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Ayaan Hirsi Ali
March 2, 2007 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Ayaan Hirsi Ali-Infidel from the Middle East Controversial dutch author, film maker, atheist, critic of Islam, and feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali Has been making the rounds for her book, Infidel. She says: the only way to preserve Islam on the one hand and counter them as moderate Muslims is to say "Well you guys are right. All this stuff is in the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran is written by human beings. And as human beings, endowed with reason, we can change this because we don't think that it's beneficial. Or even if we are not going to change it, we are going to believe that in its context, because the Qu'ran was written in a different time, in a different context, in a different age. We're going to move on; we're going to take from the Qu'ran those things that we think are compatible with human hearts." But the minute you start doing that, that's when hell comes in, and the radicals will say "Oh, but then you are not a believer because you are refuting what God says." Also: "What is going to be left of Saudi Arabia if you take away the Qu'ran and the Shar'ia and the prophet. There's simply going to be no Saudi state. They'll all want secularism; they'll all want democracy."
posted by MDA38 (40 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think Ali is somewhat interesting, though I think she simplifies some very complex matters in her writing. I was disappointed with the "controversy" regarding her Dutch asylum application and even more disapointed that she chose to join the bogus American Enterprise Institute. Similar to how I feel about the beat poets, I think her life is more interesting than her work (case in point).
posted by inoculatedcities at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2007 [6 favorites]


Sounds good at first glance. Islam does have a lot of radical strains that have gained a lot momentum recently. Reform from with of the religion is important, especially for conservative groups based in the West. Reform of Islam isn't going to do much in the Middle East though because the extremism is so tied into the raging geopolitical conflicts.
posted by bhouston at 2:17 PM on March 2, 2007


inoculatedcities, I agree. Her joining American Enterprise Institute is a red flag since AEI doesn't have a humanitarian agenda but rather a geopolitical one in favor of big American business.
posted by bhouston at 2:20 PM on March 2, 2007


I thought this interview was good.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 2:20 PM on March 2, 2007


What did she lie about on her asylum application anyway?
posted by delmoi at 2:22 PM on March 2, 2007


As a Dutchman I am very much interested in Ayaan (all 17 million of us are on a first-name basis with her, if our MSM is to be believed), and I've posted some things about her here; although I've mostly chosen to stick to the Theo van Gogh angle as I've always felt it was easier to build a straightforward story around. Not so much with Ayaan: I agree strongly with some things she says, but I also strongly doubt her real significance in world affairs: can she really make a difference, or is she just preaching to the converted?

On top of that, in some regards she may certainly be labelled a rabble-rouser for the sake of rabble-rousing, at least during her political career in the Netherlands. That said, I do admire her work, but jumping the pond to work for the AEI is unforgivable in my book.

In short, mixed feelings all around.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:25 PM on March 2, 2007


delmoi, reading the Wikipedia article would be an excellent start in your quest for knowledge.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:27 PM on March 2, 2007


disapointed = disappointed. I should learn how to spell.

Incidentally, I think the great Sam Harris does a much better job objectively critiquing Islam from a rationalist point of view than anybody alive. Whether you end up agreeing with him or not, The End of Faith should be required reading for anybody with an active, open mind.
posted by inoculatedcities at 2:39 PM on March 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, wait a minute--wouldn't it iindicate at least a burgeoning interest in humanitarian issues for AEI to ask Hirsan-Ali to join them? She's not exactly a business whiz, after all.
posted by gsh at 2:46 PM on March 2, 2007


The word that immediately comes to mind when I read or hear her name is "opportunist". Whether she's right or wrong, she goes about what she does very poorly.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:50 PM on March 2, 2007


Well, that, or they hired her as a token "humanitarian issues" girl to project such an interest.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:50 PM on March 2, 2007


(in response to gsh)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:51 PM on March 2, 2007


I like how Ayaan Hirsi Ali says "Islam Islam Islam" as the cause of the Middle East's problems, and much like the think-tank she's joined refuses to look at the influences of Western incursion and colonialism on the area.

She is an ignorant reactionary twat who is exploiting her "Muslim credentials" to make a name for herself as a minority-bashing-minority. Her scholarship shows no depth and tells us nothing new. Try Talal Asad or Roxanne Euben or Dale Eickelman if you want decent scholarship on Islam as it relates to modernity and politics.
posted by schroedinger at 2:55 PM on March 2, 2007


schroedinger - I think your response is a little over the top (who says "twat"?), but you're right: she does overstate the significance of Islam a bit, neglecting the long history of the region in favor of a broad, simple explanation -- she appears to not realize that even the Abrahamic religions are evolving institutions. However, is it not obvious her personal experience played a role in leading her to take such a militant stance? The point that she and Harris are right on about is that the recent history of the middle east has been so dire precisely because Islam is at a point in its history that Christianity was six hundred years ago. It is badly in need of reformation to adapt to modern life -- the same violent nonsense can come from a literalist interpretation of Leviticus, but almost all Christians alive today have unique, softer, almost neutered interpretations of their "holy book". The fundamentalist, anti-modern state of Islam has only stoked the fires of a desperate and disastrous geopolitical clusterfuck.
posted by inoculatedcities at 3:09 PM on March 2, 2007


There's nothing progressive about Islamophobia, regardless of whether it comes from a Christian, an atheist, a Jew, or whoever. Islamic radicalism didn't come about because of barbarity in the Qu'ran or a "point in the history" of Islam; it arose primarily because anything resembling a secular, democratic movement was brutally crushed and the mosque proved to be the only place where anti-dictatorial sentiment could flourish. In the case of Afghanistan and al Qaeda, we can go a step farther: Islamic radicals were materially supported by the US as an alternative to the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan. It's very much a creation of the US, and Islamophobes like Hirsi Ali avoid this inconvenient fact in favor of kissing the ass of the US establishment.
posted by graymouser at 3:20 PM on March 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Thanks, graymouser. There are layers upon layers of ignorance on top of this.

*sigh* I miss the Ottomans.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:31 PM on March 2, 2007


I suppose, graymouser, that depends on whether or not you beleive religion to be fundamentally harmful. I'm morally opposed to all religious institutions because I believe they are coercive, irrational and dismissive of human stature and universal rights. I would argue that my opposition is progressive because tolerance of insanity is well...insane. It's interesting philosophical territory, but I have no more fear of being labeled an Islamophobe than I do of being called a Christianophobe or a Shintophobe. My opposition (it's not fear) is a defense of human dignity and it comes into play only when religious (or secular) ideas are coercive to others. If people want to believe that Kobe Bryant is the only true God, that's perfectly fine with me. If they put a gun to my head and ask me to avow the same, then we have a problem...because I only worship Dwayne Wade.
posted by inoculatedcities at 3:35 PM on March 2, 2007


I saw her on Bill Maher recently, and I gotta admit, I was a bit smitten with her. Though in my defense, that is my typical reaction to articulate, intelligent, attractive women with interesting backgrounds and ubercool accents.

I haven't read enough of her work to decide if she is full of shit or not, but in terms of they way she presents herself, she is a bit of a rockstar (albeit a very soft spoken one.)
posted by quin at 3:48 PM on March 2, 2007


There's nothing progressive about Islamophobia, regardless of whether it comes from a Christian, an atheist, a Jew, or whoever.

Are you sure? I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to live in any Islamic nation. I believe in religious freedom, but that doesn't necessarily religions can't be compared or analyzed for their negative effects on society.
posted by delmoi at 3:53 PM on March 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


criticism of Islam != Islamophobia.

There are lots of other factors, such as the accuracy of one's claims, whether or not Islam is singled out, and whether or not Muslims are demonized. So yes, he's absolutely right that there's nothing progressive about Islamophobia, but I think calling this woman an Islamophobe is iffy.
posted by SBMike at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2007


Some of the things Ayaan Hirsi says show that she is smart. But much smater is how, when and where she says it. She is a very good in selling herself, but I guess every politician is.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:11 PM on March 2, 2007


*sigh* I miss the Ottomans.

Huh? You're kidding, right? The Ottoman Empire is what now passes for the good old days? Strange.
posted by a_day_late at 5:33 PM on March 2, 2007



The woman is smart and seriously brave-- how many of us would take the risks that she has in order to speak out about what we believe?

I've met her and she's also profoundly charismatic. And all such people-- like all humans-- have self-interest. So what?

She's not Islamophobic-- she's a feminist who was raised Muslim trying to make the case for a reformation. Let's see the posters who are dissing her take a stand at the cost of having to have bodyguards and constantly be at risk of death. then i'll have some sympathy for your position. oh yeah, and deal with the threat of having your dicks or clits cut off for your religion, first. and move to a new country where you don't know the language.
posted by Maias at 5:39 PM on March 2, 2007


who says "twat"?

People who are awesome.

I'm morally opposed to all religious institutions because I believe they are coercive, irrational and dismissive of human stature and universal rights.

Then you have an entirely different argument here, one that is not based in the quality of Ali's scholarship but on the fact her beliefs tangentially correspond with yours.

The point that she and Harris are right on about is that the recent history of the middle east has been so dire precisely because Islam is at a point in its history that Christianity was six hundred years ago.

And I'm arguing it's a hell of a lot more complicated than that. Islam itself is a complex religion consisting of an incredibly wide range of beliefs and practices, and what we're seeing now is not those practices tearing apart but a crisis of authority as they come together. Mostly mixed in with attempts to define a distinctly Islamic/Middle Eastern idea of modernity in a Western-focused world that wants a non-Enlightenment culture to fit into a secular mold.

Let's see the posters who are dissing her take a stand at the cost of having to have bodyguards and constantly be at risk of death. then i'll have some sympathy for your position. oh yeah, and deal with the threat of having your dicks or clits cut off for your religion, first. and move to a new country where you don't know the language.

Oh, you're absolutely right. I can't disagree or attack the beliefs of anyone who puts their life on the line for their own. I can respect their gumption, and I do respect hers, but I sure as hell am not going to agree with her just because she's gutsy. Am I supposed to agree with white supremacist groups who publicly march just because they're in enough danger that spectators have to stand behind police lines? I'm sorry, but having violent opposition is not enough to render your beliefs impenetrable.
posted by schroedinger at 7:05 PM on March 2, 2007


Man She Is Freaking Hot!
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 7:43 PM on March 2, 2007


No one calls people who criticize the Catholic Church or evangelical Christianity Christophobes. Why is criticizing Islam - which at the moment has far more believers who are inspired by their religion to commit acts of murder - Islamophobia? You're criticizing an irrational belief system, not a race of people.
posted by Dasein at 7:45 PM on March 2, 2007


If somebody universally criticized Christianity, labelling it violent and sexist and making no allowance for the vast number of belief systems and sects underneath that umbrella, I sure would call them Christophobes, or whatever term one would use to refer to someone with an irrational, uninformed hatred of Christianity.

You don't criticize "Islam", you criticize its practicioners. Criticize Wahhabists, criticize Sufis, criticize a particular school or the animistic-Islamic melds you can find in Africa, but don't lump them all together as if every Muslim in the world believes the same thing, or are controlled by some Central Islamic Authority that is dictating how much crazy gets put in the Kool-Aid today.

Jesus, it's like lumping McVeigh in with all conservatives, or claiming man-hating-women are representative of all feminists.
posted by schroedinger at 7:58 PM on March 2, 2007


he, Schroedinger, if you think people who call people by silly names, like "twat" are awesome, you still have a lot to learn.

Apart from that, those who represent Islam in the western press may be the totally wrong people to ask to find the view "ordinary muslims" think they should have, if they were representative or the religion.

The ones representing Islam are always so proud of their religion, that they seem like they would commit murder if someone just made a joke of it. That may not be the case of most muslims, but quite some people have been murdered just because they made fun of Islam or Muhammed and that is a very very serious problem that the whole islamic movement should take seriously, but obviously fails too, and that is also the point of Ayan. The day that the whole of Islam could be a true secular religion and would be able to cope with a joke with a simple shrug, would be the day of my brightest dream.

Apart from that, I am appaled by how little (even islamic)human life means to the islamic world: so many individuals persons are killed in the name of Mohammed every day, but we never hear any muslim authority feeling bad about it. This is bad. Very bad.

As a member of a very individualized community (the so-called western world), I may simply fail to understand how little importance a life is to the community, which only counts the community as one and a loss of life as a minor infraction?

May that be a reason why we don't understand the suicide murderers of Iraq and Lebanon?
posted by KimG at 8:02 PM on March 2, 2007


I am no fan of religion. But, from what I can gauge, Christians, globally, are responsible for more violence than Muslims. In Christian America, more people die of homicides than die from Islamic terrorism. And since atheists make up 1 percent of the prison population, it's safe to assume Christians and other believers make up the rest.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 11:00 PM on March 2, 2007


Erm, I would like to remind everyone that I posted a little piece about her a few months ago...
posted by Skeptic at 3:38 AM on March 3, 2007


You're totally missing the point, Gnostic.

Most predominantly Muslim countries are stuck in the middle ages. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is reviled for pointing that out.
posted by sour cream at 4:16 AM on March 3, 2007


Oh yeah, calling a woman who had a forced clitorectomy as a child a twat is all kinds of "awesome".
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:21 AM on March 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gnostic Novelist, I don't understand your point. There is a difference between a homicidal maniac who happens to be a Christian and a homicidal maniac working in the name of Jesus. Unless the press is involved in some huge conspiracy, I don't see where Christians are blowing up people and places in the name of Jesus. Pre-emptively, I suppose you could make the case that the Iraq war is a war of Christians against Muslims, but that's a bit too simplistic so let's not go there. In any case, your post addressed Christian-on-Christian violence in America, so that is the focus of my comment.
posted by a_day_late at 4:22 AM on March 3, 2007


As to whether or not Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an Islamophobe -- the woman makes a living by playing on people's fears about the Muslim "other" and confirming all their prejudices. The people in this thread who say that Islam is a/the problem are missing the entire point, which is that the current state of the Muslim world has much more to do with the history of imperialism (British, US and otherwise) than it does with anything about Islam as a religion. Hirsi Ali is the kind of person who professionally panders to the establishment line that says otherwise, and so she gets no respect from me.
posted by graymouser at 5:28 AM on March 3, 2007


graymouser: If it has nothing to do with religion, pray tell why it isn't happening in Guatemala or El Salvadore. The reason Hondurans or Nicaraguans (or Guatemalans or Salvadorians or so many others) aren't flying planes into skyscrapers is because their (predominantly Catholic) religion has been effectively neutered and no longer subsists on a literalist interpretation of their "Holy Book". If it did, we'd be in much more trouble than we already are and to deny this is the height of selective historical misinterpretation. Please explain to me why educated Guatemalans with degrees in engineering (or Indonesians or...) are not hijacking airliners and flying them into New York skycrapers...

Ali doesn't make a living on playing on [non-Muslim] people's fear about the "other" and "confirming their prejudices", she makes the case that fundamentalism of any stripe is insane. There is a difference.
posted by inoculatedcities at 8:37 AM on March 3, 2007


Sweet Christmas, it's the joke police! I am very sorry for the delicate consitutions I have offended by the use of the word "twat". Do you object to the use of the word "pretentious" as well? Can I call her a pretentious idiot?

The ones representing Islam are always so proud of their religion, that they seem like they would commit murder if someone just made a joke of it.

Wow. Wow. Um, references? This is a pretty sweet way to depict moderate Muslims in the US.

The day that the whole of Islam could be a true secular religion and would be able to cope with a joke with a simple shrug, would be the day of my brightest dream.

First of all, "secular religion"? That doesn't make any sense. Second, do you hold this same dream of other religions? Because there's never been a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Jew who's gotten upset when you've mocked their religion, right?

Apart from that, I am appaled by how little (even islamic)human life means to the islamic world: so many individuals persons are killed in the name of Mohammed every day, but we never hear any muslim authority feeling bad about it. This is bad. Very bad.

What the hell are you talking about? You've never heard a Muslim authority condemn violence in the community? Have you looked? Try Googling "Muslim condemn violence" or even "Muslim leaders condemn violence". You get over a million hits. Persue a few links, then tell me nobody in the community cares.

Most predominantly Muslim countries are stuck in the middle ages.

You have no idea what you're talking about. Muslim leaders--even extremists--are not freakin' Luddites. The Muslim community as a whole is searching for a way to create a form of modernity that corresponds with their values--and I'm not talking "slicing off clitoris" values but core Islamic and cultural values--in the face of overwhelming secular and Christian cultural incursion from the West. This isn't "stuck in the Middle Ages", this is trying to carve out your own cultural place in the world. Combine that with the horrific damage colonialism did to the progressive movements in those countries and the failure of the pan-Arabic movement, and yeah, you get fundamentalism. Chalking it all up to "Muslims love violence" is such a vast oversimplification that it is kind of boggling you'd even make it.

And inoculatedcities, you may not see that kind of extremism in Guatemala or El Salvadore, but you can find it (and politically sanctioned extremism, too) in other parts of Latin America.

Furthermore, the literalist (Wahhabist) interpretation you're talking about has only gained ground in the past fifty years--so you can hardly say the Middle East is stuck on it, given that it's a political adaptation of the Quran, not a form of religious interpretation that has taken hold in Islam and existed for ages.

Finally, you seem contrast Indonesia as a non-violent country, as opposed to the violent Middle-Easterners. Well, it's also 86% Muslim, dickwad. Oh, look, a predominantly Muslim country that supports religious freedom! Do your fucking research.
posted by schroedinger at 9:11 AM on March 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: Because there's never been a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Jew who's gotten upset when you've mocked their religion, right?

I can't recall any riots in the 20 past years that were caused by the fact that someone "mocked" Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism, can you?

In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of any act of collective violence (in the past 20 years or so) sparked by the fact that one of their religious tenets has been violated. This seems to be an exclusively Islamic thing.

With Islam, on the other hand, a couple boring caricatures about their prophet, and all hell breaks loose. Humorless twats. A little historical probing and poetry (Rushdie) and death sentences are issued by raging mullahs. You certainly can't compare the level of lunacy that is rampant in many parts of the Islamic world with religiously motivated violence in the rest of the world.
posted by sour cream at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2007


schroedinger: You seem to think calling people "dickwads" and "twats" helps your arguments. It doesn't. It sort of embarrassing, actually.

You also seem to have no idea that I've agreed previously (in this thread and elsewhere) that the situation is more complex than the broadside "Islam is bad and stuff". Only ignorant people deny that Islam cannot adapt to becoming an apolitical, softer force (all religions and bullshit dogmatic ideologies can) and I think I've made it clear that I believe that the geopolitical situation is what's exacerbated Muslim fundametalism recently. Please re-read my posts before you emit any more hysterical raving nonsese. Any religious justification for violence (not just in Islam) is illegitimate. And yeah, you're right: Indonesia is really a politically stable country. So is Pakistan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt...what insight!

Also please point me to the documentation that Latin American terrorists are using their Catholic faith to justify suicide bombings. I'd be very interested in learning more about this.
posted by inoculatedcities at 10:04 AM on March 3, 2007


*fundamentalism
** nonsense

Sorry, need more coffee.
posted by inoculatedcities at 10:08 AM on March 3, 2007


I am no fan of religion. But, from what I can gauge, Christians, globally, are responsible for more violence than Muslims. In Christian America, more people die of homicides than die from Islamic terrorism.

A majority of Americans are Christian, but it is not a Christian Nation.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on March 3, 2007


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