Always look on the bright side of FGM

Nicholas Kristof tells off Ayaan Hirsi Ali because of course he knows far more about Islam than she does.

To those of us who have lived and traveled widely in Africa and Asia, descriptions of Islam often seem true but incomplete.

Including, apparently, descriptions by people who grew up immersed in Islam, genitally mutilated under Islam, beaten up by their teachers of Islam, issued death threats from adherents of Islam. The descriptions are true – but Kristof wants more. He wants to hear about the pretty calligraphy.

The repression of women, the persecution complexes, the lack of democracy, the volatility, the anti-Semitism, the difficulties modernizing, the disproportionate role in terrorism — those are all real. But if those were the only faces of Islam, it wouldn’t be one of the fastest-growing religions in the world today. There is also the warm hospitality toward guests, including Christians and Jews; charity for the poor; the aesthetic beauty of Koranic Arabic; the sense of democratic unity as rich and poor pray shoulder to shoulder in the mosque.

That first list is quite a doozy! Repression of women, no democracy, anti-Semitism, anti-modernism, affinity for terrorism [and he forgot homophobia, hatred of outsiders and "infidels," madrassas, the death penalty for leaving, and a few more large items] – with all that is it really surprising that Islam gets some criticism? It sounds absurd to admit to all that and then say yes but, especially when the yes buts are themselves dubious. Hospitality to Christians and Jews? What – they get a nice meal before they get driven out of town? And as for the sense of “democratic unity as rich and poor pray shoulder to shoulder” – well it may be democratic unity but it sure as hell isn’t gender unity; women are banished to the back of the bus. Forgive me if I can’t get too sentimental because Kristof gets dewy about rich and poor men praying shoulder to shoulder in the mosque.

Really – he should know better. He should know better to admit repression of women, no democracy, anti-Semitism, anti-modernism, affinity for terrorism and then go on to say “but it’s not all bad.” Fuck that. With that list, it’s bad enough, and good liberals shouldn’t be cobbling together feeble excuses for it.

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