WRITING THE RESISTANCE (6)
AYSAAN HIRSI ALI
THE LADY'S NOT FOR BURNING
1st October, 2020
In Islamic law Hudud refers to the punishments fixed by Allah himself for serious crimes, including the stoning of adulterers, the amputation of thieves’ hands, and the execution of apostates from Islam.
Robert Spencer, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to ISIS
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a heretic in more than one sense. She is famously an apostate from Islam, a decision which automatically earns her the death penalty under the stern edicts of that religion. But she is also heretical in the eyes of the contemporary Left, who frown at her criticisms of her erstwhile belief system, although as a brown Muslim woman she should be a poster-girl for the values they pretend to have. Like last month’s writer of the resistance, Thomas Sowell, Ayaan has found that her victimhood credentials are trumped by her outspoken refusal to adhere to orthodox opinion.
Ayaan’s odyssey took her from her native Somalia, where she was devoutly Muslim, both agreeing with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie over The Satanic Verses and undergoing a hideous clitoridectomy, to Saudi Arabia with her family, and on to Kenya and the news that she was to undergo an arranged marriage. She fled to the Netherlands, where she worked as an interpreter and translator before entering politics and the Dutch parliament as a member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the party of Geert Wilders. She went on to collaborate with film-maker Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the painter, on Submission, a film highlighting abuse of women in Islam. After van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam by an Islamist in 2004, and a controversy surrounding personal details Ayaan had given at the start of her political career, along with threats that led to her living under government protection, she finally moved to the USA, where she later married British historian Niall Ferguson and started a family.
Ayaan has written four books. The Gilded Virgin is a collection of essays on women in Islam, while Infidel and Nomad document her life and move away from the Muslim faith. Here I will concentrate on 2015’s Heretic, which advocates for the necessity of reformation within the Islamic world. The book also recaps Ayaan’s life as documented in Infidel and Heretic, and as such is possibly the best of her books with which to start.
Muhammad Navab-Safavi called on his fellow Muslims: “Throw away your worry beads and buy a gun. For worry beads keep you silent, while guns silence the enemies of Islam”.
Robert Reilly, The Closing of the Muslim Mind
Ayaan applies a methodological sub-division in her treatment of Islam, but it is not between Sh’ia and Sunni or the other commonly recognised sects. Instead, she differentiates between ‘Medina Muslims’ and ‘Mecca Muslims’, and later adds a third group, ‘Modifying Muslims’.
Medina Muslims are not, writes Ayaan, ‘the intended audience for this book. They are the reason for writing it’. Unlike mealy-mouthed Western leaders, Ayaan has a forthright mission statement concerning the religion she left and knows far more about than they do;
‘The argument in this book is that religious doctrines matter and are in need of reform. Non-doctrinal factors – such as the Saudis’ use of oil revenues to fund Wahhabism and Western support for the Saudi regime – are important, but religious doctrine is more important’.
What make Ayaan’s recollections of an Islamic childhood so compelling is their humanity. She knows whereof she speaks. Her affection for her grandmother shines through her account of her early years, and is often humorous. Concerning the Islamic rejection of Western beliefs, including evolution, Ayaan’s mother suggested that ‘Kenyans might be descended from apes, but not us’. Ayaan has lived life on both sides of the ideological divide, and this contributes to the paradoxical nature of Islam in that, as she saw in Somalia, hardline Muslim groups often give a purpose to otherwise shiftless youth.
But the questions which will later bloom into Ayaan’s critique of Islam can be seen as seedlings in her childhood. The Muslim preference for the value of men over women, the harshness of punishment for incorrect behavior, and the fierce injunctions against independent thought are all criticised here. And what is fascinating is, by the time Ayaan has reached the Netherlands, she is beginning to experience a cognitive dissonance of which she is all too well aware. She is not the only one to suffer the intense psychological pressure of living in a ‘dual scenario’, but her response has not been as potentially deadly as that of others;
‘Embracing violent jihad has become an all-too-common means for young Muslims to resolve the cognitive pressures of trying to lead an “authentic” Muslim life within a permissive and pluralistic Western society’.
This internal conflict is the key to the tertium quid of the ‘Modifying Muslim’ Ayaan is proposing as a solution to the problem of the apparent either/or literal dilemma faced by young Muslims transplanted from the Muslim world into the comparatively libertarian world of the dar al harb.
Mohammedanism still has to experience the complex processes of reform, enlightenment and emancipation that shaped Christianity over the centuries.
Frank Groenendijk, Islamophobia: Defying the Battle-Cry
Ayaan moves on to discuss why there has been no reformation in Islam concomitant with that of the movement which separated the Catholic from the Protestant church, and was instigated in 1517 by Martin Luther. While there has been debate in the Islamic world, much of it has been an ideological shouting match made more difficult by Islam’s encounter with a modern world it did not create. And, within Islam and for its ideological leaders, the winners of debate are not those whose arguments display superior reason, but those who are backed by the most strength. The ulema to which Ayaan refers here is the body of Muslim scholars having specialist knowledge of Islamic law and theology;
‘[T]he ulema have not only resisted… attempts at reform; they have time and time again successfully threatened and bullied the reformers into silence or exile, where they have not successfully secured their execution’.
Islam has, of course, a default position, a trump card which cannot be bettered; The Koran. That said, Ayaan points out the wide disparity of opinion and doctrine assembled around this apparently infallible, scriptural text, noting that ‘unlike Catholicism, Islam is almost entirely decentralised’. This means there is no Pope or College of Cardinals to give final arbitration, just competing voices each representing the agents of vested power interests.
There is cause for hope however. Making the inevitable comparison between the Reformation and the state of Islam, Ayaan recalls the three main factors in the Catholic/Protestant schism as ‘technological change, urbanisation and the interests of a significant number of European states in backing Luther’s challenge to the status quo’. All of these she detects in today’s Islamic world. If Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a historical analogue it is probably Martin Luther.
Let these words about the Koran from William Gladstone, a great 19th-century British Prime Minister, ring in your ears: ‘So long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world’.
Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin, Mohammed’s Koran: Why Muslims Kill for Islam
The centrality of the Koran in Islamic life cannot be overstated, and Ayaan recounts her grandmother’s reverence not simply for the text, but for the actual volume itself. Hands had to be washed before handling the family copy, and the old woman would place it against her forehead and kiss it. This is no simple textbook or instruction manual. And yet, as Ayaan goes on to explain, that is exactly what it has become, whether Western leaders in their rush for appeasement like it or not.
There are other important Islamic texts. The Hadith recounts the life of Mohammed, while Reliance of the Traveller is an almanac of Islamic jurisprudence and practice, but the book said to contain the word of Allah as dictated to Mohammed by the archangel Gabriel is the ur-text for Muslims of whatever sectarian affiliation.
The tired response of the Left to criticisms of violence and its exhortation within the Koran is that there are similar passages to be found in the Bible and the Torah, but these passages are neither as egregiously bloodthirsty, nor are they acted on today by marauding Christians or Jews. Ayaan’s potted history of the Koran has the practiced ease of familiarity, and the book emerges as the product of an ideological battle;
‘When rationalists squared off against literalists in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries, they lost. The rationalists wanted to include in Islamic doctrine only principles based on reason. The traditionalists countered that the human intellect is “defective, fickle and malleable”’.
Again, there has been no Wycliffe, Erasmus or Jan Hus in Islam to counter the tribal urge to conquer by force. And thus the Koran has come down to the 21st century redolent of violence rather than the dictates of reason bequeathed to the West by the Enlightenment.
It was… revolting to see [Inayat] Bunglawala [spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain] referring sympathetically to the ‘value system’ of a man who’d just hacked his child to death.
Bruce Bawer, While Europe Slept
Terrorism is by its nature violent and visceral. The knee-cappings of the IRA, the clinical executions of Baader-Meinhoff, the peasant slaughter of Peru’s Sendero Luminoso; examples are not hard to find. But something sets Islamic terrorism apart, its mixture of revelry in blood-letting and an obsession with both honour and the hereafter to which the correctly carried-out act of murderous terror grants access gives the practitioners of jihad a fearsome face made more terrifying by its lack of merely national political concerns.
But there is another medium of violence other than the headline-grabbing atrocities carried out by jihadis, and its home is the Muslim community and its component families. This is the Islamic legal code known as sharia. This jurisprudence, writes Ayaan, ‘governs not just how you worship, but also the organisation of your daily life, your personal behavior, your economic and legal transactions, your life at home, and in many cases even the governance of your nation’. One of the biggest incompatibilities between Islam and the West is that the former knows absolutely no division between church and state.
As well as its central tenet of ‘commanding right and forbidding wrong’, and the familiar and grotesque punishments, the absolute rule of the principles of sharia extends into the home, creating what Aayan calls ‘the totalitarianism of the hearth’. One of the most alien by-products of this is one which has travelled with Islamic immigrants from their native countries to Europe and America; honour killings.
Shame is a very powerful concept in Islam, and marrying outside the tribe its greatest offence. There are countless stories of fathers and brothers murdering their daughters and sisters for seeing, befriending, and even looking at non-Muslim men.
That there are sharia courts, both official and unofficial, across the UK, Europe and the US speaks both of an increasing cultural influence exerted by imported Islam, and of the fact that Western legal systems are exemplary of the weakness of the culture in general. This weakness leaves the West open to an exploitation which can only lead to increasing Islamisation and the tensions this will inevitably bring in its wake, and a deadly susceptibility to the most potent, dangerous and toxic feature of the radical Islamic worldview; the necessity of jihad.
The so-called ‘Middle-East conflict’ is not about land at all. It is a conflict about ideologies; a battle between Islam and freedom. It is not about some land in Gaza or Judea or Samaria. It is about jihad.
From an interview with Geert Wilders
A few years ago there was a campaign by Islam’s European PR arm to convince the indigenous public that jihad was not a murderous tool of Reconquista, but a noble inner struggle through which the Muslim became a better person. While the word does have a trace element of this meaning, this is simply slippery propaganda. Jihad is a purposeful mission to destroy the hegemony of the West and restore the Ottoman caliphate.
Interestingly, this deception in selling jihad to the West as a simple and virtuous inner struggle highlights a common feature of young and radical Muslims in the West in that they are confused when their fundamentalist beliefs founder on the liberty of their adoptive countries, a liberty partly founded on the technology the Islamic world has borrowed but played no part in producing as (and here Ayaan is quoting Albert Hourani) ‘Western scientific discoveries from the Renaissance on produced “no echo” in the Islamic world’. However, Muslims have taken to Western trinkets, and;
‘For young people who have very limited chances to achieve fame and notoriety in their current situation, jihad is like one giant selfie’.
Ayaan might have added ‘Muddled Muslims’ to her three categories.
But jihad is of course much more than this petty inner struggle and a social media come-on. It is a deadly war against the West. Martyrdom is central, giving instant access as it does to paradise. Also, it uses the West’s reluctance to be seen as racist to implement its deadly attacks, as the almost unbelievable squandered opportunities to stop the Manchester Ariana Grande bomber recently showed. Jihad is by no means just orchestrated mass killings, and the ‘lone wolf’ popularised by the press as an excuse for jihad is encouraged;
‘The IS spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani recently called on Muslims to use all means to kill a “disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian or a Canadian ‘Please don’t’ is not an adequate reply’.
If the Koran is the ideology of the Muslim efforts in what it sees as Reconquista of the dar al-harb, then jihad represents its provisional wing, a fact Western leaders would do well to learn.
If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali sees hope of a Muslim reformation, and in Heretic she has laid out a blueprint for both the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds to follow. As with our very first subject of Writing the Resistance, David Horowitz, her testimony carries weight precisely because she has emerged from behind enemy lines. I have read 20 to 25 books on Islam, and none has the ring of authenticity which actual experience provides to the same degree as Heretic. Her work may bring to mind the Polish cavalry in World War 2, riding to attack Nazi tanks armed with service revolvers, but as much as any of the writers featured in this series, she is a true writer of the resistance.