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Islamic Reformation: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Her Heretic Are Murdering the Cause of Seculars


By Natasha Shahid

08 May 2015

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a well-known critic of Islam and ex-Muslim, recently released a book which she chose to title “Heretic” – a word that she must be all too familiar with, by now. The book proposes a reformation in Islam akin to the reformation that Christianity went through in the 16th century. But how similar are these two reformations?

The Protestant Reformation

Although it had many movements entailing it, the emergence of Martin Luther’s The Ninety-Five Theses was unarguably what started the Protestant Reformation as we know it. The Ninety-Five Theses, written in 1517, targeted the practices of the Catholic Church, especially its sale of indulgences. Before the Reformation, sinners could conveniently knock the Church’s door, pay a certain amount of money, and be absolved of their sins. Luther further raised objections over the corrupt practices being conducted within the Church, the nepotism and simony, etc. Protestantism further expanded its concerns to the reverence received by saints in the Church, objecting that this reverence had nothing to do with Christianity as the scripture taught it.

So, in essence, Protestantism was a movement to purify Christianity, primarily of the malpractices that had taken root in the Church, and secondly, of the innovations that the Church and its followers had introduced to the faith.

Hirsi Ali’s Islamic Reformation

“To defeat the extremists for good, Muslims must reject those aspects of their tradition that prompt some believers to resort to oppression and holy war” says the blurb at the top of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s article on the website of the Wall Street Journal. Sounds reasonable, until her entire argument begins to unfold.

Hirsi Ali’s argument is summarized in five points that represent all the elements in Islam that she believes Muslims should abandon, which I will now quote from her own article:

“The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war.”

The message of this is fairly simple: Hirsi Ali suggests that Muslims should disown the parts of the scripture that demand them to wage holy war.

“The right of individual Muslims to enforce Islamic law.”

That Muslims should not go around forcing people to follow Islamic law or practices.

“Shariah, the vast body of religious legislation.”

She further asks Muslims to reject the Shariah and accept manmade laws as above those that Muslims believe were created by God.

“The supremacy of life after death.”

That life on the Earth is dearer than the life Hereafter.

“Muhammad’s semi-divine status, along with the literalist reading of the Quran.”

Last, and most bafflingly, Muslims should cease to regard Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as “infallible”. It doesn’t end there: Hirsi Ali further argues that Muslims should stop taking him as “a source of divine writ”.

Similarity in the two Reformations?

It is fairly evident from the above-given descriptions of the two reformations that the two are not similar at all. The Protestant Reformation, as stated above, focused more on gleaning Christianity of innovations and malpractices; of achieving a purer form of it that was closer to what the scripture originally taught. Hirsi Ali’s proposed reformation of Islam, on the other hand, is completely the opposite: it demands a gleaning of the Islamic scripture, itself. Not only that, it asks Muslims to abandon the very core of their faith: the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) and the divinity of the Quran. That is like asking Christians to denounce their claim that Jesus Christ was the son of God, and asking Atheists to stop believing that God does not exist. Furthermore, demanding Muslims to reject the Shariah and the importance of the Hereafter, altogether, is also akin to asking them to reject their faith completely. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “reformation” of Islam is not a reformation at all – it is a new faith altogether.

How Ayaan Hirsi Ali is Ruining her Own Cause

In a recent interview, Hirsi Ali stated that all Muslims are “rotten apples”. “The assumption is that, in Islam, there are a few rotten apples, not the entire basket. I’m saying it’s the entire basket,” she told the New York Post. She further elaborates her point by saying that the notion that Islam is being defamed by a “few bad apples” is false – the blame for the religion’s defamation lies on the shoulder of all the 2 billion Muslims in the world, simply because they follow their religion. Therefore to Hirsi Ali, a Muslim who has never so much as broken a law, is more of a global threat than, say, an Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer and terrorist.

I fail to understand how Ayaan Hirsi Ali plans to appeal to Muslims around the globe with statements like these that ooze bigotry. Because, surely, someone who is calling out to a certain group to reform themselves ought to have some kind of appeal to that particular group – why else would they listen to them? Why would a Muslim listen to religious advice coming from an ex-Muslim atheist who, after maligning their religion, is calling them a “rotten apple”? Why would Islamists, who already believe Hirsi Ali a “heretic”, lend an ear to the fairly ridiculous ideas of reformation presented by her, especially if she is also bent upon generalizing the entire Muslim community as a threat to humanity? And if her proposition is not meant to appeal to Muslims, then whom exactly is she attempting to inspire into conducting an Islamic reformation? Is she calling out to an external force to crack down on the religion and reform it forcefully? If that is the case, then there isn’t much of a difference between her and the Islamic State – they both believe in terrorizing those who don’t agree with their point-of-view.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s hate speech – and that is what it is because it lacks constructiveness – is only going to make Muslims deafer to constructive criticism – which is exactly what seculars do not want. Which is exactly what Martin Luther did not do.