Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Big decisions - Little reasons

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been in the news again over the refusal by the Dutch government to continue funding her security arrangements. Pieter Dorsman at PJM analyses what led to this decision, an analysis notable for its lack of hysteria and clear-eyed understanding.

Firstly, on a cultural level the Dutch dislike heroes and outspoken success stories, more than once have I explained to foreigners that famous national mantra “act normal, that is strange enough’. Even at the height of her popularity Hirsi Ali was disliked by most Dutchmen. She was too outspoken, disrupted the existing order even though many felt she had a valid point. Hirsi Ali herself never grasped this and took her newfound freedom literally, never finding the right note that would allow her to really fit into the ‘Dutch debate’. Secondly, on a practical level the entire approach to her – her eviction from her apartment, the questions over her passport and her security – were all dealt with in purely administrative and legal terms. Not once did moral considerations or feelings enter a string of bizarre decisions that on its surface appear to be defensible yet upon closer examination lacked any reasonable basis and merely provided an easy justification for many to expedite Hirsi Ali’s exit. Thirdly, and that is something I have more than once addressed on my own blog, the Dutch are not tolerant by nature: at best they are pragmatic, at worst indifferent.

I think that description of the Dutch could as well be applied here and in many other places. The resolution of big questions often comes down to inertia, legalisms and indifference.

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Hazar Nesimi said...

Ayaan Hirsi was a burden to Dutch government in the throw of the crisis of integration with Muslim and other minorites. Unable to oust or silence her, since she was unbinding, they attempted series of legally correct actions to expedite her exit. THis is not so interesting, interesting is, unlike the case with Iraqi interpreters here, there was no widrespread outrage against the decision on the contrary. So pragmatism triumphed against the concept of free speech on critising Islam. Even in Holland.

NoolaBeulah said...

The question is, are the Dutch so different to the rest of us? She's an uncomfortable figure and most people hate to be taken out of their comfort zones. I know that I do.

wodge said...

Uncomfortable figure? I think unhinged lunatic would be more apt.

NoolaBeulah said...

She defends women's rights and free expression. 'Unhinged lunatic'? That seems to me just plain excessive and not anywhere near the usual level of your comments.

wodge said...

"She defends women's right and free expression". Unless of course your a muslim.

Judging by her latest rant, I'd say calling her an unhinged lunatic was being kind.

NoolaBeulah said...

You're going to have to point out to me exactly what she says that is lunatic and why.

Hazar Nesimi said...

Well her views definetely getting more extreme. She managed to offend many, even peaceful ol' me, she does seem to want wage war not on radicals but on Islam itself. I regret that her views of Islam are so negative. Her view of real Islam does not correspond, ad she classifies normal muslims as Un-islamic etc. She may be defending rights of oppressed woman but she denies me the right to love my God. I admire the courage of Irshad Manji and the likes fighting for Muslim rights, but Aayan Hirsi does not get my sympathy. I just hope there will be less fanatics like her.

wodge said...

Well, there's this for a start:

Reason: Explain to me what you mean when you say we have to stop the burning of our flags and effigies in Muslim countries. Why should we care?
Hirsi Ali: We can make fun of George Bush. He’s our president. We elected him. And the queen of England, they can make fun of her within Britain and so on. But on an international level, this has gone too far. You know, the Russians, they don’t burn American flags. The Chinese don’t burn American flags. Have you noticed that? They don’t defile the symbols of other civilizations. The Japanese don’t do it. That never happens.

So, it's fine to steal their land, overthrow their governments, impose tyrants on them, give a platform to every rabid racist that claims there is a secret muslim plot to achieve world domination (with all Saddam's invisible WMDs no doubt) but heaven forbid that they should burn an American flag.

And then there's this.

Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.

Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

Not that I'm predicting Muslim genocide here, but anyone who has read case studies on Rwanda, Nazi Germany, etc will realize that one of the precursors to genocide is the ramping up of "existential conflict" rhetoric suggesting that annihilation of another group is the only way to save ourselves.

NoolaBeulah said...

Your reaction to the flag-burning comments is completely out of proportion because
1. she's making a point about the importance of symbols in those countries and how the trampling of symbols is often a prelude to something worse (mind you, I don't know how we'd go about stopping people burning our flags, but ...)

2. you lead straight into the 'it's all the fault of the West anyway' line - it is not. It is the fault of a social / political / economic system that ceased to evolve several centuries ago and of a mentality that has not been able to adapt. I don't deny that we have exploited that weakness, but the weakness was there beforehand. It was the same situation in SE Asia, but they were able to use the exploitation to regain power themselves. The fact that Middle Eastern countries have not done this is indicative of their inability to adapt to modern life.

Her next quote is very strong, certainly not something I would say myself, though I can understand why she puts it like that. In a sense, the importance of Ali and people like her is not so much her relation to Islam (though I think it's important that positions of radical opposition like hers be possible to Muslims just as they are to us - you, for example), but rather her relation to the lands where she found enlightenment. Just as colonials like me view England with dewy eyes, she has taken and made her own the principles of liberation and self-determination that, until recently, the Left championed. When she sees them trampled and no real defense is raised by the people who fought 3 world wars over them, she gets a little over-wrought. In a sense, the real targets of Ali's ire ought to be us.