system. Nor did we pretend that capitalism was a sort of salvation, a counter-Utopia. It wasn’t. By the way, Bertrand Russell had been attracted to the idea of communism until he saw it in practice.

As you pointed out, that effort operated at a fraction of the trillions we’ve spent on foreign wars.
One MOAB — the mother of all bombs — what did it cost? If they would give that to those of us who want to fight this war of the minds, it would be way more effective. And it’s more humane. It’s moral. You’re not killing people. The goal is to change people’s minds.

To take the Cold War analogy all the way, you have to discuss the philosophical legacy of Mohammed. Like Marxism, it includes a political theory. When Marxism was applied in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, China, parts of Africa, it was manifest for all to see. However eloquent Mr. Marx was in his idea of justice and equality on the ground, it led to gulags.

When Islamic law is applied as a blueprint for society, what is the outcome? You couldn’t wish for a better demonstration of that blueprint than ISIS. It applied the very letter of the law. When you use the state as a tool to make this from top down, to create this ideal Utopia, it’s anything but Utopic.

Remember him, too. A thousand lashes for a blogger.

You say that we celebrated Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Václav Havel — and so we should celebrate Islamic reformers. Can you tell us about one or two of them? Who are the Voltaires of Islam?
There’s one here in the United States. His name is Faisal Al Mutar, and he’s from Iraq. I’ve listened to him on American campuses. He’s compelling, logically consistent, persuasive, and very funny.

His organization, Ideas Beyond Borders, reaches out to change minds. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but hey, if you’re looking for compelling people who reach thousands, maybe millions, he’s determined to do that. I pick him because he speaks Arabic and he’s working from the United States of America.

There’s another name we shouldn’t forget: Raif Badawi, [we wrote about him here] a young Saudi national. He blogged about the injustices in Saudi Arabia: the abuse of power, the concentration of power in the hands of the clergy. He argued for more secularization. He was sentenced to a thousand lashes. Fifty have been administered. He is being tortured, and he is diabetic and in frail health. Publicity is keeping him alive. If there’s one thing I could ask Donald Trump, it would be to free that young man.

Read the whole thing here.