Death threats and murders (such as that of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh) do not signal a religion of peace, but it points to mainstream Islam’s theocratic ideology that’s incompatible with human rights.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born women’s advocate, author, and leading critic of Islam, on Monday cancelled a tour of Australia and New Zealand at the last-minute owing to “security concerns”. The Somali-born author was scheduled to appear on Australian TV on Monday before starting her tour, titled “Hero of Heresy”.
But organisers Think Inc said in a statement that “Ayaan Hirsi Ali regrets that, for a number of reasons including security concerns, she must cancel her upcoming appearances in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland”. Think Inc also said in a statement,”[She] hopes to be able to return to Australia in the not too distant future.”
About 2,000 tickets had been sold for the speaking events in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland.
Nearly 400 people signed an online petition opposing Ayaan’s visit to Australia and New Zealand. “Against a backdrop of increasing global Islamophobia, Hirsi-Ali’s divisive rhetoric simply serves to increase hostility and hatred towards Muslims,” the petition read. Protests were planned at the locations where Ayaan was speaking, and people who bought tickets were told their bags would be searched. Think Inc said all ticket holders would receive refunds.
But who is Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Somalia. Ayaan’s father, Hirsi Magan Isse, was a notable member of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front and played a significant role in the Somalian Revolution. Soon after she was born, her father was imprisoned because of his opposition to the Siad Barre government.
Despite the fact that Ayaan’s father was strictly opposed to female genital mutilation, Ayaan’s grandmother had a man perform the procedure on her, when Hirsi Ali was only five-years-old. Later Ayaan would go on to say that her grandmother was unable to find a woman to perform the ghoulish procedure, and instead a man performed it.
As a teenager, Ayaan sympathised with the views of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and chose to don a hijab. She also agreed with the fatwa proclaimed against British Indian writer Salman Rushdie in response to the fact that the Islamic prophet Muhammad was portrayed in his novel The Satanic Verses.
In 1992 Ayaan travelled from Kenya to visit her family who were in Düsseldorf and Bonn, Germany. She eventually went to the Netherlands to escape an alleged arranged marriage. Once there, Ayaan requested political asylum and obtained a residence permit. 13 years later Ayaan became an MP.
Ayaan received considerable international attention in 2004 as the writer of a controversial film on violence against Muslim women, Submission, after her collaborator, filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was murdered by a radical Islamist, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri.
Having received repeated death threats and even a fatwa over her challenges to Islam’s treatment of women, Ayaan spent time living under 24-hour police guard.
Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands for the United States in May 2006 following a bitter row which broke out when she admitted lying about her age and name in her Dutch asylum request. Since being in the US she has maintained a high-profile.
In an article for the Hoover Institution last month, Ms Hirsi Ali described what she called “political Islam” as being not just a religion but “a political ideology, a legal order, and in many ways also a military doctrine associated with the campaigns of the Prophet Muhammad”.
The significance of cancelling her tour:
Whilst all the details concerning the tour cancellation have yet to be unearthed, one can be certain that the ruffling of power-hungry Islamist feathers is implicated, given the subject matter Hirsi Ali was scheduled to orate.
Ayaan’s tour cancellation came a few days after she publicly expressed her desire that Sydney’s Islamic schools should be shut down to stop the indoctrination of children:
“I think the Australian government is not very different from other liberal governments. The Government just wants to be fair but in attempting to do so they end up ignoring the problem fermenting under the surface,” she said. “They should stop insulting the intelligence of the public by going around saying Islam is a religion of peace.”
Speaking about Islamic schools, where the science curriculum is censored and music and art classes are banned, Hirsi Ali said: “It is child abuse pure and simple. Muslim schools should not be allowed in liberal society.”
One of Sydney’s largest Islamic schools, Al-Faisal College in Auburn, has modified the official PDHPE textbook to remove material about reproduction, instead giving credit to Allah.
The Year 9 science teaching material extensively quotes the Koran while students in Years 8-12 are not taught music.
Many progressives might struggle to gainsay Hirsi Ali’s worries concerning Islamic schools, especially when Sydney’s largest Islamic school has not just eschewed science, but has also indoctrinated young people with chimerical absurdities. As she said, “Muslim schools are political ideology masquerading as a religion, infiltrating the institution of learning, preying on really small children and filling their heads up with these extreme ideas.” She went on to say that, “They want to take over the curriculum. Sometimes they are individuals, sometimes they are organisations or governments like Saudi Arabia, Qatar could be financing these attempts.”
Notwithstanding that anti-Muslim bigotry exists and is pedalled by some considerably viperous sorts, appeals to “Islamophobia” have not only been overblown, they have become a clichéd refrain whenever the Islamist march is threatened. Of course, decrying Hirsi Ali’s public speaking engagements citing her ‘blatant’ Islamophobia has been a widely documented phenomenon in Australia and New Zealand over the last few weeks, typically by conservative Muslims. Indeed, a widely publicised video with all the hallmarks of grift in response to Hirsi Ali’s planned tour of Australia and New Zealand is such an example, one in which various Muslim women, most of whom don religiously conservative ‘modest’ attire, denounce Hirsi Ali as an Islamophobe in league with the far-right.
The contents of the video exemplify the tactical manoeuvre deployed by defenders of Islamism to stifle any criticism of a putatively ‘perfect’ (and always persecuted) ideology. Underpinned by a conservative form of identity politics, defenders of religious censorship typically cite the subjugation and persecution of “Muslims” around the world – a slogan that has become the clichéd appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam) to win liberals’ support for what is actually an aggressive political agenda. This rhetorical persecution/victimhood leitmotif amounts to putative ‘oppression’ of all Muslims. This is something so obviously grievous that apparently only the systematic crack-down on critics of “their” religion can redress it, thus mechanising the religion in such a way that the religion can only ‘win’ when their enemies are either systematically neutralised or silenced.
This presupposes what it needs to prove: namely that all Muslims are in agreement about what is or is not ‘Islamic’. The plasticity of Islam’s definition is conveniently deployed to silence all meaningful debate about Islamic practices and their effects on Muslim persons. Whenever a critic of Islamic religious doctrines or practices attempts to single out for criticism some aspect of Islam that is fundamentalist or intolerant, the response is invariably that the behaviour referred to isn’t really Islamic, or is somehow not representative of Islam. Any Islamic practice that would be open to critical scrutiny (e.g. honour-based violence or mandatory religious dress) is immediately relegated to the ‘misrepresentations’ category. This reaction, of course, implies that there is a real Islam, i.e. an authentic interpretation of Islam to which the false ‘misrepresentation’ can be contrasted. Islamists support the idea the idea of an accurately defined Islam if the context is defending Islam from critics who are caricatured as never getting Islam quite right, or not right enough to criticise how it operates in any specific context. Yet these same defenders of Islam deny that there is any accurately defined Islam when the critics attempt to oppose forms of Islamist authoritarianism, sexism, homophobia, or intolerance. What this means, ultimately, is that a definition of ‘true’ Islam can be used by its defenders but not by its detractors, even if the defenders are not Muslims themselves and not experts in Islam or even when the detractors are Muslims or experts in Islamic history or theology. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one such detractor, but yet again the appeal to Muslim victimhood is working to flip the real situation on its head.
The rhetoric against Hirsi Ali is very telling. If ever there were a victim of religious bigotry or intolerance, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the incarnation of it. But time and again, Islamists resort to a ploy that has become commonplace: the ‘perpetrator-to-victim flip’. Instead of responding to accusations of human rights violations correctly levelled against them, many Muslims – especially those partial to Islamism – go on the offensive, asserting that they are the real victims, and that those on the receiving end of their death threats, smears and character assassination are perpetrators of some kind of ideological evil. In keeping with the guilt and shame tactics that have always been theological mainstays, they bully and smear their accusers into silence using intimidation, since attempts at violence have thus far not succeeded.
This is a necessity for theologians because actual reasoned arguments (debate) fail against heretics and have seldom worked on their own to sustain theocratic power. The heretic’s arguments must be kept from the public lest they should weaken the ideological power of the faith, which rests upon suppression of dissent. This is why it is crucial to unpack and examine the claims of Hirsi Ali’s accusers, who correctly call her public speeches “divisive”. The whole point of her speeches is indeed to divide Islamism (the political ideology) from Islam (the vaunted religion of peace that can exist in harmony with secularism and a modern liberal state). The fact that her character assassins cannot tolerate Hirsi Ali’s dissenting voice – which is critical of political, theocratic Islam – blows the lid off their pretence to speak as representatives of “Muslims”. They represent instead a politicised version of conservative Islam which they treat as normative.
Meanwhile, their religiously conservative Hijabi spokeswomen act as mouthpieces for “Muslims” as though all Muslims were Hijabis or even religiously conservative. They (mis)represent Islam as a unified monolithic religion – yet this unity can only be achieved by violent suppression of dissident voices (like Hirsi Ali’s). Their marginalisation of Hirsi Ali (a paradigm case of Muslim victimhood at the hands of political Islam’s terrorists) is testament to where their true loyalties rest. Indeed they usurp her moderate voice and transpose themselves into her rightful place as its spokesperson, painting her as the aggressor, which is as absurd as it is risible. If Hirsi Ali’s so called “rhetoric” increases hostility and hatred towards “Muslims” then we need to ask towards ‘which Muslims?’ it does so.
Many moderate or liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims agree with Hirsi Ali, as do many left-wing secularists. Death threats and murders (such as that of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh) do not signal a religion of peace, but a theocratic ideology incompatible with human rights. If this kind of violence is “not Islamic”, then we have cause to wonder why Hirsi Ali’s Muslim critics are attacking her – a victim of Islamist terror for whom they ought to be cheering? If Hirsi Ali’s critics are truly representative of “Muslims” then, by their own definitions, they really ought to be defending her outspoken criticism of violent Islamism.
Benjamin David founded Conatus News in 2016. He currently works as an editor for Parliamentary Review.