The Caged Virgin (Reviewed): The Sins Of Islam

{Media review: Carlin Romano’s article about Hirsi Ali’s new book, The Caged Virgin, is doing the rounds in the syndicated American press.} By Carlin Romano (Philadelphia Inquirer) “I do not despise Islam,” writes Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the outset of her first book, “The Caged Virgin,” a best seller in Europe that consolidated her reputation as that continent’s sternest critic of Islam. “I am thoroughly conscious of the noble values that the religion promotes, such as charity, hospitality and compassion for the weak and poor.” Sounds reasonable and moderate. Why, then, must Hirsi Ali live under 24/7 guard from Dutch security after years of death threats? Why did a Moroccan-Dutch jihadist murder the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who helped Hirsi Ali make a TV documentary about Muslim abuse of women, then vow that Hirsi Ali would be next? The answer, “The Caged Virgin” makes clear, is that Hirsi Ali refuses to accept what she considers immoral aspects of the religion in which she was raised just because many Muslims are good people. Within Islam, this thinking is often deemed heresy, and in the view of some, Hirsi Ali is very heretical indeed. In her view, the chief sin of Islam is how it treats women. “In the name of Islam,” she writes, “women are subjected to cruel and horrible practices, including female genital mutilation and disownment.” A Koranic verse “gives men the right to beat their wives.” Muslim tradition allows fathers to marry off a daughter by fiat, a practice Hirsi Ali describes as “an arranged rape approved of by her whole family.” Muslim women are virtually excluded from public life, and legislation “puts women at a severe disadvantage.” The cause is what Hirsi Ali calls “tribal morality,” Islam’s obsession with a woman’s virginity. She writes, “a woman who withdraws from the virgins’ cage is branded a whore” and the “essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen.” Yet Hirsi Ali brings more to bear against these beliefs and practices than mere anger. She draws on Western champions of critical reason with stinging force: “I’d like to invite all people like me who had an Islamic upbringing” to “contrast J.S. Mill’s essay, ‘On the Subjection of Women’ (1869) with what the Prophet Muhammad has to say.” This is not pretty to watch. Muhammad, she notes, “fell in love with Aisha, his best friend’s 9-year-old daughter. Her father said, ‘Please wait until she has reached adulthood.’ But Muhammad did not want to wait.” Muhammad married Aisha when she was 9. “By our Western standards,” Hirsi Ali writes, Muhammad is “perverse” and “a despicable individual.” To Muslims who reject Western mores in judging Muhammad, she retorts, “the fact that the Wright brothers were not Islamic has not stopped Muslims from traveling by air. By adopting the technical inventions of the West without its courage to think independently, we perpetuate the mental stagnation in Islamic culture.” “The Caged Virgin” interweaves this critique with reporting on the plight of Muslim women and the author’s own history as a woman subjected to genital mutilation, beaten in her youth by a Koranic teacher who fractured her skull and bequeathed in marriage by her father to a man she’d never met — the final straw that led her to seek asylum in the West. At certain moments in cultural history, a particular book or pamphlet catches fire by taking a spark already burning in people’s hearts and minds and setting it ablaze on the printed page. “The Caged Virgin” is such a book. We live in such a moment.

Muslims Feel Rejected By The CDA

CDA MP Nihat Eski fears that his party hasn’t done enough to distance itself from Rita Verdonk, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders. Other CDA members and activists agree that Muslims at both the national and local levels are increasingly alienated from the governing Christian Democratic Appeal. {(continues below in Dutch)} ,De emotie, de commotie is groot, zegt hij in een interview met Trouw. ,,Moslims zouden geen incasseringsvermogen hebben, islam en democratie zouden onverenigbaar zijn en het islamitisch geloof zou een achterlijke cultuur zijn. Deze uitspraken hebben moslims diep gekwetst. Het zijn onzinnige en vooral polariserende uitspraken. Uit de moslimgemeenschappen kreeg ik sterke signalen dat ze vonden dat het CDA stelling moest nemen tegen deze uitspraken. Dat is onvoldoende gebeurd en de rekening daarvan kregen we bij de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.” Eski staat met zijn kritiek niet alleen, wel is het bijzonder dat hij als CDA-kamerlid en moslim nu, vier maanden voor de kamerverkiezingen, zijn kritiek uit. CDA-voorzitter Marja van Bijsterveldt verwoordde in mei tijdens het partijcongres haar zorgen over de kloof tussen het CDA en de moslimkiezer. ,,Er is sprake van pijn en gevoel van miskenning.” Ze riep op tot een andere toon en houding van haar partij. De oud-voorzitter van het CDJA (de jongerenorganisatie), Ronald van Bruchem, zei eerder in een interview dat zijn partij een ‘mega-probleem’ heeft in de grote steden, omdat het contact met allochtonen verloren lijkt.

Adults in Netherlands have Strong Opinions about Muslim Integration

Many adults in the Netherlands hold strong views on the way Muslims adapt to the European continent, according to a poll by Motivaction released by GPD. 63 per cent of respondents believe think Islam is incompatible with modern European life. In September 2004, Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders quit the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Wilders criticized Muslims in the Netherlands for failing to properly integrate to society, and openly opposed Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU). In November 2004, controversial filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered. Van Gogh directed a short motion picture that depicts a husband’s abuse on a Muslim woman. Death threats to Wilders and other former VVD members were left at the crime scene. On May 15, Dutch officials revealed that Somali-born VVD lawmaker Hirsi Ali provided false information when she applied for refugee status, and then when she sought citizenship. The next day, the lawmaker announced that she would leave the Second Chamber immediately. Hirsi Ali confirmed that she intends to move to the United States and work at the American Enterprise Institute. In the January 2003 election, the Christian-Democratic Appeal (CDA) elected 44 lawmakers to the 150-seat Second Chamber. CDA member Jan Peter Balkenende has acted as minister president since July 2002. In early 2003, Balkenende established his second coalition government with the VVD and Democrats 66 (D66). The next legislative ballot is tentatively scheduled for January 2007. Polling Data Do you think Islam is compatible with modern European life? Yes 37% No 63% Source: Motivaction / GPD Methodology: Interviews with 1,200 Dutch adults, conducted in May 2006. Margin of error is 3 per cent.

Dutch Minister Loses Party Leadership Vote

By TOBY STERLING AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The Dutch immigration minister who set off a political firestorm by threatening to revoke the citizenship of a Somali-born lawmaker lost a party leadership contest Wednesday seen as a referendum on the country’s tough immigration policies. The hardline minister Rita Verdonk caused the political downfall of lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the country’s most outspoken critic of fundamentalist Islam. Hirsi Ali became internationally known when Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in November 2004 by a Muslim radical incensed by the short film “Submission,” a critique of the treatment of women under Islam which she wrote the script for. Verdonk was the front-runner in the contest to lead the free-market VVD party into elections next year until she threatened earlier this month to revoke Hirsi Ali’s passport. Hirsi Ali — also a member of the VVD — quit after Verdonk said her naturalization was invalid because she gave a false name when she moved to the Netherlands in 1992. Hirsi Ali, 36, has acknowledged her real name was Ayaan Hirsi Magan, and said she fabricated her name because she feared reprisals from her family after fleeing an arranged marriage. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende conceded Wednesday that her resignation had damaged the Netherlands’ reputation as a haven of tolerance. “Everything that’s happened has brought negative publicity,” Balkenende said at a lunch with the Dutch foreign press association. “I read the international papers too, but the question is, will it have a lasting effect? I believe not.” Verdonk was defeated by the more moderate Mark Rutte in the party primary. She retains her cabinet post. Rutte won 51 percent of votes, while Verdonk got 46 percent, the party said. Many prominent members of the VVD, including EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, shifted their support from Verdonk to Rutte after the Hirsi Ali affair. A former deputy prison warden, Verdonk built her reputation as a strict enforcer of the country’s immigration policies, among the toughest in Europe. Since taking office in 2003, Verdonk has ordered citizenship classes and tests for immigrants, raised visa fees by hundreds of dollars and began imprisoning rejected asylum-seekers before deporting them. As a result, immigration is half what it was in 2000. Verdonk, 50, had in the past benefited in the polls from decisions similar to the one on Hirsi Ali. She denied citizenship to an Ivory Coast-born soccer player Salomon Kalou, and deporting a young refugee from Kosovo just a month before she was due to graduate from Dutch high school. But after Hirsi Ali’s resignation, Verdonk was skewered in a 10-hour emergency debate in parliament, in which she was criticized by all sides for acting too hastily. Verdonk was forced to review Hirsi Ali’s case, and agree to reprocess her naturalization under her true name if necessary. Hirsi Ali continues to live in her apartment in The Hague under police protection because of threats to her life from radicals. She is unable to speak in public while her immigration case is under review and plans to move to the United States to join The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Rutte, 39, will now stand in national elections next May, with an outside chance of becoming prime minister as leader of the country’s third-largest party.

Dutch May Revoke Lawmaker’s Citizenship

The Dutch immigration minister said Monday that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who became one of the most prominent members of Dutch parliament, was improperly granted citizenship in 1997 and it may be revoked. Hirsi Ali, an opponent of fundamentalist Islam and an advocate for immigrant women’s rights, returned abruptly from a book tour in the United States last week after a political firestorm over her past erupted in the Netherlands. Critics called for her to resign after a television program aired Thursday detailing how she lied on her asylum application when she fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage. Hirsi Ali had admitted the fabrications publicly when she was vetted as a candidate for parliament in 2002, and the country’s immigration minister said Friday she did not face any sanctions over the matter. But on Monday, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk sent a letter to parliament saying that, after reviewing the facts “it must be assumed she (Hirsi Ali) will be considered to never have received Dutch citizenship.” She said Hirsi Ali will have six weeks to formally respond. Hirsi Ali’s spokeswoman Ingrid Pouw said the lawmaker would hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss her position. Earlier Monday, Dutch media reported that Hirsi Ali would announce her retirement from politics this week and would join the American Enterprise Institute starting in September to work on a new book. Pouw could not confirm that. Hirsi Ali’s political downfall would be remarkable, given the prominent role she has played in the Netherlands’ national debate on Islam in the past several years. She became internationally known when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in November 2004. Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay for his movie “Submission,” which criticized the treatment of women under Islam and offended many Muslims. She received numerous death threats and has been under continuous police protection since the Van Gogh murder. The Dutch state is currently scrambling to arrange new housing for her after her neighbors in The Hague complained successfully that security arrangements for her had become an unfair nuisance for them. On the TV documentary program Zembla, she repeated that when she arrived in 1992 she changed her name and birth date on her asylum application and did not reveal that she had lived in three different countries after leaving Somalia. Several of her critics called for her to be deported. On Saturday, she told the AP she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

Dutch Conservatives Want Stricter Laws For Islamic Schools; Controversy About Islamic Schools In The Netherlands Continues

Conservative MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali says her party, the VVD, wants to see stricter legislation governing Islamic schools. The conservatives claim these schools are teaching children to discriminate against women, homosexuals and the indigenous Dutch population. She made her remarks during a parliamentary debate on a new integration bill put forward by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. Most parties support the minister’s plans, but the left-wing opposition has criticised a proposal that would make migrants pay part of the cost of their integration courses. They argue this will force many people into debt. Controversy About Islamic Schools In The Netherlands Continues Christian Democrat Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven has criticised a proposal by the conservative VVD party to monitor Islamic schools. She says the proposal breaches an article in the constitution guaranteeing educational freedom. VVD member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali has called for an end to government support for certain Islamic schools. She says they promote intolerance towards homosexuals and Jews, and are opposed to equality for women. The Lower House debate on Islamic education in the Netherlands has further intensified. Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven, a Christian Democrat, has rejected a Conservative proposal to set additional requirements to such schools. The minister has not yet vetoed the motion of Conservative parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but she did say it violated article 23 of the constitution, which provides for freedom of education. The minister also opposes the Conservative’s request that all board members of Islamic schools have Dutch nationality. The other house factions also reject the motion. Although Ms. Hirsi Ali’s resolution has thrown Conservatives themselves into a commotion, the party is not withdrawing it. The house debate will continue next week.