Thursday, March 01, 2007

The story of intolerance and abuse, and the fight against it.

The story of Ayaan Hirsi Magan is a mixed one. It is filled with courage, conviction, and determination. But it has a plenitude of tragedy, danger, and death.

She has released an autobiography of her life, since she has come to the United States.

Salt Lake Tribune:
Clearly, there is something about Ayaan Hirsi Ali that annoys, rankles, irritates. I am speaking as one who does not know Hirsi Ali - the outspoken Dutch-Somali critic of Islam - but as one who, while living in Europe, cannot seem to avoid meeting her detractors. Most recently I met a Dutch diplomat who positively glowered when her name was mentioned. As a member of the Dutch parliament, Hirsi Ali had, he complained, switched parties, talked out of turn and refused to toe whatever was the proper political line. Above all, it irritated him that she did not share his Dutch faith in political consensus.

For those who haven't encountered her name yet, suffice it to say that Hirsi Ali is a European of African descent with an almost American rags-to-riches life story. As a young woman, she escaped from her Somali family while en route to an arranged marriage in Canada, made her way to Holland, learned Dutch, attended college and eventually won a seat in the Dutch parliament. Along the way, she also made an intellectual journey - beautifully described in her new book, Infidel - from tribal Somalia, through fundamentalism and into Western liberalism. After Sept. 11, 2001, horrified by some of the things Osama bin Laden was saying, she reached for the Quran to confirm a hunch: ''I hated to do it,'' she wrote, ''because I knew that I would find bin Laden's quotations in there.''

Partly as a result she lost her faith, concluding that the Quran spreads a culture that is ''brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war,'' and that should not be tolerated by European liberals. The conclusion led her into a series of controversies - and to the murder of a Dutch filmmaker with whom she had co-produced a film about the mistreatment of Muslim women. The murderer was the son of Moroccan immigrants, born in Holland; he pinned a letter threatening Hirsi Ali onto his victim's chest. Ultimately, she left Holland for Washington, where she remains, ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute.

Yet even from that distance she continues to provoke Europeans, sometimes without saying anything at all. After a somewhat patronizing review of her first book - in which British writer Timothy Garton Ash called her a ''brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist'' - the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner came galloping to the defense of Hirsi Ali and the Enlightenment. Garton Ash counterattacked, and others joined what turned quickly into a wide-ranging debate (read the whole thing at about reason, faith, multiculturalism and the integration of millions of Muslim immigrants into European culture.

She does provoke debate. In Holland it led to rough going for her. A murdered friend, constant death threats, and the need for body guards. What is it that she did? Draw a naughty picture? No. She expressed opinions, as a Muslim, that were critical. She eventually turned from Islam and became an atheist. That is even worse. And she pointed out the hypocrisy of Islam, and the cruel and unfair treatment of women. And she had no trouble pointing out her dislike of Muhammad, as a man and as a prophet.

Her stand on the Muhammad sketches:
I do not seek to offend religious sentiment, but I will not submit to tyranny. Demanding that people who do not accept Muhammad’s teachings should refrain from drawing him is not a request for respect but a demand for submission.

She was not remotely cowered to be quiet.

Then the government began digging into her past, and decided to question her entrance into Holland. Many said she broke the law.

When she came to Holland she was in flight. As a Somali Muslim woman, she had an arranged marriage. That did not sit well with her. She wanted something else. So she fled the country, changing her name and trying to cover her tracks, fearing for her life (after she did escape she discovered that her family did hunt for her, and later her father disowned and denied her for escaping).

Sadly, avoiding marriage is not considered a good reason to move. It is a ridiculous stance. In too many countries, refusing a arranged marriage is fatal. Let us not even genital mutilation, not even not even done medically, though any doctor involving themselves in the genital mutilation of little girls should be disbarred, if not stoned. So she fled, to find freedom and safety. Safety from this abuse. We should be able to assume that America and Europe would stand against barbarism. And I don't use the term lightly. As these types of activities are allowed to continue, the disdain we have for them should not be couched because they are wrapped in tradition and faith. It is no excuse. There are no excuses.

The fact that nations aren't addressing these abuses is diabolic. Helping people escape this, honor killings, and all the other crap should be as important as the stories of aiding in the flight of people from beyond the Iron Curtain.

With all the trouble she chose to come to the United States and a post at the American Enterprise Institute, not my favorite group, but it is hard for me to hold that against her. She is a more conservative person than me on defense, diplomacy, criminal justice, and immigration. But she is honest in her stances, and in her secular and atheist opinions.

Hopefully now that she is safer and able to be more open and strident we will hear far more from her.

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