By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is well known for her blunt and almost provocative way of describing her view of the world which is why she has made many enemies and is called a Heretic.
Straight away, she calls it how she sees it. Her premise is that Islam is not a religion of peace and violence comes from not the social, political and economic aspects of the religion but what she describes as ‘the foundational texts of Islam itself’.
Can you see what I mean about being provocative?
She splits the followers of Islam into three broad groups. She describes the Medina Muslims those who make women wear burqas, kills those who do not convert to Islam and preach Jihad.
On the other hand, she describes the majority of Muslims as being the Mecca Muslims. She writes, ‘like devote Christians or Jews who attend religious services every day and abide and abide by religious rules in and wear, Mecca Muslims focus on religious observance’. While being more moderate, they are conflicted in reconciling their religion with modernity.
When she refers to modernity she means the economic, political and social values that gave rise to the modern western world and which was developed after the reformation of the 16 century. Secularism, individualism and the split between the church and state, (including challenging religious dogma and authority over what people did and thought) are all values that allowed science and social enquiry to flourish.
She argues ‘the rational, secular and individualistic values of modernity are fundamentality corrosive of traditional societies, especially hierarchies based on gender, age and inherited status. in Muslim-majority countries, the power of modernity to transform economic, social and (ultimately) power relationships can be limited.
Her final category is the Modifying Muslims which describes those who are deeply interested in Islam while not being practicing believers of the faith. She places herself in this group. When writing about this group she gives the impression that any attempt to engage critical debate by this group isn’t tolerated, hence the need for a reformation.
In arguing that Islam needs a reformation, she states that ‘Islam is at a crossroads. Muslims, not by the tens or hundreds but by the tens of millions and eventually hundreds of millions, need to make a conscious decision to confront, debate and ultimately reject the violent elements within their religion’.
The thing is, with all this debate about the Muslim religion being inherently violent comes into conflict with those Muslims who I know and respect. Many of those are good quiet people who would in no way force others to convert to their religion. They would argue that those who do subscribe to what is commonly known as ‘radical Islam’ are not real Muslims.
Her answer to this is that the ’fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts’.
But what do I know? I don’t know enough about Islam to critique her argument, I can only go by what I know and the impressions left by the Muslims I’ve met.
She does have a message to all the Western liberals who are reading her book that we need to ‘hold Islam accountable’ as well as ‘stand up for our own principles as liberals. Specifically, we need to say to offended Muslims (and their liberal supporters) that it is not we who must accommodate their beliefs and sensitivities. Rather, it is they who must learn to live with our commitment to free speech.’
Finishing this book has left me wanting to learn more and to understand the complexity of Islam. By no means do I think she has spoken the final word in my quest to learn about the religion but it is just the beginning.