Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the dangerous anti-Islamic logic of the war on terror

April 20, 2014


Ayaan Hirsi Ali lost an honorary degree from Brandeis for articulating the same twisted thinking as Dick Cheney

It’s been over a week since students at Brandeis compelled their university to refuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, and the blogosphere is still roiling with grievance. Kirsten Powers laments Islam’s preferential treatment in USA Today. Mark Steyn notes the incident, as part of a eulogy to free speech in this weekend’s Spectator. Bill KristolJohn PodhoretzAndrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat have all registered their disgust at this assault on a free and open discourse. Zev Chaffets at Fox News.com describes the incident as an “honor killing.”

The Change.org petition that cost Ali her honorary degree acknowledges the legitimacy of her grievances with Islam, but condemns the “hate speech” through which she expresses them. The petition quotes her as saying:

Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder … the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realize that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself …

Ali told Reason magazine in 2007, “There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.”

Curiously, not one of the pieces protesting Brandeis’ decision actually quotes Ali’s past rhetoric. Instead, they refer obliquely to her “stinging attacks on non-Western religions,” “provocative ideas” or, most opaquely, her “life and thought.” The simplest explanation for this chronic omission is that to actually engage with Ali’s rhetoric would be to expose the absurdity of the Judeo-Christian persecution complex that informs so much of the genre.

The backlash the students of Brandeis have incurred for asserting that Islamaphobia is in fact bigotry, reflects precisely what makes Ali’s rhetoric so dangerous. Far from being a fringe position in our discourse, the idea that Islam is a uniquely malevolent ideology is the necessary fiction behind the war on terror.

To be clear: Fundamentalist religion is a scourge. And without question, fundamentalist Islam enjoys more political salience in many countries across the Middle East, than fundamentalist Christianity does in American politics (though the influence of the latter is considerable). What is fictitious in Ali’s rhetoric, and in the logic of our public policy, is the notion that Islam is uniquely susceptible to violent interpretation, and therefore all Muslims are inherently suspect.

Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2014/04/20/ayaan_hirsi_ali_and_the_dangerous_anti_islamic_logic_of_the_war_on_terror/

Islam critic: Brandeis turned honor into a shaming

April 8, 2014


Brandeis University has transformed an accolade into “a moment of shaming” by withdrawing a plan to give an honorary degree to a Muslim women’s advocate who has made comments critical of Islam, she said Wednesday.

The university decided late Tuesday not to honor Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the May 18 commencement after receiving complaints from some students, faculty members and others, including an online petition.

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion: “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. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

“She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world,” said the university’s statement. “That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Ali said that her critics selectively pick quotes and that she doubts the university was not aware of them.

Some alumni, students and faculty did voice support for honoring Ali, who was raised in a strict Muslim family but renounced the faith in her 30s after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/brandeis-u-decides-against-honor-for-islam-critic/2014/04/08/b26f8fb8-bf96-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0_story.html

Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Critic of Islam

April 9, 2014


Facing growing criticism, Brandeis University said Tuesday that it had reversed course and would not award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a fierce critic of Islam, who has called the religion “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”

“We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement released eight days after it had announced that Ms. Hirsi Ali and four other people would be honored at its commencement on May 18.

“You would think that someone at Brandeis would have learned to use Google,” said Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, who said he thought Brandeis had arrived at the right position: not awarding a degree, but welcoming Ms. Hirsi Ali to speak.

Having drawn fire for inviting Ms. Hirsi Ali, Brandeis may now take criticism from other camps, whether for disavowing Ms. Hirsi Ali’s views, or for giving in to Muslim activists.

Even some of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s critics say they understand her hostility to Islam, given her experiences, though they think she goes too far. A native of Somalia, she has written and spoken extensively of her experience as a Muslim girl in East Africa, including undergoing genital cutting, a practice she has vigorously opposed, and her family’s attempts to force her to marry a man against her wishes.

In 2007, Ms. Hirsi Ali gave an interview to The London Evening Standard that was, by her own telling, the most unvarnished public expression of her views to that point, including the “cult of death” comment. She advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that “violence is inherent in Islam” and that “Islam is the new fascism.”

Later that year, in an interview with the publication Reason, she said, “I think that we are at war with Islam,” and said it must be defeated. “It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now,” she said. “They’re not interested in peace.”

Western leaders like George W. Bush and Tony Blair were striking a very different tone, insisting that they were at war with terrorist factions, not Islam as a whole.

Brandeis said last week that it intended to confer honorary degrees on five recipients, including Ms. Hirsi Ali. One of the recipients is Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times.

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/us/brandeis-cancels-plan-to-give-honorary-degree-to-ayaan-hirsi-ali-a-critic-of-islam.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

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

April 11, 2014


Brandeis’ decision to rescind the honorary degree to Somali-Dutch Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been met with celebration and the to-be-expected condemnation from rightwing quarters.    Brandeis finally released a statement which read:  “We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”

Brandeis’ statement has been met with almost unanimous celebration from Muslim community members and also many Jewish community members.

It shouldn’t be.   But not for the reason one might think.

Let’s step out of the bizarre world in which we live—which we create—and ask a parallel question:

Would Princeton give an award to an activist who talks about Judaism as the religion devoted to worshipping an evil “fire-breathing” deity that commands Jews to violently destroy the world?

Would Notre Dame recognize an award to someone who talks about eradicating blacks?  Or Christians? Or Hispanics?

This is exactly the parallel of what Ms. Hirsi Ali has said, and repeatedly so, about Islam and Muslims for many years.

Let’s be clear about this.   This is not a freedom of speech issue.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali can get on Fox News anytime she wants, or speak at the Neo-conservative place of her employment, American Enterprise Institute, neither of which has any issue with her demonization of Islam and Muslims.

No, this is about a university finally doing what they should have done in the first place—their homework—and deciding not to honor a well-paid professional hate-monger.

Presumably Hirsi Ali came to their attention as a “champion of Muslim women’s rights.”
One cannot save Muslim women by destroying Muslims.

So, here’s the question we need to be asking:  Did Brandeis do their due diligence before awarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
If they did not, that’s a sign of incompetence.
If they did, it’s unconscionable.

Brandeis did the right thing.  Eventually. But perhaps rather than applauding the decision to rescind this offer, 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?

That is the real, and as of yet unanswered, question.

RNS.com: http://omidsafi.religionnews.com/2014/04/11/question-asking-brandeis-ayaan-hirsi-ali-islam/?ref=leaderboard#sthash.sj2Np0hX.dpuf

Dutch Politician on Apparent Death List

1 March 2013


Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is listed in an apparent al-Qaeda death list, RTL news reports. The politician is listed fourth on a pastiche poster published online. A spokesman for the Dutch counter terrorism bureau noted that circulation of death lists is a popular al Qaeda tactic. Other names listed included Danish newspaper editor Carsten Juste and Dutch public figure Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi Ali Wins Journalism Prize

10 May 2012


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writer and former member of the Dutch parliament, has been awarded the German Axel Singer Award, on behalf of the Axel Springer School of Journalism. She has received the award in recognition of “her uncompromising struggle for the rights of Muslim women, even at the risk of her own safety.  Hirsi Ali currently resides in the United States.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali Publishes on Threat to Christians in Muslim Majority Countries

6 Feb 2012

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian refugee who served as a Member of the Dutch Parliament, has published an article in Newsweek detailing the threat which Christians face in Muslim countries. Hirsi Ali asserts that “the conspiracy of silence about the violent expression of religious intolerance must stop”, condemning Western governments and media for ‘forgetting’ the about the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries in the wake of the Arab spring.

Although Hirsi Ali is no longer a politician in the Netherlands, media in the country addressed the Newsweek article ad considered Hirsi Ali’s position with respect to recent comments by Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein and political scientist Hala Naoum Nehme, as well as considering the Dutch Foreign Ministry’s human rights policy with respect to religious minorities.

Islam and the West Through the Eyes of Two Women

Very few of the heroes and villains made famous in the wars of the past decade are women. Of the scant exceptions, two of the most fascinating are the subjects of Deborah Scroggins’s thoughtful double biography, “Wanted Women.”
One is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born thinker and neoconservative darling; the other is Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who, in 2010, was sentenced to 86 years in prison for her assault on American personnel in Afghanistan. She is known as Al Qaeda’s highest-ranking female associate.

In “Wanted Women,” Scroggins traces the lives of Hirsi Ali and Siddiqui from their earliest childhoods down to the present. Hirsi Ali continues to live in the United States; Siddiqui now resides in Fort Worth, Tex., where she is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center Carswell and receiving psychiatric treatment.

Alternating between the two women, Scroggins explores what she calls “their weird symmetry,” examining how the forces of contemporary history — war, poverty, colonialism and politics — have forged these “icons of the war on terror.” She writes: “When it came to dealing with the crises of Islam, they were mirror opposites, but there were hints in their complicated backgrounds that each woman might have gone in a very different direction, perhaps even to the extent of Aafia Siddiqui becoming a Westernizing feminist and Ayaan Hirsi Ali becoming a militant Islamist.”

Hirsi Ali Announces Submission II Is Too Risky

In an interview on Dutch television Ayaan Hirsi Ali announced that she will not make sequals to her controversial 2004 film Submission. Although the script is written, Hirsi Ali claims that making the film causes too great a risk to the cast and crew. Currently living in the United States, Hirsi Ali released Submission with director Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands in 2004, alleging to illustrate violence towards women in Islam. Van Gogh was subsequently murdered by a Muslim extremist. Hirsi Ali’s sequal was to depict the oppression of homosexuals in Islam.

Dutch Politician on Al-Qaeda Magazine Hitlist

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has been named on a ‘hitlist’ in an online magazine attributed to Al-Qaeda. Inspire magazine appears to be published by the AQAP, al-Qaeda’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula. The English language magazine also names Islam critic Ayaan HIrsi Ali. It appears to be targeting an audience of radical Muslims in North America.