search
top

Why Ayaan Hirsi Ali Shouldn’t be on SPLC’s ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists’

splcOn 25 October the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists‘. The guide includes a list of fifteen people, two of whom have caused a great deal of controversy – Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A Change.org petition was launched by Ahnaf Kalam to have their names removed from the list, which at the time of writing has gained almost 10,000 signatures in just six days.

I made a rebuttal of their charges against Maajid Nawaz on 1 November, and also wrote directly to SPLC. I’ll do another post about their response to me. For now, I want to detail why Ayaan Hirsi Ali does not belong on a list of Anti-Muslim extremists.

The SPLC’s condemnation of Hirsi Ali is vicious. They start off (my emphasis):

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born activist who says she endured female genital mutilation …

Right from the start they’ve accused her of lying about something no one has ever doubted. Seriously? This is just plain nasty.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that she called in female genital mutilation, rather than female genital cutting, which is the term the regressive left would rather we use. Hirsi Ali herself clearly regards what she underwent as mutilation and it would be denying her experience to force her to call it something different than the term she uses for herself. And we know how the regressive left are about denying personal experience. (Big sigh.)

Either way, it escapes me completely how undergoing FGM is a sign that you’re an anti-Muslim extremist.

The next sentence starts:

But key parts of the story she told Dutch immigration authorities and the public there turned out to be false …

hirsi-ali-infidelOnce again, they brand her a liar. However, there were very good reasons Hirsi Ali lied when she was seeking asylum in the Netherlands. The facts were first brought to light when Hirsi Ali told the VVD, the political party she was a potential candidate for. Then, those reasons were considered acceptable. She was elected to the Dutch parliament in 2003. It was only later when an opposition political party was looking for dirt that the story was re-hashed and presented in such a way that she was compelled to resign (2006). She also lost her citizenship, and it was then she moved to the United States.

The next criticism is that she accepted “an invitation to join the conservative American Enterprise Institute.” Well, that settles it – she worked for a conservative organisation so she must be an anti-Muslim extremist!? It looks to me like it is the SPLC that has problems with prejudice here, not Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Perhaps they should have read the interview with Reason that they gleefully refer to in their “In her Own Words” section. She says, ahem, in her own words:

Hirsi Ali: … Cynthia Schneider, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, said she’d be delighted to take me around in the United States and introduce me—to the Brookings Institution, the Johns Hopkins Institute, Georgetown University, the RAND Corporation. I balked at paying a visit to the American Enterprise Institute, though.

Reason: Why the initial aversion?

Hirsi Ali: Because I thought they would be religious, and I had become an atheist. And I don’t consider myself a conservative. I consider myself a classical liberal.

Anyway, the Brookings Institution did not react. Johns Hopkins said they didn’t have enough money. The RAND Corporation wants its people to spend their days and nights in libraries figuring out statistics, and I’m very bad at statistics. But at AEI they were enthusiastic. It turns out that I have complete freedom of thought, freedom of expression. No one here imposed their religion on me, and I don’t impose my atheism on them.

It appears the American Enterprise Institute, despite being known as a conservative Christian organization (it employs people whose opinions I have a low opinion of like former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton), does a better job at allowing freedom of speech and thought than the supposedly liberal SPLC.

Besides, Hirsi Ali no longer works for AEI. Since 2012 she has been a fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on the Future of Diplomacy project.

Again though, how does this have any relevance to whether or not she is an anti-Muslim extremist.

The SPLC field guide also has this to say:

While in the Netherlands, she wrote the script for a short and provocative film about women and Islam directed by the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in the street by a jihadist a short time after its release. The murderer left a note threatening to also kill Hirsi Ali pinned to his victim’s body with a knife.

This is also typical of the Authoritarian Left – blaming people for being victims. The film, Submission, is short because it was only part one – it could never be finished because of the murder of van Gogh. And provocative? It mirrors the experience of millions of Muslim women – women whose voices are normally never heard. Personally I wouldn’t use the word provocative – I would use the words disturbing, deeply moving, disconcerting, and gut-wrenching. It is only provocative to those who want to hide that such things are happening.

This is how Jerry Coyne described this particular attack in his post on the subject. My opinion pretty much mirrors his:

This really pisses me off. It is not a “provocative” film except to misogynist Muslims, for the video, “Submission” simply recounts the damage that Muslim theology does to Muslim women. Do watch the 10-minute film … and tell me why it should be criticized for inciting Muslim hatred. It is, instead, incisive criticism of the way Islamic doctrine oppresses women.

It is reprehensible that the SPLC mentions this courageous film—which led to Van Gogh’s death and Hirsi Ali’s permanent need for security guards—as some indictment of Hirsi Ali.

And so we come to the pathetically ominous sounding section “In her own words.” There are five things that supposedly condemn her:

1. In her 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard, Hirsi Ali “advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that ‘violence is inherent in Islam,’” according to a later account in The New York Times.

popehat-brandeis

Screenshots of tweets from c. 9 April 2014.

The link in that statement goes to a 2014 story in the New York Times about the Brandeis University debacle when they first offered Hirsi Ali an honorary degree for her work at the AHA Foundation, then changed their minds after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) prompted on-campus members to complain. (See here, here, and here.) The New York Times mentions the 2007 interview with the London Evening Standard but does not supply a link, and it appears that SPLC has not actually checked the original source. You’d think a bunch of lawyers could do better than that.

Assuming the quotes are accurate, why does “advocating the closing of Islamic schools in the West” make someone an “anti-Muslim extremist.” The closing of religious schools is a common secular stance throughout the world. In Britain, for example, the quality of education provided by Muslim schools for girls is a widespread cause for concern and at least one has been closed for this reason. As the Daily Mail reports:

An Islamist girls’ boarding school which taught that men could beat women and that gay men could be killed faces closure after a student whistleblower exposed its worrying practices.

Aliyah Saleem was expelled in front of the entire school in 2011 just for owning a disposable camera. [She was told that there was a danger she would take photos of her fellow pupils not wearing a full-burqa and men might see the photos. HH]

Following her expulsion Ms Saleem spoke out about her treatment at Jamia Al Hudaa girls’ school in Nottingham, saying she was not taught geography, history, art or music.

Instead, she was taught that death sentence could be given to gay men; that Jews and Christians make Allah angry; and that men should be allowed to beat their wives.

Despite reporting the school’s inadequacies to both Ofsted and doing an expose interview in a national newspaper, it is only now that the school finally faces closure.

Parents have now been told to pick up their daughters from the school on October 18 after an Ofsted inspection in April found that there were ‘inadequacies’ in safeguarding pupils, including insufficiently trained staff and bullying, and ordered the school close its residential operations.

As for saying, “violence is inherent in Islam,” that is NOT the same as saying all Muslims are violent, as seems to be the contention of the SPLC. This constant conflation of criticizing the belief system with criticizing the people who hold those beliefs is one that has to stop, especially from those smart enough to know better.

hirsi-ali-nomad2. In her 2007 Reason interview, she said, “There comes a moment when you crush your enemy” militarily, and added, “There is no moderate Islam. … [T]here’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.” She also told the journal that she had sought to “get rid of” all Islamic schools in the Netherlands while living there.

This link also comes from the 2014 New York Times story linked to above. The SPLC (remember that “LC” stands for ‘Law Center”) appear to have done little or no investigation themselves. I doubt they know very much about Hirsi Ali at all, and certainly haven’t read any of her books.

Again, Hirsi Ali’s criticism here is of the religion, not the people. They have selectively quoted the bits that suit their narrative, so I will do the same. Here is part of the introduction to the Reason interview about Hirsi Ali’s life in The Netherlands:

Hirsi Ali wasn’t shy about mentioning the Muslim community’s self-imposed insularity, or the crime wave involving disproportionate numbers of second- and third-generation Dutch Moroccans. But mostly she agitated against the oppression of local Muslim women by male family members: forced marriages, denial of education opportunities, domestic slave labor, and, in some horrific cases, honor killings. By extension, she criticized the native Dutch for turning a blind eye to the injustices in their midst, and for tolerating those who themselves refused to tolerate alternative lifestyles.

It was a shock and a revelation to see a young, black, Muslim woman championing causes previously associated with middle-aged white male pundits who had often been dismissed as racists or Islamophobes. Hirsi Ali’s star rose quickly, especially after she accepted an offer from the VVD, Holland’s pro-market party, to run for parliament. By then, she was receiving a stream of death threats from radical Dutch Muslims and their sympathizers. Once she won her parliamentary seat, the hate mail intensified. A security detail shadowed her everywhere. Van Gogh’s murder proved the threat was all too real.

Hirsi Ali was receiving hate mail for her work supporting Muslim women, girls, and LGBT people who were being abused because of the beliefs of some within the religion. Her work exposed some of the negative aspects of the religion – a religion she was still part of at that time. It was not until a month before the Reason interview that she became an atheist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s work helping women and girls she has continued since she immigrated to the United States, where she established the AHA Foundation in 2007. They live up to their goal of:

… working to end honor violence that shames, hurts or kills thousands of women and girls in the US each year, and puts millions more at risk. The organization also works to elevate the status of women and girls globally, so they can create peace and prosperity for themselves, their communities and the world.

It is beyond belief that someone who has dedicated her life to such work could be labelled an anti-Muslim extremist. Further, Hirsi Ali’s views have moderated since 2007. That is clear from her latest book (see below), and the Sam Harris interview with her recorded on the same day as the SPLC field guide was released.

3. In a July 11, 2009, essay for the online World Post, Hirsi Ali criticized President Obama for denouncing “Islamic extremism without once associating Islam with extremism.” She threw cold water on the idea of the U.S cooperating with Muslims in order to battle jihadist extremism.

Hirsi Ali is not the only one criticizing President Obama for this. I could name a dozen writers and bloggers off the top of my head who have done the same, including myself. Maajid Nawaz has written and spoken about this too.

There’s are several very good reasons why Obama’s failure to identify Islamists is considered a problem by secular liberals, and the chickens have actually come to roost at SPLC. That’s because one of the reasons we criticize him for this is that not naming the problem and talking openly about it means that few USians understand the difference between Islam and Islamism – what Nawaz referred to as a lack of a lexicon in the video above. As such, both Hirsi Ali and Nawaz have been condemned by SPLC because when referring to Islamism, SPLC has understood them to mean Islamic.

As for throwing “cold water on the idea of the U.S cooperating with Muslims in order to battle jihadist extremism,” the article was actually an eloquent defence of the US constitution and the hope that girls and women in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia could enjoy the same rights as they do in the United States. The article was not controversial or anti-Muslim, but it was honest and did criticize Islamic theocracy.

4. In an Aug. 18, 2010, Wall Street Journal op-ed, “How to Win the Clash of Civilizations,” Hirsi Ali said that Islam “is at war with America” and wrote that Western civilization “needs to be actively defended” against Islam.

hirsi-ali-hereticAs I don’t subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, I can’t read the article. However, I would note again that Hirsi Ali refers to “Islam” and not “Muslims” and also that the article is six years old. In publicizing her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now, Hirsi Ali has made it clear that in writing the book she modified some her her previous views. The New York Times and the Guardian both seem unsure whether they’re allowed to like her book her not. The reviews read like Hirsi Ali is someone they’re supposed to criticize.

As far as “Western civilization” needing ‘to be actively defended’ against Islam,” that sound like Hirsi’s ongoing argument in favour of secularism and in opposition to theocracy, which surely should be something the SPLC should be in favour of, and I’m sure they would be if it was Ted Cruz’s Dominionism we were talking about.

5. Appearing on the March 23, 2015, edition of “The Daily Show,” she said, “If you look at 70% of the violence in the world today, Muslims are responsible.” Experts said the claim appeared to be bogus, and she later amended it to say 70% of fatalities “were in wars involving Muslims,” including civil wars.

The link that the SPLC provides isn’t to the full interview, which was 20 minutes long, but it does include the quote they use in their condemnation of her. (The full interview can be seen here.)

It’s quite dishonest not to link to the full interview because if that’s done, it can be seen just how appalling it was, with Jon Stewart heading Hirsi Ali off every time she got into her stride, going out of his way to defend Islam from any criticism whatsoever, quibbling about semantics, trying to make her look like she was anti-Muslim, and forcing the narrative that all religions are equally bad.

Worst of all, he laughed at and mocked her. This USian man seemed to think he had a better understanding of Islam than a woman who was brought up in the religion and will forever be literally scarred because of it. (He got a lot of his history wrong as well, but it would take too long to debate all that.)

The interview with Stewart started thus:

Stewart: Why does Islam need a reformation – now?

Hirsi Ali: Because unfortunately too many people are dying in the name of Islam, too many women live under oppression, too many Jews are being demonized, too many gays are being killed in the name of Islam, too many Christians are being killed in the name of Islam and I think it’s really healthy to have a reformation now … (At which point Stewart cuts her off.)

Instead of discussing that, Stewart insisted on going back to the Christian Reformation, as if that was the only way a religion could be reformed, and quibbled over semantics. As usual, Tayler says it best:

She could have offered him no more persuasive, succinct justification for writing Heretic.  Stewart’s subsequent line of questioning — the above-mentioned Torquemadan grilling — involved his deliberate confounding of her plan to make Islam more moderate with both the (fundamentalist) Protestant Reformation and the violent, back-to-basics Islam of Al Qaeda and ISIS, and culminated in his utterance of a breathtaking, Islam-exculpatory banality: “The root of the people is people, not the text” [of the Quran].  

In the brilliant article in Quillette, Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Jeffrey Tayler referred very accurately to Stewart’s interview as “turn[ing] Torquemada on her, subjecting her to an Inquisitional interrogation.”

Jeffrey Tayler also did an excellent analysis of the Stewart interview of Hirsi Ali for Salon that’s worth reading.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about from the interview:

Stewart:radical extremists versus just Islam. And I think that’s where people go “oh, wait a minute,” that seems to be the more unfair leap – that people that have become radicalized and become jihadists and have taken terrible, violent, horrible actions in the name of something they think they’re doing something right.

Hirsi Ali: Mm Hm (And looking very frustrated to me, just waiting for Stewart to say, “They’re not real Muslims.”)

Stewart: And using that to step back and go, “And that’s why the whole religion is problematic.”

Hirsi Ali: Yep.

Stewart: That’ seems  wrong.

Hirsi Ali: So if a radical Muslim (unintelligible) the Qur’an, and finds instructions there, that we find appalling and are inhuman and violent, and he gets a following so large as to be the cause of 70% of fatalities across the world, then I think it’s time we also pick up Islamic scripture and ask what is it in there that inspires this violence and needs to change. And the good news now is that there is this emerging group of reformers who are trying to do that.

Stewart: Right.

Hirsi Ali: And I think we need to have that conversation instead of getting stuck in that other part where we start abusing Islamic State – “Is that Islamic or is that not Islamic.” It’s Islamic, come on, now let’s move, what about Islam needs to change. I identify only five key things – there are other people … (Stewart interrupts)

Stewart: But did the Bible change, or did people’s interpretation of it change?

And so on.

Stewart continually goes back to his false equivalence between Christianity and Islam, getting stuck on the word “reformation” as if the only meaning of the word is in the context of the Reformation of the 16th century started by Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Church.

The fuckwit even starts schooling her on what Islam means with the patronizing and sexist comment: “You need to get to church young lady!”

Stewart demonstrates the very mindset that is typical of the Authoritarian Left and has been taken as gospel by the SPLC with his next comment:

Muslims are being asked to do something that has not that much to do with them. A group of radicals have stolen a text that they have gotten great benefit from and are using it for nefarious purposes.

His overarching ideology that all religion is good has prevented him from either not hearing or dismissing everything that Hirsi Ali said.

The problem is, it’s not only Islamist terrorists who are interpreting the Qur’an in such a way that people are suffering because of Islam. Almost exactly the same rules that DAESH applies in their caliphate apply in the US ally Saudi Arabia. By saying that it’s just a tiny minority who have hijacked the religion for their own purposes, the Authoritarian left ignores the suffering of tens of millions who live under the control of Muslims who don’t recognize universal human rights values like equality for women and LGBT people. Those are the liberal values that true liberals should be standing up for.

crime-and-punishment

Instead of condemning Ayaan Hirsi Ali they should be listening to other things she said in the interview, and answering her call for support of the people she’s talking about:

There is an emerging group of reformers who we need to support… I think they are the strongest most courageous people because unlike the finger-pointing that a lot of the despotic regimes do, they’re saying we first of all need to change our own theology, our own narrative… If you asked me, “What would I change about Islam?” this is my contribution. These are five key points that need to be looked at.

Stewart also accused Hirsi Ali of doing what he himself was doing, and what the SPLC is doing – that Hirsi Ali is referring to Muslims as one great amorphous blob who all think and act the same. That is precisely what she is NOT doing. It comes back to the lack of understanding of the difference between Islamist and Islamic.

Stewart, and many non-Muslims, don’t get what Hirsi Ali knows because it was what she was taught in childhood – in Islam life after death is more important than life before death. Everything you do in life is a preparation for life in heaven, and that means following the tenets of the Qur’an and hadiths, whatever you interpret them to mean – whether killing infidels or loving your neighbour as yourself. Hirsi Ali and other reformers want to promote a version of Islam from the bottom up that separates religion from government and promotes humanist ideals. That is not anti-Muslim.

FInally, back to the statistic of “70%” that they find so contentious. SPLC says, “Experts said the claim appeared to be bogus,” again branding her a liar. However, they but do not state who these experts are, and do not appear to have properly checked it out.

Because the statistic is not bogus at all, and perhaps they should have asked Hirsi Ali. It came from the non-partisan International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). On 12 February 2015 Hanna Ucko Neill (Global Conflicts Analyst) and Jens Wardenaer (Research Analyst, Armed Conflict Database) published ‘Global conflict fatalities increase by more than 35% in 2014‘. The statistic is accurate, if unpalatable. The SPLC may not like Hirsi Ali repeating facts, but it should not be something that gets her landed on an anti-Muslim extremists list.

If the SPLC wants to brand people as anti-Muslim extremists they should check their facts first. They were wrong about Maajid Nawaz and they are wrong about Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I repeat my request to SPLC to review their inclusion in the field guide in light of the evidence.

 


If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating a dollar or two to help keep the site going. Thank you.




 

 

33 Responses to “Why Ayaan Hirsi Ali Shouldn’t be on SPLC’s ‘Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists’”

  1. Brujo Feo says:

    Heather: great essay. To read the WSJ article, you don’t need to be a subscriber. It’s right here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703426004575338471355710184

    • Thanks very much. 🙂

      When I use that link, I only get the top few lines and I can’t read any more without subscribing. Perhaps it’s because I’m overseas?

      • Brujo Feo says:

        Heather, that may be so. I can send you the whole thing, or if you want, I can just post it here as plain text for your readership. Please advise.

        • That’s be really cool if you could post it here, in case there are others who can’t read it either. Thanks so much! 🙂

          • Brujo Feo says:

            Sorry for the delay, Heather…here it is:

            How to Win the Clash of Civilizations

            The key advantage of Huntington’s famous model is that it describes the world as it is—not as we wish it to be.

            By AYAAN HIRSI ALI

            Updated Aug. 18, 2010 12:01 a.m. ET

            What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the “Clash of Civilizations,” particularly the clash between Islam and the West.

            Huntington’s argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important.

            The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant. Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization.

            The West’s universalist pretensions are increasingly bringing it into conflict with the other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China. Thus the survival of the West depends on Americans, Europeans and other Westerners reaffirming their shared civilization as unique—and uniting to defend it against challenges from non-Western civilizations.

            Huntington’s model, especially after the fall of Communism, was not popular. The fashionable idea was put forward in Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “The End of History,” in which he wrote that all states would converge on a single institutional standard of liberal capitalist democracy and never go to war with each other. The equivalent neoconservative rosy scenario was a “unipolar” world of unrivalled American hegemony. Either way, we were headed for One World.

            President Obama, in his own way, is a One Worlder. In his 2009 Cairo speech, he called for a new era of understanding between America and the Muslim world. It would be a world based on “mutual respect, and . . . upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles.”

            The president’s hope was that moderate Muslims would eagerly accept this invitation to be friends. The extremist minority—nonstate actors like al Qaeda—could then be picked off with drones.

            Of course, this hasn’t gone according to plan. And a perfect illustration of the futility of this approach, and the superiority of the Huntingtonian model, is the recent behavior of Turkey.

            According to the One World view, Turkey is an island of Muslim moderation in a sea of extremism. Successive American presidents have urged the EU to accept Turkey as a member on this assumption. But the illusion of Turkey as the West’s moderate friend in the Muslim world has been shattered.

            A year ago Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan congratulated Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election after he blatantly stole the presidency. Then Turkey joined forces with Brazil to try to dilute the American-led effort to tighten U.N. sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear arms program. Most recently, Turkey sponsored the “aid flotilla” designed to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza and to hand Hamas a public relations victory.

            True, there remain secularists in Istanbul who revere the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. But they have no hold over the key government ministries, and their grip over the army is slipping. Today the talk in Istanbul is quite openly about an “Ottoman alternative,” which harks back to the days when the Sultan ruled over an empire that stretched from North Africa to the Caucasus.

            If Turkey can no longer be relied on to move towards the West, who in the Muslim world can be? All the Arab countries except Iraq—a precarious democracy created by the United States—are ruled by despots of various stripes. And all the opposition groups that have any meaningful support among the local populations are run by Islamist outfits like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

            In Indonesia and Malaysia, Islamist movements are demanding the expansion of Shariah law. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s time is running out. Should the U.S. support the installation of his son? If so, the rest of the Muslim world will soon be accusing the Obama administration of double standards—if elections for Iraq, why not for Egypt? Analysts have observed that in free and fair elections, a Muslim Brotherhood victory cannot be ruled out.

            Algeria? Somalia? Sudan? It is hard to think of a single predominantly Muslim country that is behaving according to the One World script.

            The greatest advantage of Huntington’s civilizational model of international relations is that it reflects the world as it is—not as we wish it to be. It allows us to distinguish friends from enemies. And it helps us to identify the internal conflicts within civilizations, particularly the historic rivalries between Arabs, Turks and Persians for leadership of the Islamic world.

            But divide and rule cannot be our only policy. We need to recognize the extent to which the advance of radical Islam is the result of an active propaganda campaign. According to a CIA report written in 2003, the Saudis invested at least $2 billion a year over a 30-year period to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam. The Western response in promoting our own civilization was negligible.

            Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington’s most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.

            Ms. Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament, is the author of “Nomad: From Islam to America—A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations,” which has just been published by Free Press.

          • I do not see how that article could lead to someone being labelled an anti-Muslim extremist. This is another strike against the SPLC.

          • Ken says:

            Yes, thanks. There are things in this I could argue with, but it is not inflammatory like the Reason interview and doesn’t support her being labelled extremist.

          • nicky says:

            Thanks Brujo. And indeed nothing ‘extremist’ there, immo.

      • nicky says:

        Same here, can’t read it without subscription.

  2. nicky says:

    Thank you for speaking up for Ayaan.

    Isn’t CAIR simply an Islamist shill?
    [There is talk about links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as funding from Saud and Ghadaffi].

    I’m still in 2 minds about what I find more despicable, the Brandeis ‘disinvitatihon’ or this grotesque SPLC listing. Probably the latter:whith Islamist extremism being often so violent, it could be construed as a hit-list.

    • I’ve heard of links to the Muslim Brotherhood as well, and I’m pretty sure there is quality reporting out there which confirms that.

      They certainly have a very regressive opinion about things like what clothing women should wear. In fact I wrote a post about CAIR Chicago’s ridiculous claims on their website that men and women were equal in Islam because both had rules they had to follow regarding what clothing they should wear.

  3. Martin Levin says:

    Wonderfully comprehensive and incisive piece. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the most courageous and important women, make that people, of our time. I watched that Stewart interview and lost enormous respect for him. That Reformation-reformation equivalence was especially dim-witted.

  4. Coel says:

    Thanks for all that analysis, Heather. Ayaan really is way better than her critics.

    On the “close Islamic schools” complaint. Well, I’m going to own up to being an “extremist” because I don’t think we should have religious groups running schools. Children deserve better, and that means being encouraged to think for themselves, encountering a range of views about religion and forming their own opinions.

    Schools run by religious groups nearly always push one particular religious viewpoint as normative, and coerce the children into participating in it. The idea that the children might have views of their own and should have a choice about religious participation is simply not accepted.

    There may be some such schools that are moderate enough that it doesn’t matter much, but on principle I don’t think that a school should push one particular religious ideology and more than they should push one particular political ideology.

    No doubt my stance is “anti-child” and “extremist” in the eyes of the SPLC!

    • I certainly agree. I think children should be given the information about religion – it is a major part of the cultural history of the planet. However, there should be no coercion or elevation of one above another, and they should be made aware that they can choose not to be part of a religion too.

  5. Ken says:

    Thanks for this piece, Heather. It and the articles it references are very interesting. I’d only read a bit about Ali in the past, very little by her, so while I think the SPLC is very wrong to include her on such an inflammatory list, some of her early quotes bothered me, as discussed in the comments to your posts on Nawaz. People there had largely convinced me that she’d either walked back the more extreme comments, or otherwise “changed her opinion in some way” (whatever the difference between the two is). Reading further, I really hope this is the case, because some of the views as expressed in the Reason interview are worse than I’d thought. What I’d say is a great advertisement for her is the new interview by Sam Harris https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/the-borders-of-tolerance. As Sam says, addressing directly the SPLC announcement which happened to occur on the same day his interview with Ali was recorded, it would be very difficult to listen to that it and form the view that she was anti-Muslim or motivated by hatred in any way at all. So with that in mind, there are still a few issues I’d like to raise.

    Your statement: “The closing of religious schools is a common secular stance throughout the world” is certainly not one I recognise or identify with. It would be unconstitutional in the US and I’m sure not allowed in any western country that protects freedom of religion. Were it can be shown a particular school or schools are teaching religious hate, there is a case for defunding and maybe even closure, but certainly not all schools just for being Islamic. You’d have to close all other religious schools too, and while we as atheists may think that is conceptually a good thing, advocating state action to that effect is another matter. And Ali isn’t referring to just some schools as you give examples of, but in the Reason interview she says close all Islamic schools in the West. Is this view one that she has changed?

    Her comment that “violence is inherent in Islam”, without some specific context is problematic too. Violence may be found often in the Koran, but we know that people pick and choose what they like from their holy books, Christians for instance. Many (most?) Muslims are not violent, and would see such a statement as stoking negative feelings against all Muslims. It’s not just the SPLC that doesn’t get the distinction between the dogma and the adherents. Many people looking for reasons to, say, justify Trump’s policy of keeping all Muslims out of the US, would have no problem latching on to such a statement as support for their position. So just saying people should understand the difference isn’t enough. Some do mean to attack the people via the dogma and the phraseology can be much the same as those who don’t wish to do that.

    And whereas it has been argued that Ali never advocated a military solution, the Reason interview again makes her position in 2007 all too clear that she did. In it, she explicitly rejects that the radicals are the problem, but that all of Islam needs to be defeated. It is a perfect example of the extremely problematic “clash of civilisations” meme. I’ll take your word for it, Heather, that she has walked this one back, because if not there would be at least one reason to consider her an extremist. I can’t read the 2010 WSJ op-ed either, so would appreciate it being posted in full given the title suggests she discusses the same topic.

    Re her 2009 essay, the main problematic point is that she repeats the falsehood that the US is simply responding in self-defense to terrorism, implying it has played no part in its creation. That doesn’t make one an anti-Muslim extremist, unless perhaps one knows it is false and denies it anyway. More likely one has just drunk the kool-aid of American exceptionalism. Of course the SPLC doesn’t even discuss this, so it’s not really relevant to the current controversy, it’s just hugely frustrating. In the Harris interview, she says it would be too risky for the US to take in many more Syrian refugees because of their religion, as though the only reason for doing so is out of it’s concern for humanity. She ignores the role the US played in the destabilisation of the region and the moral responsibilities that go along with that.

    • Coel says:

      Hi Ken,

      “The closing of religious schools is a common secular stance throughout the world” is certainly not one I recognise or identify with.

      First, let’s distinguish between state-funded religious schools and privately funded ones. Ayaan was talking from the perspective of Holland where, as in the UK, the state funds schools runs by the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions. It is not an “extreme” position to be opposed to this. It is the position of the UK’s National Secular Society, and, from polls, the position of the majoity of British people. In France and the US secular constitutions would not allow it.

      As for privately funded religious schools, well, it is commonly accepted that the state has an interest in the education of children, and can specify standards and expectations. There are some deeply problematic private religious schools in the UK, for example those run by Charedi Jews which teach in Yiddish, not English, and teach a narrow religious curriculum consisting mainly of studying the Torah.

      E.g., as stated by The Independent (a moderate, mainstream UK newspaper): “The schools are ultra-Orthodox Jewish faith schools at which boys are placed from the age of 13, and where they receive no education beyond studying religious texts. A number of pupils leave school with little or no ability to speak English, and few – if any – qualifications or skills which equip them to work, or live independently.”

      Thus, one 22-yr-old ex-pupil of a Charedi school said: “I’m starting to study for my GCSEs. I’m maybe like an eight-year-old, nine-year-old. That’s my level of education.”

      Now, of course, many such schools are way more moderate than those ones, but I do not see it as an extreme position to say that religions are not suitable groups to run schools, because children deserve better than that. In particular, they have a right to religious freedom. Only recently, in Scotland, two 17-yr-olds were disciplined by their school for refusing to participate in a Catholic mass. Their reason for not wanting to participate was that they were not Catholics. The school’s attitude was “oh yes you are Catholics whether you like it or not”.

      Were it can be shown a particular school or schools are teaching religious hate, there is a case for defunding and maybe even closure, but certainly not all schools just for being Islamic.

      I do not accept that any and everything that stops short of “hate” is acceptable. Children deserve better than that! One of the worst things about the Regressive Left is the idea that children born into Islamic communities somehow deserve less and fewer rights to a rounded education than “white” kids. People such as Ayaan are standing up for those kids! If Islamic schools are not promoting Western and liberal values then the kids deserve better. I do not, for example, agree with a schools that *compel* 15-yr-old girls to keep their hair covered at all times. Who matters more here, the child, or the religious desire to impose and compel?

      Her comment that “violence is inherent in Islam”, without some specific context is problematic too. Violence may be found often in the Koran, but we know that people pick and choose what they like from their holy books, …

      In other words the *religion*, the ideology, is inherently extreme and violent, but the *people* are more moderate, and are so by ignoring the extreme bits of the religion.

      It’s not just the SPLC that doesn’t get the distinction between the dogma and the adherents. Many people looking for reasons to, say, justify Trump’s policy of keeping all Muslims out of the US, would have no problem latching on to such a statement as support for their position.

      I do not agree that other people failing to think clearly is reason to stop Ayaan speaking clearly. I don’t agree that we should avoid legitimate criticism of ideologies, just because others conflate ideologies with people. This is especially so when people wanting to censor do everything they can to *promote* such confusion.

      And whereas it has been argued that Ali never advocated a military solution, the Reason interview again makes her position in 2007 all too clear that she did.

      No, she did not advocate *a* military solution (as though that were her prime tactic), she merely recognised that it might be part of the “clash” of ideologies. Which it is, the West is fighting ISIS right now.

      In it, she explicitly rejects that the radicals are the problem, but that all of Islam needs to be defeated. It is a perfect example of the extremely problematic “clash of civilisations” meme.

      Yes, again, it’s the *ideology* she wants to defeat. If someone in 1935 had wanted to “defeat” the ideology of Third Reich Germany, or if someone in 1965 had wanted to “defeat” the ideology of the communist USSR, that would not necessarily have made them “extremists”.

      Too many on the Regressive Left seem to think it is impermissible to be opposed to mainstream Islam and to see mainstream Islam as an oppressive and harmful force in the world. The main reason Ayaan opposes Islam is because of the harm it does to people living under Islam, namely Muslims.

      • Ken says:

        Coel, hopefully my comments demonstrate that I don’t agree with the regressive left. If people I’m sympathetic to aren’t communicating clearly enough for me to understand them, then they’re going to have an even bigger problem with their real detractors.

        Schools: If we’re just talking about state funded schools, I’ve no issue. I’d love to see religions charter schools in the US defunded. I may have missed it, but no where have I seen where it is just state funded schools that Ali targeted.

        I do not agree that other people failing to think clearly is reason to stop Ayaan speaking clearly. I don’t agree that we should avoid legitimate criticism of ideologies, just because others conflate ideologies with people.

        These are straw men, as I haven’t argued either point.

        This is especially so when people wanting to censor do everything they can to *promote* such confusion.

        When countering people who wish to twist your message, clarity is even more important. They’ll twist it anyway, but the target isn’t them, but the people listening to the argument who will form an opinion on who is correct by what each side says.

        Re military, etc, here is the relevant part of the interview:

        Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.

        Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

        Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

        Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

        Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

        Reason: Militarily?

        Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

        Reason: Are we really heading toward anything so ominous?

        Hirsi Ali: I think that’s where we’re heading. We’re heading there because the West has been in denial for a long time. It did not respond to the signals that were smaller and easier to take care of. Now we have some choices to make. This is a dilemma: Western civilization is a celebration of life—everybody’s life, even your enemy’s life. So how can you be true to that morality and at the same time defend yourself against a very powerful enemy that seeks to destroy you?

        Reason: George Bush, not the most conciliatory person in the world, has said on plenty of occasions that we are not at war with Islam.

        Hirsi Ali: If the most powerful man in the West talks like that, then, without intending to, he’s making radical Muslims think they’ve already won. There is no moderate Islam. There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.

        Reason: So when even a hard-line critic of Islam such as Daniel Pipes says, “Radical Islam is the problem, but moderate Islam is the solution,” he’s wrong?

        Hirsi Ali: He’s wrong. Sorry about that.

        Here, clarity is not the problem. The interviewer gives Ali every chance to nuance her position, but she makes clear just how extreme aspects of her position is. As I’ve said, I’m trusting Heather and others who claim that her position has changed and certainly nothing like this is suggested by the Harris interview. That’s no reason to pretend she didn’t say it in the first place.

        • She has changed since then. Remember, this was only a month after she became an atheist, and she had just seen her friend Theo van Gogh murdered and left with a knife in his chest to pin a note to it saying she was next. It’s a bit like a new non-smoker – everyone says they’re the most intolerant. I remember being a lot more black and white about my opinions when I first became an atheist too.

          • Ken says:

            Yes, I understand. It’s her views now that matter most.

          • Carl says:

            I don’t find Ayaan’s early “at war with Islam” comments at all troubling. Islam is an ideology inimical to our way of life and needs to be opposed. It is not the same as saying all Muslims are our enemies. If some Muslims disavow punishment of blasphemy, execution of gays, execution of apostates, sharia as binding on anyone, etc., let them self identify and proclaim an ideology we won’t need to be at war with.

          • Ken says:

            The idea of opposing Islam isn’t extreme, but some methods of opposing it are.

        • Coel says:

          Ken, for reasons that I went into, I don’t agree with children being sent to private religious schools, so if Ayaan wants to ban those (as well as state funding of them) then I agree with her and I do not agree that it is an “extremist” position. As I see it, it is a very liberal one that puts the interests of children first.

          Parents have plenty of opportunity to inform their children of their religious views as it is, and so I do not see it is an infringement of their rights if their children encounter other ideas at school.

          It’s not in the interests of children for them to have a schooling revolving around the same ideology as their parents. That idea is, again, based on the suggestion that religions are Good Things entitled to special privileges. It’s based on the idea that children are in some way the property of their parents’ religion and that they are under some obligation to adopt that religion.

          The European Declaration of Human Rights, for example, which grants freedom of conscience and religion, does not put any lower age limit on that. (Note that for the right to marry, it does use wording that excludes children, for the freedom of religion is does not.)

          As for that interview with Ayaan that you quote from. I do not interpret it as “advocating a military solution”. I interpret it as trying to wake the West up to the harmful nature of mainstream Islam, and wanting to oppose and defeat that ideology (while (1) saying very little about how to achieve that, and (2) recognising that the “clash of civilisations” might include military conflict, which it indeed has).

        • Mike says:

          This is not an extreme position concerning Islam any more than saying the old testament endorses rape and child murder is extreme. The point is that the followers of Islam or Christianity are only tolerable in so much as they ignore many of the tenets of their holy books. Any one who, in a modern christian country, behaved as the chosen people were encouraged to by their god would be shunned and imprisoned. That is not yet the case for many Islamic countries.

  6. Carl says:

    With enemies like hers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali needs friends like you. Bravo!!!

  7. I’ve made some small changes to the post. Most are inconsequential. The biggest one is at the beginning re FGM. I’ve added:

    Or perhaps it’s the fact that she called in female genital mutilation, rather than female genital cutting, which is the term the regressive left would rather we use. Hirsi Ali herself clearly regards what she underwent as mutilation and it would be denying her experience to force her to call it something different than the term she uses for herself. And we know how the regressive left are about denying personal experience. (Big sigh.)

    Either way, it escapes me completely how undergoing FGM is a sign that you’re an anti-Muslim extremist.

  8. Ed Kroc says:

    Wow, excellent work! Thanks for writing this up.

  9. somer says:

    Thanks Heather for the great articles. Always thought Jon Stewart was a bit of a smug so and so.

  10. Luke says:

    I’m so appalled by SPLC right now. The SPLC have now made themselves complicit in the persecution of many women like Hirsi Ali.

    The list itself is somewhat Orwellian. SPLC may also be furthering endangering the lives of any person on that list.

    What a disgrace!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

top