Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks truth to Islamist power and calls out Western appeasement

The following essay, published at Newsweek and The Daily Beast by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is a must-read for those genuinely interested in understanding what’s at stake in the West’s largely craven reaction to the murder, by Libyan Islamists, of U.S. Ambassador Chris Steven, and the deadly riots throughout the Muslim world following the release of a video critical of Islam.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992. She served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006 and is currently a fellow of the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard University – Adam Levick

It is a strange and bitter coincidence that the latest eruption of violent Islamic indignation takes place just as Salman Rushdie publishes his new book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, about his life under the fatwa.

In 23 years not much has changed.

Islam’s rage reared its ugly head again last week. The American ambassador to Libya and three of his staff members were murdered by a raging mob in Benghazi, Libya, possibly under the cover of protests against a film mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

They were killed on the watch of the democratic government they helped to install. This government was either negligent or complicit in their murders. And that forces the U.S. to confront a stark, unwelcome reality.

Until recently, it was completely justifiable to feel sorry for the masses in Libya because they suffered under the thumb of a cruel dictator. But now they are no longer subjects; they are citizens. They have the opportunity to elect a government and build a society of their choice. Will they follow the lead of the Egyptian people and elect a government that stands for ideals diametrically opposed to those upheld by the United States? They might. But if they do, we should not consider them stupid or infantile. We should recognize that they have made a free choice—a choice to reject freedom as the West understands it.

How should American leaders respond? What should they say and do, for example, when a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s newly elected ruling party, demands a formal apology from the United States government and urges that the “madmen” behind the Muhammad video be prosecuted, in violation of the First Amendment? If the U.S. follows the example of Europe over the last two decades, it will bend over backward to avoid further offense. And that would be a grave mistake—for the West no less than for those Muslims struggling to build a brighter future.

For a homicidal few in the Muslim world, life itself has less value than religious icons, such as the prophet or the Quran. These few are indifferent to the particular motives or arguments behind any perceived insult to their faith. They do not care about an individual’s political alignment, gender, religion, or occupation. They do not care whether the provocation comes from serious literature or a stupid movie. All that matters is the intolerable nature of the insult.

The riots in Muslim countries—and the so-called demonstrations by some Muslims in Western countries—that invariably accompany such provocations have the appearance of spontaneity. But they are often carefully planned in advance. In the aftermath of last week’s conflagration, the State Department and Pentagon were investigating if it was just such a coordinated, planned assault.

The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group. On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam. Of course, there are many Muslims and ex-Muslims, in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere, who unambiguously condemn not only the murders and riots, as well as the idea that dissenters from this mainstream should be punished. But they are marginalized and all too often indirectly held responsible for the very provocation. In the age of globalization and mass immigration, such intolerance has crossed borders and become the defining characteristic of Islam.

Map of Protests

And the defining characteristic of the Western response? As Rushdie’s memoir makes clear, it is the utterly incoherent tendency to simultaneously defend free speech—and to condemn its results.

I know something about the subject. In 1989, when I was 19, I piously, even gleefully, participated in a rally in Kenya to burn Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses. I had never read it.

Later, having fled an arranged marriage to the Netherlands, I broke from fundamentalism. By the time of Sept. 11, 2001, I still considered myself a Muslim, though a passive one; I believed the principles but not the practice. After learning that it was Muslims who had hijacked airplanes and flown them into buildings in New York and Washington, I called for fellow believers to reflect on how our religion could have inspired these atrocious acts. A few months later, I confessed in a television interview that I had been secularized.


29 replies »

    • From Deborah Orr’s column:
      “If I deliberately wound up an angry, resentful acquaintance to the point where he went on a rampage and murdered someone, I like to think I would have some regrets.”

      Feeling nauseous yet?

      Would that be like egging on the fanatical and murderous with tales of Israeli “racism,” Deborah?

      • I hope no one has had their lunch yet. Here’s more from Deborah:

        “Britain parcelled out the land of another people like it was the family allotment, as recently as 1948.”

        Speak about deliberately winding up an angry, resentful acquaintance.

        Apparently Deborah is somewhat less willing to self-censor herself as she is to have others self-censor.

  1. Rushdie felt particularly aggrieved that many of the attacks came from people whose worldview he shared. His leftist credentials were undisputed, given his positions on apartheid, the Palestinian question, racism in Britain, and Margaret Thatcher’s government. What’s more, Rushdie considered himself a friend, not an enemy, of Islam. He believed that his roots in Islam—though his family was not particularly religious—gave him credibility. His previous book, Midnight’s Children, had been a hit in India, Pakistan, and even Iran. He had no clue that Verses would trigger a hostile reaction among Muslims.

    He was a perfect example of today’s useful idiots. However, at least in some ways he seems to have learned from the experience, something the typical Western idiots who have somehow managed to conflate Islamicism and Marxism have not, and in the process destroyed the concepts that lie behind the left wing.

    I think it is he who created the term “the outrage industry”, and now talks about how the Islamic masses are being manipulated for political purposes by their clerics and politicians and clerical politicians.

    But this is something which has been obvious from an Israeli perspective for about 100 years, going back all the way to the start of the British mandate in Palestine.

  2. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a hero to free thinking individuals. This brave woman has lived on both sides of the cultural divide, and decided that the western tradition is better for individual freedom, thus left wing apologists for “Islam” disparage her constantly. Islamists and other blind obedience freaks call for her murder for daring to think on her own without their help.

  3. Didn’t Hirsi Ali have to leave the Netherlands because of Dutch dhimmitude in the face of pressure from Islamists there when the Dutch government suddenly declared her to be an illegal immigrant?

    • Yes. They completely abandoned this brave woman whose life was clearly in danger. Always known for their wooden shoes, Ms. Ali didn’t until then notice their wooden heads.

        • “Well Jeff, are you ready to grant her Israeli citizenship?”

          I’m not in a position to grant her anything. Why would you ask such a stupid question? Oh yeah, I forgot…
          Which reminds me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask you.
          Do your parents know you go on the internet?

        • You are lying as usual. She left the Netherlands because:

          a. Media speculation arose that she could lose her Dutch citizenship because of this identity fraud, rendering her ineligible for parliament. At first, Minister Rita Verdonk[53] said she would not look into the matter, but after Member of Parliament Hilbrand Nawijn officially asked her for her position, she declared that she would investigate Hirsi Ali’s naturalisation process. This investigation took three days; the findings were that Hirsi Ali had not legitimately received Dutch citizenship, because she had lied about her name and date of birth. Rita Verdonk moved to annul Hirsi Ali’s citizenship, a move that was later overridden on the urging of Parliament.

          So in the end the Parliament annulled Verdonk’s decision (who interestingly was a rival of Ali in the Party btw) after Ali left the country already.

          b. On 27 April a Dutch judge ruled that Hirsi Ali had to abandon her highly secure house at a secret address in the Netherlands: her neighbors had complained that living next to her was an unacceptable security risk to them, although the police had testified in court that it was one of the safest places in the country due to the large number of personnel they had assigned there.

          Her neighbors were made of the same material as you Nat.

          • Cheappsychiatrichelpisatyourhands, even though she admitted having told lies to be granted asylum and then citizenship in the Netherlands, Ali was allowed to retain her Dutch passport.

            She chose to move to the USA because she was offered a much better salary. I know many Israelis who’ve done the same.

        • Nat,
          You are very ignorant boy. AEI offered her a position when she had to leave the Netherlands, quite possibly saving her life.

      • And immediately some idiot votes down my question without bothering to express an opinion!

        God, this website is truly infested with neanderthals.

      • It is not barbarism pretzel – it is only a peculiar understanding of movie criticism without ever seeing the criticised movie.