Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: an ally, not an alim

Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently resigned from the Dutch parliament after being stripped of her Ducth citizenship by the prime minister. As Bill Ardolino notes, there is considerable irony in this, given that she was essentially forced out by the Dutch right-wing, people who should be her allies in the public debate against Islamic extremists in Holland.

It is rumoured that she will come to the US - if so, I welcome her to my nation, she is a true American in spirit. I'd love to see her run for Senate!

However I have to say that while I have great admiration for her courage, I also do not grant her even a modicum of legitimacy on her views of Islam. Dean argues that muslims, instead of ignoring her, should ask themselves why Ayaan Hirsi Ali left the faith. Well, I have never advocated ignoring Hirsi Ali, but I won't accept that she has anything to teach me about my faith. Her abandonment of the faith was a personal decision - and as such has absolutely no relevance to the broader faith as a whole, only to the circumstances of her experiences and (with all due respect) tribal African heritage - an entire continent which unfortunately remains the single highest locus of barabric misogyny on the planet, irrespective of religion. One need only look to Darfur for evidence.

The solution is more liberty, not less Islam. In fact there is a route to liberty within Islam, so I argue that the solution is therefore more Islam (of a certain strain, to be sure).

I applaud her. And on issues of liberty she is my ally against the extremists. But not on matters of faith - her pronouncements on what Islam is are as irrelevant to me as bin Laden's. I won't be shamed from my beliefs as the "progressives" have been.

UPDATE: Tavis of Lantern Torch blog says that Ali is neither an alim nor an ally. I disagree that alliance with Hirsi Ali violates the principle of "enjoining the good and forbidding the evil". Neither do I particularly feel sorry for her; she's a big girl and can make (and has made) her own decisions. I think that being Ali is too rigid on whether Islam needs to be changed in order to achieve her goals; likewise some muslims are too rigid on demanding purity of those who they could make alliance with to help wrest the debate from the extremists' frames.


  1. She may even in fact represenet a potential way for American muslims to win her back to the faith, after binding her wounds and welcoming her back as a sister. If she is up for that (one wouldn't want to force it on her).

  2. its possible, but of course shouldn't be a priority :) Muslims should welcome her as an ally but I think that she's going to have a hard time with outreach to the community because of her association with what many muslims perceive as hostile-to-Islam elements (ie the right wing in Holland). Which makes the irony of her expulsion all the more acute...

  3. I think your respect (grudging or not) for Hirsi Ali goes too far - she has taken the easy route to money and publicity, while selling out Dutch Africans/asylees/Muslims who need articluate opponents to xenophobia.

    And in the end, the hand that fed her now squeezed her out - under the pretext of lies on her asylum application!

    In any case, collaborating with those who have forsaken your faith is a sure-fire way to hurting your own....insteady of categorizing her as an ally, how about just an adversary for argument to strengthen your own beliefs (non-violent and non-threatening debate of course)...

    Also, please look to the history of the world to see that misogyny is barbaric all around the world - rapes of Bosnian Muslim women in EUROPE (litigated in America), honor-killing and bride-kidnappings in Asia & the Middle East, and sex-trafficking in the United States...merely adding to the stereotype of African savages does no good...