Monday, January 29, 2007

Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's autobiography The Infidel: The Story of My Enlightenment is out, and when I have some money, I shall certainly buy it. I haven't seen any decent reviews yet. This one from the Washington Times does little but retell her story. From the ABC (Australia), there's an interview from Friday in which she restates what she has said many times before. She answers this question well.

KERRY O’BRIEN: What do you say to those who would dismiss you as the migrant who came from a traumatic background and became a reactionary as a result?

AYAAN HIRSI ALI: In the first place, I use the tools that we are supposed to use in a democracy which is non-violent means to argue my assertions and views. Next, I don't see what is reactionary about saying, "Let's respect life as an end in itself, liberty as an end in itself and the equality of men and women."
[my emphasis]

2 comments:

wodge said...

Hirsi Ali's many critics contend that far from being a revolutionary, she brings a message that the West is all too willing to hear. They say that in calling for European governments to protect Muslim women from Muslim men, she and her admirers recycle the same Orientalist tropes that the West has used since colonial times as an excuse to control and subjugate Muslims. "White men saving black women from black men – it's a very old fantasy that is always popular," Annelies Moors, a University of Amsterdam anthropologist who writes about Islamic gender relations, said dryly. "But I don't think male violence against women, a phenomenon known to every society in history, can be explained by a few Koranic verses."...

Karima Belhaj is the director of the largest women's shelter in Amsterdam. She's also one of the organizers of the "Stop the Witchhunt!" campaign against what she sees as anti-Muslim hysteria. On the day we talked, she was despondent. Arsonists had set fire for the second time to an Islamic school in the town of Uden. A few days later a regional police unit warned that the rise of right-wing Dutch youth gangs potentially presents a more dangerous threat to the country than Islamist terrorism. "The rise of Islamism is not the problem," Belhaj said. "The problem is that hatred against Arabs and Muslims is shown in this country without any shame." With her message that Muslim women must give up their faith and their families if they want to be liberated, Hirsi Ali is actually driving women into the arms of the fundamentalists, said Belhaj: "She attacks their values, so they are wearing more and more veils. It frightens me. I'm losing my country. I'm losing my people."

If Belhaj was sad, another "Stop the Witchhunt!" organizer was angry. Like Belhaj, Miriyam Aouragh is a second-generation immigrant of Moroccan background. A self-described peace and women's activist, Aouragh was the first in her family to attend university. She's now studying for a PhD in anthropology. She scoffs at the idea that Hirsi Ali is a champion of oppressed Muslim women. "She's nothing but an Uncle Tom," Aouragh said. "She has never fought for the oppressed. In fact, she's done the opposite. She uses these problems as a cover to attack Islam. She insults me and she makes my life as a feminist ten times harder because she forces me to be associated with anti-Muslim attacks."

Aouragh accuses Hirsi Ali and her political allies of deliberately fostering the hostility that has led to the attacks on Islamic institutions and to police brutality against young Muslim men. "I'm surprised the Arab-Muslim community isn't more angry with her," Aouragh said. "When she talks about Muslims as violent people, and Muslim men as rapists, this is very insulting. She calls the Prophet a pedophile. Theo van Gogh called the Prophet a pimp, a goat-fucker. Well, no, we don't accept that."

Although the press has focused on the threats against critics of Islam like Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, Aouragh says that there have been many more attacks on Dutch Muslims than on non-Muslims. She suspects that what the Dutch really fear is not Islamic fundamentalism but the prospect of having to deal with a new generation of highly educated young Muslims who demand a fair hearing for their values. "We are telling them, 'We have rights, too. You have to change your idea about freedom or face the consequences.'"

[From The Nation, 27 June 2005]

NoolaBeulah said...

It is not a question of the West controlling and subjugating Muslims, but of some Muslims controlling and subjugating others. No-one is trying to explain male violence to women with a "few Koranic verses"; just the use of those "few Koranic verses" by some men to control some women. The rise of "right-wing Dutch youth gangs" and "anti-Muslim hysteria" has more to do with Muslim terrorism than with the writings of one woman against the logic that produces that terrorism.

The most important point that I take from Ali is this: the facile flight from thought that is multiculturalism is destructive of the society that practices it because it allows to flourish values and practices that are inimical to a liberal society. It allows itself to be held hostage by its own assertion that all cultures are equal and all practices of those cultures justifiable in their own terms. It is helpless before threats such as "You have to change your idea about freedom or face the consequences".