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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Tilting at Windmills

By Javed Anand

Jun 05 2010


Ayaan Hirsi Ali launches her Save Muslims Project and asks the West to enlist


Come gather ’round people wherever you are (sorry, Dylan) for the Muslims they are desperately in need of a-savin’. In case you think you have better things to do, remember you are doing it for yourself: by saving Muslims you save the world, yourself included. What do we save Muslims from? From Islam, stupid!

The world can think what it likes, but for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilisations thesis is bang on target. “A confrontation between the values held by Islam and those of the West is inevitable. There is already a clash, and we are in some sense already at war. The Western civilisation is superior… and I assume the West will win. The question is how,” argues Ali. If interested (you better be), rush for your copy of Nomad, her fresh-from-the-press memoir-cum-“remedial” recipes on how to win the war against Islam.


Are Muslims the problem for the self-proclaimed ex-Muslim? Not really. Poor things, they are victims of indoctrination, just as she herself was before she rescued herself thanks, ironically, to a man named Osama bin Laden. She was headed in that direction already but 9/11 precipitated her decision to renounce Islam, proclaim atheism and give Enlightenment ideals a passionate embrace. “The Muslim mind today seems to be in the grip of jihad”, but fear not, Ali has a few “remedies” on hand. Alongside the ongoing “war on terror” she proposes the launch of “an Enlightenment Project”. Mission statement: “Opening of the Muslim Mind”.

Can the “closed Muslim mind” be opened? Certainly, says Ali: “I strongly believe that the Muslim mind can be opened.” She quotes from e-mail she has received from Muslim women to show that she is not the only Muslim woman who has dared to challenge her upbringing and faith. Which thinking person, Muslim or non-Muslim, would deny that current-day mainstream Islam is afflicted by a malady that’s crying for a remedy? This space could well overflow with a list of names of Muslims across the world — men and women, Islamic scholars and theologians, academics and activists — who, especially post 9/11, have been engaged in that very search. Fighting the scourge of extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam is top priority but not the only item on the agenda. Myriad issues pertinent to the “Islam and Modernity” paradigm — universal human rights, fundamental freedoms, gender justice, democracy, pluralism, barbaric-to-modern-sensibility, punishments for certain crimes in the name of Shariah — are now under scrutiny.


Several top-drawer ulema with large followings across the Muslim world have gone public in recent years asserting that the veiling of women is a cultural construct and has nothing to do with faith: all Islam asks of believers (men as well as women) is to be modestly dressed in public places.


Last year, a renowned Islamic scholar from Egypt, the octogenarian Sheikh Gamal Al Banna (brother of the late Hassan Al Banna who founded the Muslim Brotherhood), published a book demanding the deletion of all supposed sayings of Prophet Muhammed from Hadith literature which are even remotely anti-women or anti-minorities. His argument: besides lacking internal consistency, such sayings attributed to the Prophet are in total contradiction to the message of the Quran and the actual practice of the Messenger. (The Hadith, sayings of the Prophet, were compiled some 200 years after his demise.)


In 2005, with the active involvement of the country’s ulema, Morocco, a semi-constitutional monarchy, enacted a new set of Family Laws according to which husband and wife are joint heads of a family, divorce is strictly regulated and polygamy is virtually impossible. “Change is coming to Islam,” opined Ziauddin Sardar, the prolific UK-based commentator on Islam and the Muslim world, in a recent article.


So, are Muslims like Al Banna and Sardar, and Muslim women scholars such as Riffat Hassan, Asma Barlas, Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud welcome to join Ali’s project for opening the Muslim mind? No way, says the “Nomad” now well ensconced in the neo-con American Enterprise Institute in Washington.


Why not? Here and there in her book, Ali gives you the impression that she is battling “Wahhabi Islam”, “radical Islamists”, “extremist Islam”. But just when you think you might be on the same page as her, she reverts to her emphatic Islam-itself-is-the-problem view. Ali loves Christians who no longer take every word of the Bible literally, perhaps allows for the fact that even holy text must be read in context. What she can’t stand for a moment, however, is the “tortuous struggle” of “intelligent and well-meaning (Muslim) men and women to reinterpret Muslim scripture”.


Ali selectively plucks a few passages out of the Quran to “prove” how Islam is a violent and anti-woman faith at its core: “Islam is not just a belief: it is a way of life, a violent way of life, Islam is imbued with violence, and it encourages violence.” Ali tells us she has no intention to convert, but for her any day it is “God” over “Allah” and compassionate Christianity over violent Islam.


Want to join Ali’s “Save Muslims Project”? Everyone is invited: atheists, liberals, Western feminists, most of all the Christian Church. All except Muslims unless they are willing to reject or revise verses of the Quran that Ali will handpick shorn of context. And, remember, only her reading of the Quran is valid.


This is no time for niceties, and political correctness be damned, says Ali loud and clear. It is high time the West reassumed its responsibility of carrying the White Man’s Burden: the civilising mission, minus colonialism, of course.


Javed Anand is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy, and co-editor of Communalism Combat

Source: The Indian Express