Ayaan Hirsi Ali can’t say that, can she?
Another conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose new memoir is titled bluntly and succinctly Infidel.
Strictly speaking Hirsi Ali is not an infidel but an apostate, a designation that in the Koran warrants the punishment of death. The distinction is not without significance. In a poll published last week, one in three British Muslims in the 16-24 age group agreed that ‘Muslim conversion is forbidden and punishable by death’. This figure comes as no surprise to Hirsi Ali…Liberals, she says, have shirked the responsibility of making the case for their own beliefs. They need to start speaking out in favour of the values of secular humanism. And they need to make clear that they are not compatible with religious bigotry and superstition.
Yup they do – even at the price of being called a liberal neocon.
She speaks in a language that makes no concessions to the softening euphemisms of political correctness. Those immersed in circumspection and ever vigilant to the contemporary sin of offence are bound to ask themselves if she’s allowed to say what she says…Writing in the New York Review of Books, the historian Timothy Garton Ash described Hirsi Ali as a ‘slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist’. Last year when Garton Ash chaired a discussion with Hirsi Ali at the ICA, he seemed both to admire the incisiveness of her quietly spoken logic and to wince at its unshakeable conclusions…She was one of the few intellectuals, for example, who rushed to support the Danes in the cartoon crisis last year. If you believe in the right of freedom of expression, she says, you have to defend that right. In a debate a few years back, Hirsi Ali challenged the Swiss Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan, something of a poster boy for the multicultural left, to be more consistent and clear-cut in what he said…Ramadan responded by questioning Hirsi Ali’s adversarial style. ‘The question,’ he said, ‘is whether you want to change the mentality or please the audience.’…’Tariq Ramadan is filled with contempt for Muslims because he believes they have no faculties of reason…Like many believers in multiculturalism, he puts himself on a higher plane. The other thing is that it’s not about your style, it’s about your content. Are my propositions right or wrong?’
She also argues that it’s important to address white liberals because they need to overcome the self-censoring effects of post-colonial guilt. ‘If you want to feel guilty,’ snaps Hirsi Ali, ‘feel guilty that you didn’t bring John Stuart Mill and left us only with the Koran.’…’In a pattern familiar to historians of political intellectuals,’ wrote Garton Ash, ‘she has gone from one extreme to the other’. The word on Hirsi Ali is that she is ‘traumatised’ by her upbringing and her subsequent adoption of a Western lifestyle. It’s the word that Ian Buruma uses to describe her condition in his book Murder In Amsterdam. Needless to say, she finds this appraisal of her ideas patronising.
Read the whole article; it’s very meaty.