I had never even heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali until very recently, but this woman has a story that everyone should read. She’s had a life that is pretty shocking to my middle-class American mind, and yet she has accomplished amazing things. Born a Muslim in Somalia, and having lived through war and trauma, she has a pretty interesting perspective on life. Through reading her book, I’ve received an education in several different areas, and appreciated many of her ideas even if I don’t agree with all of them. Here are a couple quotes about government, about Islam, about women, about tolerance:
Social democracy is grounded in the rights of groups of people, not individuals…
I am also convinced that this is the largest, most important issue that our society and our planet will face in this century. Every society that is still in the rigid grip of Islam oppresses women and also lags behind in development. Most of these societies are poor; many are full of conflict and war. Societies that respect the rights of women and their freedom are wealthy and peaceful.
Many well-meaning Dutch people have told me in all earnestness that nothing in Islamic culture incites abuse of women, and that is just a terrible misunderstanding… In reality, these Westerners are the ones who misunderstand Islam. The Quran mandates these punishments. It gives a legitimate basis for abuse, so that the perpetrators feel no shame and are not hounded by their conscience or their community… I wanted secular, non-Muslim people to stop kidding themselves that “Islam is peace and tolerance.”
…What matters is that governments and societies must stop hiding behind a hollow pretense of tolerance so that they can recognize and deal with this problem.
That first line really hit me. In the context she was describing, the Dutch government was bending over backward to accommodate Muslim immigrants, funding special Islamic schools for them, etc. Meanwhile, within the tightly-closed Islamic community, women were severely abused and people were killed because they broke Islamic code. I’m afraid we’re seeing the beginnings of that in America today. Minority groups are not only tolerated–they are elevated. But individuals are more and more often being deprived of their rights of free expression.
It’s a powerful book, written by a woman who lost her faith after delving into the aftermath of 9/11. She realized that all the things Bin Laden was spouting really were in the Quran, that what he was saying was the true Islam, though it was not what she had believed. She now has to live with constant bodyguards and death threats because of her candidness and determination to rescue Islamic women from their prison.