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Posted by on Oct 24, 2007 in At TMV | 16 comments

The Crusader: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It makes me cringe when I hear references to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. An ex-Muslim, a former Dutch parliamentarian, and a feminist, Hirsi Ali is often trotted out as some sort of spokeswoman for moderate Islam. A few years back, she wrote a book (“Infidel”) and produced a movie (“Submission”) that condemn harsh treatment associated with Islam; since then, she’s been a celebrity. As blogger Shadi Hamid notes, “people seem intent on treating her as some kind of anointed spokeswoman for oppressed Muslim women, a reformer from within the faith or, worse, a kind of pseudo-Muslim Martin Luther.”

But Hirsi Ali is no Martin Luther. She’s condescending, elitist, and inspires no respect amongst Muslims. Hamid points out that he has “yet to meet even one Muslim on the planet, secular or conservative, liberal or illiberal, who actually thinks that Hirsi Ali is helping the cause of internal Muslim reform.” Maybe, just maybe, Muslims don’t take to her because of comments like this one: the Koran, she has said, is “brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war.” Or perhaps Muslims don’t like her because of interviews, like the recent one conducted by Reason Magazine, in which she argues that Islam must be “defeated”:

Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Go back and read that last line again. Is it not laughable to suggest that someone who believes that Islam must be ‘crushed’ can somehow be a spokeswoman for liberal Islam? Hirsi Ali then goes on, when asked for more clarification, to argue that there is no room for co-existence with her former religion:

Reason: So when even a hard-line critic of Islam such as Daniel Pipes says, “Radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution,” he’s wrong?

Hirsi Ali: He’s wrong.

While I have much regard for those who call for moderation in Islam, push for greater Muslim women’s rights, or who question violent or radical interpretations of the Koran, it’s hard to respect those who condemn the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims as backwards and their holy book as retarded. Eerie, over at the Aqoul blog, finds Hirsi Ali’s blanket condemnations of Islam equally obnoxious. Quoting a part in the Reason Magazine interview in which Hirsi Ali calls the Muslim god “fire-breathing” and suggests that he “inspires jihadism and totalitarianism,” Eerie sarcastically responds with a smack-down:

Right, because when my dear old grannie whispers bismi-llahi ar-rahmani ar-rahimi to herself, she is in fact wishing death upon all those dirty infidel crusaders. That line, which opens almost every sura in the Quran, means “Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” not “Allah, the Most Badass, the Biggest Asskicker.”

Sure, there are radical Muslims whose religious views condone violence. However, my grandmother and over a billion other Muslims don’t spend their days plotting the downfall of Christians and Jews.

That there is a broad diversity of interpretation and opinion in Islam is something that Hirsi Ali blatantly misses. Instead, she takes the actions of a few thugs and conflates their beliefs with an entire religion. No wonder she doesn’t get any respect in the Muslim world. Hirsi Ali is not a spokeswoman for moderates; she’s a spokeswoman for all those who despise Islam.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • DLS

    condescending, elitist, and inspires no respect

    not a spokeswoman for moderates; she’s a spokeswoman for all those who hate

    That’s exactly like the worst radical leftist shit we occasionally encounter on this site.

  • Lynx

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali does not pretend to be a moderate Muslim nor does she think she’s the person on the “inside” to reform the religion. Ayaan is a declared atheist. Anyone who pretends that she’s the voice of moderate Islam is giving her a place she wouldn’t give herself.

    Considering that I wasn’t forced into marriage against my will, had to flee any country, and have never had a dear friend killed and the knife in his chest used to carry a note saying I was next, I think I’m not in a very good position to criticise her for being a tad radical.

    I can’t read her mind naturally, but having heard her speak and read a great deal about her, I can imagine part of the reason she sees Islam as needing to be defeated. Quite possibly she subscribes to the thoughts of Dawkins, Hitchens and others whereby moderates in a religion aren’t harmful by themselves, but do provide a safety net for the radicals. Things can be done in the name of religion that would never be allowed otherwise. Religion is seen as a mitigating factor when violence is used in it’s name. I tend to agree, but I personally think that defeating an entire massive religion is basically impossible all at once, and you’d be best advised to try to work with the moderates to make the radicals seem totally unacceptable, not even mildly justified.

    It’s sort of amusing to see the right-wing gather behind her. Are they aware that she thinks that their religion is as ridiculous as the one she once professed? Do they know that to her they are but a means to an end? I suppose they might, they probably see her as a means to an end as well.

  • Rudi

    If she’s a fan of Daniel Pipes then she cannot be a moderate. Maybe she didn’t like the “smell of being a Muslim”.
    Lynx – To some degree the Italians and other Europeans practice forced marriages. While not as repressive as say the Taliban, the Europeans also have a dark side.

    Forced marriage under spotlight as ‘human rights issue’

    Oct 24, 2007, 12:18 GMT

    London – A two-day international conference to discuss the sensitive problem of so-called forced marriages opened in London Wednesday, presenting such arranged relationships as a ‘human rights issue’ and aiming to give guidance and practical help to victims.

    The British government, which has set up a special Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), is to share its experience with other participants at the conference, organized by the Foreign Office in partnership with the European Commission’s Daphne Fund.

    The conference will be told about the guidance given to social workers, health professionals, police and teachers by the FMU to help them respond to complaints of forced marriage – and to spot cases where women may be afraid to seek help from the authorities.

    It will also hear the personal testimony of victims who have fled marital relationships entered against their will.

    FMU head Peter Abbott revealed that his unit has dealt with several cases linked to predominantly Catholic countries such as Italy, Ireland and France, since its establishment in 2005.

    I recall a friends family, all but the two youngest daughters emigrated from Italy in the early 1960’s. The family still practiced defacto forced marriage in the US. The family hated the oldest sons wife for being American and non-Italian. The two daughters married Italians and didn’t face the same scorn. Forced marriage is a worldwide and religiuos problem, not just a Muslim problem.

  • Lynx

    Rudi, though it may still occur, I simply don’t believe that it’s commonplace, certainly nowhere near the levels present in the Islamic world (and also non-Islamic Africa and India). England has a problem with forced marriages….because it has a high Muslim population. From the link you provided:

    While 65 per cent of the approximately 300 cases which the FMU deals with each year involve Pakistan, and 25 per cent Bangladesh, others were linked to countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

    A handful of European countries, including Italy, Ireland and France, were also affected, said Abbott.

    It’s no more defensible when practiced in the west. Actually I might argue that it’s LESS defensible, since it’s done in the face of the predominant culture, you don’t have the excuse that “that’s just the way things are done”. However, unless I see evidence to the contrary, I think it’s clear that forced marriages, while not exclusive to non-western nations, is certainly much greater there.

  • domajot

    To a large extent, I agree with LYNX’a comment.

    Personally, I don’t think that a radical condemnation of a wide rage of thought in order to address a segment of it is an effective tool for countering radicalism.
    I bothers me, though, that the place of radical thought has never been resolved as tp whem it is to be condemned and when protected.

    On the one hand, radicalism threatens stability. On the other hand, it is often radical thought that jerks civilization forward in knowledge and understanding. I find it unnerving that these cases are decided on the basis of what is politically convenient and expedient at any given moment.
    Aside from when there is a threat to overhrow a system of governnance, there seems to be no clear principle at work that transcends political convenience and philosophical alliances.
    That bothers me.

    It bothers me greatly that the Dutch have refused to provide proection for Hirsi. The British invested heavily in protecting Rushdie, but indivdual book stores caved and removed his books from shelves for fear of reprisal. Some commenters supported Rushdie fully, while others raised the view that he was endangering everyone by making a personal challenge to the Mullahs.

  • All I know is that I saw her on Real Time with Bill Maher once, and “condescending” and “elitist” seemed to sum her up pretty well. She’s more of the Coulter species than anything else.

  • Sam

    “It makes me cringe when I hear references to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. An ex-Muslim, a former Dutch parliamentarian, and a feminist, Hirsi Ali is often trotted out as some sort of spokeswoman for moderate Islam.”

    Does it make you cringe because she’s so bad an example of one or because its so absolutely a mischaracterization of her? See what you’re doing there, trying to attach her name to something she isn’t and seeing if it sticks to help others discredit her. Very underhanded.

    And the reason she says the Koran is “brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war” is because it is. Its a religous book, they are all that way. Incidentally, they are all peaceful and promise us ways to treat eachother better too. Such books tend to include passages that allow a leader to inspire followers to whatever ends they need at the moment.

    The shallow rhetoric trying to dress up Islam of the middle east as somehow nonviolent was exposed for the sham it was during the Danish cartoon fiasco. The fact remains that the powers that be in the world of Islam lean towards radical behavior, repressive orthodoxy, and all that flows from it. And while there are lots of muslims that don’t lean to violence, there are many, many that do.

  • domajot


    Salman Rushdie has appeared on Bill Maher’s show, and I was shocked to hear him say the msot idiotic, asinine and formulaic things I know Rushfie has a brilliatn mind, so I couldn’t understand why he would stoop so low.

    Is there something about the host that infects the guests?

  • Rudi

    Lynx – What I should have said is arranged marriages. I think that they are common in Catholic Europe like Italy and the other countris mentioned in the link. In Modern Europe arranged /forced marriage is WORSE than what’s happening in the ME.

  • Sam

    Doma, a lot of writers are brilliant on paper and much less so in person. Its why most take up writing in the first place.

  • domajot


    “And while there are lots of muslims that don’t lean to violence, there are many, many that do.”

    Are you saying that ‘lots; is fewer than ‘many, mnay’ ? Most statistics severly dispute that, depending on how they rate the many shades of gray between black and while.
    At any rate, since you bring up the lack of uninimity,
    you just defeated your own argument, IMO.

    The Koran, like the Bible, can be interpreted in many ways. It can be read as a precription for tolerance as well as a prescription for violence, and has been taken to mean both positions.

    How do Christians manage to overlook ‘turn the other cheek’ while engaging in multiple wars, BTW?
    They cherry pick, just like Muslims do.

  • domajot,
    People just show their true colors on HBO 🙂

  • Sam

    “They cherry pick, just like Muslims do.”

    Of course they do, and are just as rediculous.

    And its hard to gauge exact numbers, but I go by what i see. I see the president of Pakistan going after a radical school one day, and the upswell of negative public opinion from that very sensible act has threatened to topple him from power.

    I see Iran run by angry men using the most bellicose of language and invoking Allah’s vengence. I see Saudia Arabia dominated by Sharia law, whose most senior clerics say things that shock and disgust me as not just an american, but as a human being. I see the middle east reverberate with violent upheavals for the slightest of insults to their way of life, endorsed by countless imams and nary an outcry from amongst their own leaders at the resulting bloodshed .

    I think the leaders of Islam, the major players, the real players, keep the middle east whipped up into a constant frenzy of religous outrage. I don’t know what part the general populace plays, whether willing participants or dupes or just people trying to go with the flow and hope for the best, but the overall effect is what we have today.

  • domajot


    I agree with you about the leaders. But htat’s politics, not the Koran.

    When I berate Bush’s decisions, I don’t blame the Bible.

  • Sam

    Doma, the book itself is immaterial. What I have a problem with is the “Church” of Islam. The body of scholars and teachers and how they are leading their flocks. Its not just politics, altho in the middle east its pretty hard to separate the two. The culture and the church are pretty barbaric to me, in dire need of a transformation the likes of which the christian churches underwent some time ago.

  • andy_x

    “She’s a spokeswoman for all those who despise Islam.” And why exactly is that a problem? In a liberal, democratic society, everyone is fully entitled to despise Islam, and indeed, all rational people do. This is called ‘freedom of speech,’ which Muslims seem to have a problem with

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