Sunday, February 25, 2007

The High Price of Freedom for Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel


Infidel, By Ayaan Hirsi Ali, FREE PRESS, reviewed by Sandip Roy in the Book Section of the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, February 25, 2007.

An excerpt from Mr. Roy's review:

On one hand she rages righteously against the willful blindness of those who deny the honor killings and wife beatings that go on in the name of Islam. But then on the other she dismisses the way her statements can feed into the very real problems of stigma and profiling that are faced by thousands of innocent Muslims who get thrown off planes or disappear into detention centers. She makes statements like "Islam is backward" and then appears, rather naively, astonished when young Moroccans boo her. It is unclear how she even thinks there is room for reform in Islam when in her view the "faith is itself at the root of oppression."

But her fearlessness has sparked change, forcing Dutch authorities to start counting honor killings.

In the end, Ayaan, the daughter of Hirsi, the son of Magan, finally frees herself from the tangled bloodlines of obligation and obedience that caged her. But as you read about her hunkered down in a nameless motel between two freeways, guarded around the clock by Dutch police, you can only wonder about the price of that freedom.

As I read the above conclusion of Mr. Roy’s review of Ms. Ali’s autobiography, I was struck by the reviewer’s clueless remarks about Ms. Ali’s comments on Muslims and on the price of freedom. I contend his remarks are clueless from the point of view that he was writing a review for an American audience.

An American would think of Ms. Ali’s comments to fellow Muslims in the context of Dr. Martin Luther King’s remarks to fellow Americans. Dr. King, I feel sure, did not worry about how his statements about racial injustice in the American South served to stigmatize and profile thousands of innocent Southerners.

Mr. Roy’s remarks about these thousands of innocents being thrown off planes and disappearing into detention centers also strike me as disingenuous since I find very few instances in the news of that sort of thing happening. The only one that comes to mind in recent times involved six imams doing their best to draw attention to their strange antics on a commercial flight.

Of less recent vintage, a large number, but far from thousands, of unlawful combatants were captured on battlefields in Afghanistan and placed in indefinite detention. I don’t think many “innocents” wander through Afghan battlefields carrying AK-47’s and RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades).

However, the most striking thing in Mr. Roy’s review is what he didn’t include: if Muslims react negatively when Ms. Ali says “Islam is backwards,” that doesn’t mean Islam is not backwards, and it doesn’t mean that the Muslim in the street shouldn’t hear Islam criticized, especially by a former Muslim.

I know that multiculturalists would be offended that anyone would criticize another's culture, even if the critic had suffered its oppression. So honor killings and female circumcision go on, and the multiculturalists save their scathing remarks for the critics of Islam, not its barbaric practices.

"Oh, that is so judgmental."

Again my thoughts turn to the words of Dr. King. I think he thought there was room for reform in the South, even though he thought the culture of racism in the South was at the root of oppression there. As in most things, it is hard to correct a problem if you don’t give it a name.

Ms. Ali has given a name and a face to the backwardness of Islam. She was subjected to genital mutilation (female circumcision) against her will. She realized that any peace and comfort she had in life depended on another treating her well, and could be lost in an instant at their whim.

Given all Ms. Ali has suffered, Mr. Roy wonders if her freedom is worth the price of being “hunkered down in a nameless motel between two freeways, guarded around the clock by Dutch police …”

I wonder if Dr. King wondered the same on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 p.m. as he stepped onto the balcony outside the Motel Lorraine in Memphis, Tennessee.

Personally, I think both would agree their freedom was worth the price, because they both had a dream, and dreams die hard.

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