The question we should be asking about Brandeis, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Islam

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at the Neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute

from AEI.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at the Neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute

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In rescinding the honorary award for Hirsi Ali, Brandeis did the right thing. Eventually. But perhaps we should be asking another question: how could Brandeis have chosen such a hateful person whose views are easily exposed through a simple Google search in the first place? And would such views be tolerated, and rewarded, had they been made about other ethnic and religious communities?

  • David

    In his recent entry on Malcolm X, Professor Safi asks that we consider the following “teachings” of “Brother Malcolm:”

    “Malcolm on capitalism: “You show me a capitalist, and I’ll show you a bloodsucker””

    “Malcolm on America: “I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream — I see an American nightmare.””

    Does not Ayaan Hirsi Ali see Islam through the eyes of a victim?

    I don’t agree with everything she says (I think she too frequently makes Islam a monolith out of anger) but I recognize that she has suffered tremendously in her life and that drives her activism. Should she not be criticized when she says something we disagree with? Of course she should. But the underside of the accusations of Islamophobia (a term I find very problematic) she gets from people like Professor Safi are the threats and harassment that have always followed her. It’s good though, that Professor Safi linked directly to the interview with her, so people can hear what she has to say and judge accordingly. I recommend they do so, because the way she is portrayed in this blog post is, in my opinion, quite unfair.

    When oppressed people speak out against those they identified as their oppressors, it is not unusual for them to have anger. My answer to the question posed in this blog post is, perhaps someone at Brandeis understood that, and decided that on the whole she still had something to say worth hearing.

    I don’t expect Professor Safi to agree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s understanding of Islam but I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t show any sympathy at all for where she’s coming from. Maybe once she has a spiritual awakening like Malcolm X, we will see a post asking us to go back and consider her teachings.

  • David

    I should also add that while I think, again, that it is perfectly reasonable to criticize Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her ties to right-wing politics, it should be put into context.

    I’d also like to re-emphasize that there are a lot of things Ayaan Hirsi Ali says that I think are wrong, misguided, or even harmful. I just try to keep in mind where she’s coming from.

    Interested parties can check out a Reddit discussion (Some rude language in the comments, unfortunately) of this issue on their Ex-Muslim forum here:

    I’m quite sympathetic to any community of apostates, and as you could see there is a lot of debate in this one about whether or not she is good. But I think most people there who dislike her make the point that they understand where her anger is coming from, because they suffered too. That’s something to consider.

  • David I think you miss my point, which seems to be a constant theme in many of your posts. I do have sympathy and compassion for the trauma that Ayaan has suffered in her own life, but none for the way in which she has–both in Netherlands and now in the United States–allied herself with the most xenophobic and warmongering of forces like the rightwing Dutch parties and Neoconservative think tanks like AEI that bang on the drums of war. I reserve my foremost solidarity with the weak and powerless people who stand to receive the brunt of the brutality of wars waged upon them by the likes of AEI. Hirsi Ali only legitimizes their warmongering.
    The issues she raises, some of them, are legitimate, but they have to be addressed and ameliorated by those who seek to do so not by eradicating Islam and Muslims, but rather by uplifting through working through the community.
    May God bless you.

  • Ahmad Sadri

    By inviting and then disinviting AHA, Brandies has giver her the ideal platform to spew her hateful anti-Muslim tirades from the Tea Party Media. One almost wonders if this was by design. One could hardly imagine a more successful media stunt.

  • yaqin

    CAIR made a huge mistake sending the letter to the university. Made a mountain out of a mole hill.

    The real issue is muslim need to do more to stop the horrific practice of FGM and child brides. A 14 year-old girl in Nigeria just poisoned her 35 year-old husband and the Iraqi parliment is looking to pass a law allowing 9 year-old girls to marry. And of course the idiot Saudis with their Grand Mufti saying you have to allow 10 year-old girls to marry, does no favors for anyone.

    As for where the university googled Ayann Hirsi Ali, i imagine so. I just don’t think what she had said in the past mattered when it came to the honorary degree. From what I have read and seen they are known for ignoring radical political ideologies/statements when giving hororary degrees for humanitarian work.

  • “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
    ― William F. Buckley Jr.

    … and so they move to ban anyone from hearing them.

    I served in the US Military for 23 years so that people with views I abhor as well as views I agree with can speak their mind. Tolerance means tolerance for ALL views, not just the ones I agree with.

  • Marty

    To be honest with you professor, I stopped reading your rant as soon as I read the word islamaphobe ( an invented term from the MB designed to vilify anyone who criticizes Islam) so I quickly skipped my way through to the end and sighed.
    Oh dear, thought crime is here!
    Islam is a religion and a political idea and it has a history of shutting up its critics. Ayaan is educating the west towards the political side of Islam and she is doing a fine job. Look, here we are talking about her. I am Christian living in a post Christian world she is Atheist. She has reservations about Christianity I do not call her a christophobe or use slander against her.
    I understand where you a coming from though. ISLAM MUST NOT BE CRITICIZED. Point final.

  • John

    The problem with the initial allegory is I know of no Jewish sect or tradition that calls for Jewish conquest of the world or the destruction of other faith groups. I have a good friend who is Jewish Rabbi who is and claims orthodox Judaism is radically anti-Christian because of the falseness of the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah (according to his view). But he still yet advocates for fair and ethical treatment of Christians and for religious liberty.

    Asking “What Would Mohammad Do” could be a very interesting and dangerous question given his use of violence to propagate his religion from early in the movement.

  • John

    So is a Muslim can’t criticize Islam who may? Omid has a problem with this woman criticizing her own religion. Could it be the criticism? Could it be that she is female? Could it be that Islam is above criticism in his mind? Should RNS use the same standard to do its homework on him as he calls for the university to have done on Ms. Ali?

  • Dear “Marty”: What an inconvenient problem when facts don’t support your argument. The European usage of the term Islamophobia go back to the decade of the 1910’s. The English usage of the term 1923. The Muslim Brotherhood didn’t form till…. 1928.
    So yeah, go back and find something else from the Robert Spencer crowd.


  • Dear “John”: It’s a really fine distinction. See if you can stay with it.

    It’s fine and good and even necessary to call for critique of any religious (or political) tradition when it violates the mandate of justice. In fact, it’s something many of us do on a daily basis.

    To talk about militarily crushing 1.5 billion human beings? Not so much.
    To demonize the faith of an entire block of humanity? Not so much.


  • Humeyra

    First it needs to be said that Malcolm X realized he was wrong about a lot of things (the ‘whites are devils’ issue for example) at the end of his life – especially after going to meccah, second, we can understand or at least try to understand why a person is so full of anger towards those he or she has suffered oppression from, but this does not justify racist comments or worse : inciting violence. If Hirsi Ali has the right to say these things – I have the right to associate all secular nationalists with dictators, racists and liars, for that is what religious turks have experienced many decades in Turkey, under an oppressive, war-mongering and plutocrat secular elite (I’m from a anatolian family). I however, do not think it is my right to say or do so – not every secular nationalist supported what happened in the nineties with the Kurds, and not every secular nationalist thinks it’s ok to oppress religious people.

    People have the right to criticise religion. People have the right to criticize whatever. They dont have the right to spread hatred though – there I draw the line.

  • Marty

    Good morning and thank you for responding to my comment. I will research your historical claims and get back to you. Please stop ‘dissing’ people just because they do not agree with your point of view.

  • Paul

    “To talk about militarily crushing 1.5 billion human beings? ”

    Ayaan never actually said such a thing, that’s you twisting her words.
    Anyone who has read her interviews or speeches in their full context knows that when this woman speaks about the West being at war with Islam, she’s mostly talking about a war between conflicting values and ideas. And it’s a “war” which she claims the West is refusing to acknowledge, for various reasons. Not the least of which the fact that the whole notion of “religious war” was commonly seen as a thing of a remote past. She bravely bears the brunt of media backlash by doing what most in the West try their hardest to ignore; the reality is that there are considerable numbers of Muslims for whom there is no separating Islam as a religion from Islam as a political objective, people for whom secular governance must be overthrown and replaced by theocratic rule. If opposing armed groups of bearded fascists requires police action at times and even military action on ocassion, so be it, but it’s by no means a fair summary of her statements about the “war” on Islam. Ayaan always takes pains to point out she’s not attacking Muslims as such, but Islam as a political programme. She always pleads for fighting backward theocratic propaganda with western ideas of the enlightenment. The battle ground she describes or prescribes, the one she wishes the West would face, is mostly a cultural and intellectual battlefield.

    The problem of hate speech is not someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was moved to speak out against hatred and violence done in the name of Islam out of love for her fellow human beings. Ayaan Hirsi Ali expresses ideas that, whether you agree or disagree, challenge ideology and a political project. She does not simply appeal to primitive and unsubstantiated prejudice, the way it so many interlocutors in Middle Eastern media do on a daily basis with regards to Westerners and Jews and members of an opposing sect.

    Mr Safi, you pay lip service to the necessity of people to challenge fascistic ideologies yet you also call for the banning and shaming of this woman who is doing exactly that… It’s always easier to grant the right to free speech to people with whom you already find yourself in agreement. If you can’t grant the same right to those with whom you disagree than perhaps your commitment to the whole notion is null and void.

    Those who openly call for killing people for being of the wrong religion, sexuality, or race, those who state it as their objective to harrass people who dare seek education and self rule beyond the confines of a 7th century religion, those are the people who cross the line between free speech and incitement to hatred and violence… Some of those people have received funds from the likes of CAIR, who in turn are bankrolled by Saudis whose definition of human rights does not include non-Muslims, these are the ones who define hate speech in 2014 and they present a more honourable target for your denouncements.

  • Yaqin

    ” we can understand or at least try to understand why a person is so full of anger towards those he or she has suffered oppression from,” true, that is why i don’t understand so many muslims lack of understanding of Ms. Ali’s hatred of Islam. If any of the oppression she claims to have experience under Islam is true, then we should understand her hatred.

    “People have the right to criticise religion. People have the right to criticize whatever. They dont have the right to spread hatred though – there I draw the line.” You can draw your line wherever you like. But in America we don’t draw that line. Being in Turkey, were they have a law against “insulting Turkeyishness”, I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Didn’t you guys throw a journalist in jail for writing a book about the Armenia genocide? Such hate.

  • Humeyra

    I dont think the USA is an example for the world actually, so why should I care where you guys draw the line. By the way – I live in Belgium. And where did I justify the imprisonment of journalists ? Or the law that forbids insulting turkish identity ? Btw, isn’t your Patriot Act somewhat the same ? You are getting personal and it’s quite pathetic. Good day.

  • Humeyra

    I can understand where the hatred comes from, but I can never approve of it. If so, we should also approve of the hatred many muslims feel towards the US and Europe (we can’t deny colonization now can we) or the hatred many Congolese feel towards the Belgians, etc.etc. Where does it end ?

  • dear “Reformed Catholic”, as someone who grew up admiring William F. Buckley, Jr., I am always delighted to see someone quoting him. It’s always good to see an intelligent, rigorous conservative position, instead of much of what passes as conservativism today.
    I am actually for a spectrum of ideas, though I always bend towards justice, beginning what what Christ identifies (Matthew chapter 25) as “the least” of God’s children. Where I do draw the line is for people, any people, who call for hatred towards another block of humanity.
    all the best, omid

  • Yaqin

    The story is about an American. But yeah, you don’t have to agree with our concepts of freespeech. You can imprison someone for “hate” speech. The point is, when you start saying I’m not going to allow “hate” speech, then you have to wonder who is going to define what is hate?

    Where did i say you justified anything?

    Patriot Act? Who has been imprisoned for their speech under the Patriot Act? How did i get personal? What was pathetic? I guess you and I come from very different cultures. You have a good day too.

  • Yaqin

    So you understand it, but don’t approve of it. That’s confusing. OK, where does it end? It may never end if people continue to hold grudges. I remember when Yugoslavia was breaking up and some guy brout up a battle in 10 something. Ironically enough, we bombed Germany and Japan into the stone ages practically in WWII and came out friends. America was a colony under Britian, yet we have a “special relationship”. But I’m not sure how much longer the Congolese or Ali will have a chip on their shoulder. One would hope it ends after a generation or at the very least two.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Funny how this woman is being denied a chance to state her case in the process of receiving an honorary degree for bringing up many issues others would prefer be buried.
    There have been plenty of people receive honorary degrees for the good work they do as the negative parts of what they have done are laid aside. Didn’t one of Iran’s most hate-filled toward Israel and America Islamic leaders receive honors at Columbia . And the academic world rose up in his behalf citing the good that could come from allowing him free speech.

  • Yaqin

    No. He gave a speech. He was given no honorary degree. Where did you get that from Deacon?

  • sun

    Over-generalizations and essentializations that supposedly describes everybody under the banner of “Islam” are quite dangerous. Ayaan deliberately does this, and many angry comments here commit the same mistake. It is a hate-crime to claim that “Islam is inherently intolerant to X, Y or Z,” as it is equally a hate crime to claim that “all Christians are oppressive capitalist missionaries” or all Buddhists hate Hindus etc. Thus what Ayaan is doing is not a critique of Islam, but a simple essentialist attack. “All Jews should die” would not be a critique of Judaism, it would be simple anti-Semitism. Seventy years ago the essentializing attacks were turned to Jews in the name of science and human emancipation, and now they violently turn to Muslims. We should be clever and ethically robust against the hate-crimes and war-mongers. Else we will keep approaching towards another Auschwitz. Those who associate these violent attacks with freedom of speech and critique: shame on you.
    Thanks, Omid.

  • David

    My position is that you do have that right to make the association you mention about secular dictators. Even if you weren’t from an Anatolian family, though of course that affects things a lot. I think that taking away your right to express that association wouldn’t help things, it would just make you more angry. So in engaging with you, I would take where you’re coming from into account.

    I would be happy if an angry person realized that secular nationalists weren’t all oppressive. I think that coming at them with some basic respect instead of writing them off as a hateful religious fanatic would help, wouldn’t it?

    Especially considering that there are many things that can be validly criticized about secular nationalists.

    I would, however, do what I could to make sure that even while I was engaging you, that you weren’t inciting or actually causing violence. The rule of law is always a valuable component of free speech.

    If you think Hirsi Ali is inciting violence, you’d definitely have a case against her for that in the USA.

  • Yaqin

    “Those who associate these violent attacks with freedom of speech and critique: shame on you.” Who associated a violent attack with freedom of speech?

  • David

    You asked a relatively simple question: “Did Brandeis do their due diligence before awarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali?”

    Your argument is that because her hatred is so obvious and overwhelming, if they DID do their due diligence, it is unconscionable.

    My response is that her positions and actions are complicated by her background, which you failed to acknowledge. Had you mentioned the intense suffering and oppression she went through, it wouldn’t have legitimated her criticisms of Islam or justified Brandeis’ original decision, but it would have made the case considerably more debatable. I linked to other people who have gone through oppression (ex-Muslims) who have very complex feelings about her. She isn’t Terry Jones (who has his own set of issues), and shouldn’t be treated in the same way. Your choice to just condemn her as a hateful warmonger without asking us to consider her history does not do those people who you claim to want to protect any favors. After all, she is still going on Fox News and working at AEI, as you say. If anything, it just draws the lines separating us more deeply and leads to more hatred.

    In that vein, your troublesome conflation of Islam (and Christianity) with Blacks, Gays, and Hispanics is also quite offensive. People can leave and/or drastically change their religions. On the other hand, I don’t see many ex-Black people around (Some people pass, but that implies the complete shedding of their previous history as well, and is a very different matter). Don’t you realize how much suffering so many apostates from religion have to endure? Can’t you see how disrespectful that comparison is to them, to say that their religion is a part of them they can never get rid of?

    It’s convenient that your foremost solidarities are also the most socially and professionally beneficial to you. However, I’d just ask you to consider that:

    1) You’re a public figure, and if there is a place anywhere for you to express nuance and take time to consider the situation, it is on your blog.
    2) The “weak and powerless people” you mention are not a faceless mass, and many of them engage in oppression and face oppression from within their communities. Just like many of them are good.
    3) Ayaan Hirsi Ali is still a human who I’m sure you’d agree God loves more than any of us love our parents or children.

    Other commentators have pointed out that they believe you are wrong in your interpretations of Hirsi Ali’s views regarding the “eradication” of Islam. I’ll simply take that as evidence that maybe the problem with Brandeis wasn’t that they are infiltrated by heartless Muslim-haters, but that they tried to navigate the extremely complex circles of oppression that Hirsi Ali has lived in and embodies and made a debatable decision.

    And finally, I’ll point out that the opinion “religion is bad and shouldn’t exist” is hardly irrational, even though I disagree with it. That Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not an “equal-opportunity atheist” (as if all religions are exactly the same) doesn’t delegitimize her opinions by itself. Communal problems are rarely limited to just the community.

    May God bless you as well. I appreciate the space to engage with your ideas.

  • David

    Marty – Please see for your edification the following blog post:

    The first section, on Islamophobia vs anti-Muslim bigotry, makes an excellent case for the problematic use of the term “Islamophobia” that doesn’t downplay real discrimination faced by Muslims. It’s a good starting point for discussion.

    That is an excellent blog by the way.

  • David

    I think those claims you mention are wrong, but I’m not sure if calling them a hate-crime is right, or at least always right. There’s a difference between a never-Muslim person like Robert Spencer ranting about what he thinks Islam is and someone who was born Muslim, who underwent deep trauma that was completely tied up with Islam in her mind. The difference isn’t that I think Ayaan is right. I agree with you that she essentializes; and even though I don’t think she says “All Muslims should die,” some of my Muslim friends do tell me they find her quite offensive and distressing.

    The difference, I think, is that when we have the opportunity to consider the situation more deeply (like, in a blog post), we can react with more compassion and understanding.

    I don’t think people (especially Brandeis students) were wrong to protest, and I don’t think that Brandeis was wrong to withdraw the award. I just can understand that maybe what made the university decide to award it in the first place is not some horribly shameful cancer of hatred infesting Brandeis. Maybe it was the actions of her foundation:

    That received a letter of appreciation from the US State Department. Or maybe someone in Brandeis is an ex-Muslim and felt solidarity with her. Hard to say. I think it’s good to talk about, though.

    I think we agree in our ultimate goals (and if I recognize your username, I want to say that I appreciate your kind words to me in the past), we just have some small disagreements on strategy.

  • David

    Jesus also said “love your enemy.” I think that is the perspective that Reformed Catholic is coming from. Remember when Jesus was listing some examples of the “least of these” he also listed people in prison. I assume that if he had meant “unjustly in prison” he would have said so.

  • David

    What is your reaction to the Qur’an demonizing the faith of the pagan Arabs? Or the many statements in the Bible, Qur’an, Hadith, and other religious texts that talk about militarily crushing people and condemn other faiths and whole blocks of people to hell?

    If we can (or must, as you say) contextualize, critique, and reconcile those parts of our traditions, well, maybe we can (or must) do that with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s statements too. I wonder what that would look like.

  • David

    The above post is addressed to Professor Safi.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Yaqin- you are right . The president of Iran spoke at Colombia, but did not get an honorary degree , he just got the” bully pulpit” a woman who has suffered greatly from Islam was refused.
    No reputable historian believes the Holocaust never happened, but Ahmi nijad, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was given a chance to fill the media with his lies and question the “reality” of whether the Holocaust really happened. But a woman can’t talk of genital mutilation or her colleague being murdered by Islamic terrorists.
    Whatever happened to the American value that says: “I disagree with everything you say, but I will defend to the death your RIGHT to say it.”
    But the minute it is Islam that is questioned and probed, or negatively commented on–the “hate speech” canard is dragged out to shut people up and send us down the path to the way many Islamic countries trash free speech.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Sun–You say Islam is not inherently intolerant to X, Y, or Z” Others claim otherwise. So there should be a debate–not a silencing of debate.
    It is not just on this issue that a “hate speech” charge is being used to silence people. It is made ( today mostly by political liberals) who are afraid that facts do not support their position.
    For example, much of what I have read about Islam backs up what Ali has said including what has happened to so many people who even mildly criticize Islam– including the murder of one of Ali’s colleagues.

  • Hello Deacon. You are *almost* right. Ahmadinejad was invited by Columbia. However, most fair observers would not describe him as having gotten a “bully pulpit”. Far from it.
    Here’s what happened, let me provide the sources for it.
    1) He did not receive an honorary degree, unlike what Ayaan Hirsi Ali was to have received.
    2) His speech was preceded by the President of Columbia, who took the unusual step of offering a lengthy speech refuting and critiquing Ahmadinejad. The tone was set was president Bollinger of Columbia directly referred to Ahmadinejad as “a petty a cruel dictator.” So as you can see, not exactly a bully pulpit.
    Here are the exact text of President Bollinger’s comments:
    And if you wish to watch it, here is the video:

    I myself am a critic of Ahmadinejad, and the abuses of the Iranian regime. Still, I think it is important not to conflate the tradition of Islam with the idiocy of the ruler of one country. Just as I would hope people would not dismiss the beauty of the Christian tradition because of the atrocities of one Western ruler, be he Hitler or President Bush.

  • Yaqin

    Deacon, so much so wrong in there, where do i start. i guess at the beginning. i’ve never heard a speech at a n=university being called the “bully pulpit”. i thought that was the presidency. Next, after they withdrew their honorary degree offer, they offered her a chance to speak at another event. she declined. yes, we all know ahmadinajad is a holocaust denier. so you want a law like europe has outlawing that? you are upset that he was allowed to speak, while at the same time saying you defend the right to say something you disagree with? smh.

    as for american value of freedom of speech. it is strong and very much alive. see the westborogh baptist ruling. john roberts opinion. but brandies is not the federal government. nor is columbia. if an organization wants to bow to pressure from cair, they can.

    yes islamic sountries are wacked, when it comes to free speech. saudi arabi just passed a law equating atheist thought to terrorism. the oic wants a international law against blasphemy. i saw the video of the (what looks to be) pakistani calling for ‘freedom of speek [sic] agianst blaspheming our beloved prophet’. something like that.

    we must stand firm against attacks demanding the government to regulate our freedom of speech. but at the same time they can’t force institutions to allow anyone to speak. if i came into your house and said i think jesus christ was a fraud. that there is no god and that you should be killed and your children re-educated. would you ask me to leave, or would you say, tell my children more?

    anyway, may theo van gogh rest in peace. clearly muslims hate american freedom of speech. best not to become the monster that we fight. 🙂

  • Yaqin

    “Still, I think it is important not to conflate the tradition of Islam with the idiocy of the ruler of one country” so what do you think of the ruler muhammad saying, “whoever changes his islamic religion. kill him”?

  • Marty

    Well said! That petty much sums it up. Political Islam forbids criticism. Thought crime is back in the name of hate speech against Islam ( not a person) playing the victim card in he west. But the Achilles heel of Islam is its persecution of minorities. The more a Muslim country becomes Islamic the more it becomes Sharia compliant and that is bad news for minorities especially Christians. Most of the countries in the world that persecute Christians are Muslin countries.

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  • Bora Horza

    Mhh, with due respect, I’d hope that in your day job, you treat your sources and their interpretation more carefully than you have in this blog post.

    Ali has authored two books, yet you chose to base your analysis on a couple of out of context quotes from non-scripted interviews – the same snippets incidentally that are related over and over again by her distractors, which makes one wonder how many actually looked them (and their context) up, and how many just related them.

    There is one point where we agree – she was a poor choice for a graduation event and it shows Brandeis at its incompetent worse. Not so much in my view for what she said, but for what graduations ought to be: they are not meant to challenge, but to entertain. Having said that, once Brandeis gave publicly its word and made a promise, reneging on it as they did, not accepting responsibility and apologising but rather attacking the invitee, is in my book discourteous, dishonest and also incompatible with the rules of hospitality – you have duties to your guest once you invited them. If my kinds insulated someone I invited into our hours, there would be words – and not with the guest. But then I might be hopelessly old fashioned.

    But let’s look at the snippets you provide from her interviews ad see if they support the charges you made against her. From your use of bold fonts, you object against e.g. the expression of “defeating Islam”. Agreed, that sounds rather aggressive, doesn’t it? But then, just this morning, a couple of Jehova’s witnesses knocked at my door to convert me, and on the bus, a nice young Mormon tried the same. They both tried to “defeat” what ever belief I held previously. Are they guilty of hate crimes? In an ideal world, for them, everybody would be Mormon or JW. And of course, all the large world religions proselyte, including (groups within?) Islam. They all, therefore, consider the “ideal” world one where unbelievers have been “defeated” – that does not imply “on the tip of a sword”, and can mean simply by having the better arguments, but defeat it is. And for good reasons too – they make after all mutually contradictory truth claims. Some particularly wooly postmodernists may think of membership in a religion like a preference in ice-cream flavour, but that is not so much tolerance as indifference. So I submit that what triggers you and many of her critics objections is really that you are not used to get the same approach articulated by atheists, even though it is deeply ingrained in the DNA of religions, including your own. There are some good points in the Economist analysis here:

    and while I disagree with much in it, some of it is I think spot on – Europe is much more used to atheists arguing their case openly and on an equal footing than the US, and what appears to you to be hateful when coming from them is just too common when practiced, day in and day out, by religions including your own, even to notice. So if it is “hateful” to ague for the “defeat” of a religion, then all religions that proselyte are hateful, in my view an absurd conclusion.

    But then, she does not just talk about the benefits other religions, or none, might have – defeat by argument, she mentions “war”. From this you infer that she wants to “eradicate Muslims” probably though a bombing campaign… Really, I mean, really? That is the same level of analysis, and along the same lies, you get from the right wing nut cakes at Fox who scream genocide every time a Muslim uses the term “jihad”. You for all people should be aware of the multitude of nuances and meanings this term in our language has. You are of course also aware of the fact that the major religions quickly developed a “just war” doctrine. Why again should that be different for atheists, especially since they do experience violence, not just from individuals but entire states? Why is it wrong, for them and them only, to point out that there can be a situation where even the use of arms can be legitimate for protection? “War” then covers the whole range if interaction, from the war of words or arguments as the legitimate norm, to the use of actual arms in those parts of the world (as presently in the CAR) where regrettably the use of force becomes necessary to preserve the state. Again, is pretty much how all religions conceptualise their interaction with other belief systems.

    You say: “she is not an equal opportunity atheist”. True, on some level. But why should she, and why is it tantamount to “hate” not to be? Do you consider all religions (and atheism) to be “of equal value” than Islam? Not just, note, to be “tolerated” as in “not actively oppressed”, but supported and nurtured for their intrinsic worth? Islam apart, do you consider Christianity, animism, Wicca, or Satanism as all “equally worthy? Maybe you do, but in the real world, things are often different, and specifically the Abrahamic religions gave each other special
    consideration at the exclusion of others (I know my limits, so I’ll stay clear debating theology with you, but is this in Islam not even an explicit tenet, that Christianity and Judaism are special amongst the non-believers?) Does this mean that all Christians Muslims etc are “hateful” towards animists etc, and hence should never be honoured? It seems to follow from your analysis.

    OK, so she picks on Islam rather than Wiccans. Others have me mentioned her past experience – I think they miss the point to a degree, and it belongs really more into the “equal opportunity” issue. As an atheist, she considers on one level all religions as equally misguided. But why should that automatically make her a Dawkins-type person attacking them all equally? (and would Dawkins have been more acceptable?) For an atheist, it seems perfectly reasonable to say: If you “must ” have a religion, I’d prefer you to chose one that has a good track record in protecting atheists. And while there is social discrimination against atheists in the US, by and large the states they are safest in are those with Christian or Jewish majorities. Simply for what she believes (or not believe) in, she faces severe sanctions including death in a number of states. Not by overzealous or fanatic individuals, but by these states as abstract entities – and apparently with often significant majorities of their population endorsing it. When my life is threatened for my beliefs, by states in their official capacity, is it “hateful” to say that my beliefs and I am at war with these states, and their beliefs? Hyperbole maybe, but a justifiable one, or so it seems to me.

    You write : “One cannot save Muslim women by destroying Muslims”. One one level, this is just a ..problematic.. to avoid a stronger word, misrepresentation of her position, if you mean the physical human being. If you mean the “identity”, then this is just the sort of postmodern waffle that a privileged academic in his ivory tower might say. Believe you me, if someone comes with a sharp implement after my private parts, I’ll be eternally grateful for whoever stops him, whatever his motives. As to the guy who stood by doing nothing but taking notes, and after the act tells me he was worried to interfere with my free agency, and worried to impose his world view on me and the attacker, but that he hopes that in a few decades, he might convince my assailant to voluntarily stop what he is doing…well… It is exactly that attitude that drove Ali, who started as a left winger, in the arms of the right. The people she thought of as natural allies when she tried to help woman in the Netherlands preferred to talk about cultural sensitivities and post colonialism, and did nothing (just as the Brandeis academics). The right acted – for dastardly reasons, for sure, but as I said, if you come after my private parts, I take my allies from wherever.

    Which brings me to my last point – disinviting Ali, apart from being discourteous and insulting, is going to cause harm. Just look at the enforcement of anti-FGM laws in the UK – 3 prosecutions in several decades. Why? Because of a perfect storm where a conservative, predominant right-wing police tends to ignore “domestics” anyway, and if they are between foreigners – well that’s just what these people do, innit? In the past, solidarity on the left was able to overcome or mitigate this attitude, e.g. in marital rape cases. The symbolic effect of disinviting Ali and the attacks on her that Brandeis included in the statement mean that this culture will remain unchallenged, and the police worried of being called racist by the left, ail follow its inclinations from the right. The losers will be the woman. I agree, had Brandeis never invited Ali, this would have been much better, a non issue. They did though, and from that point onwards, should have rated the negative symbolic effects of their actions higher than the comfort of their highly privileged students.

    yours respectfully etc…

  • David

    I enjoyed reading this comment a lot. Thanks

  • Hirsi would be an intellectual giant if she did not hate. She is doing a lot for secularism and human rights but, sadly, she has not lifted herself from the effects of her experience that could be driving her towards selling herself to political expediency of power brokers who have interests in the Middle East and Africa, etc.

    She could be likeable especially because she is an African and is committed to the freedom of slavery in Africa. I also not that she has started to nuance her comments and differentiate between some Muslims and others (Ismailis/ Sufis versus some who believe in armed rebellion against the west). But she should also develope discernment for the cultural and spiritual versus the political before she considers pouring invective which is not necessary for her goals, which need to be reviewed.

  • ben

    Jews and Christians don’t blow up themselves in the name of Allah. Your comparing Islam to other religions is inaccurate.

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  • Sebastian Karwowski

    “Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love, who represents a hereafter where there’s no hell”

    what lol, catholicism is the only christian sect which has so well crystalized hell, even infants without baptism go there according to the doctrines…

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