Monday, April 04, 2005

The best of the West: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I can’t believe that this was published by the New York Times. OK, it’s the NYT Magazine, but still. The New York Friggin’ Times.

Christopher Caldwell just knocks this out of the ball park with Daughter of the Enlightenment. He gives you 90% of what you need to know about Ayaan Hirsi Ali (AHA), reviews how children in schools are radicalized, shows you how The Netherlands got to where it is today, and the real danger women from Muslim backgrounds in the West are under. That and all sorts of relevant data you simply have to read the whole thing.

Let’s get to it.
Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and has been a member of the Dutch Parliament since January 2003, had endorsed the view that Islam is a backward religion, condemned the way women live under it and said that by today's standards, the prophet Muhammad would be considered a perverse tyrant. She had also announced that she was no longer a believing Muslim. The punishment for such apostasy is, according to strict interpretations of Islam, death.
That my friends, is courage of your convictions. What consequences are you willing to accept to state your belief and opinion?
…several dozen vocational students were taking up the main restaurant, so she and her guards parked at two tables near the bar. Hirsi Ali had her back to the restaurant when one of the students, apparently a Dutch convert to Islam, tapped her on the shoulder. ''I turned around,'' she recalls in her elegant English, ''and saw this sweet, young Dutch guy, about 24 years old. With freckles! And he was like, 'Madam, I hope the mujahedeen get you and kill you.' '' Hirsi Ali handed him her knife and told him, ''Why don't you do it yourself?''
The power of the free mind, and one at peace with her chosen path in life. This type of moral courage is unique and instrumental to the proper defense of free thought (interesting statement from a guy that anonoblogs, i.e. hides behind a “nom de blog”-gulp). Once again, you do not have to wear a uniform to step into the breach in the fight for the West.
Because her voice is soft, she can seem meek. She is not. Hirsi Ali has a calm and syllogistic way of dropping verbal bombs all over the place, using words European politicians never do: Decadent. Corrupt. Cowardly. Wrong.
Can we clone her? My heart is all a’flutter.
Hirsi Ali was born into Somalia's Darod clan…her father, Hirsi Magan Isse…who now lives in England, was an iconoclastic Somali intellectual and politician who studied in Italy and earned a degree from Columbia University in 1966. He returned to Africa strengthened in his Muslim faith, his daughter says, but also deeply touched by North America. ''If such a young nation as the U.S. could make it to superpower status,'' she recalls him saying, ''we could do it as well.'' An anti-Communist, he agitated against the Marxist dictatorship of Mohammed Siad Barre, who came to power in 1969, the year Hirsi Ali was born. Hirsi Magan spent part of the 1980's as a leader of a guerrilla force in the Democratic Front for the Salvation of Somalia.
Critical background of her greater understanding of the world that I have not seen covered in other articles. Fleshes out where her backbone comes from.
It was Hirsi Ali's grandmother who managed, following regional custom, to have Hirsi Ali and her sister ritually ''circumcised'' at age 5, against the wishes (and without the knowledge) of Hirsi Magan.
This stands on its own. If you are not familiar with this mutilation, go here. It makes me sick and I don’t want to comment further on it. The sky is blue, the grass is green.
A crisis came in 1992, when her father contracted her in marriage to a Somali-Canadian cousin she did not know. After a wedding ceremony in Kenya, she followed him on a flight to Canada. During a layover in Germany, scheduled for the completion of her immigration paperwork, she decided to bolt -- an idea that did not occur to her, she says, until she arrived in Europe. She fled across the border on a train to the Netherlands, fearful that the Somali-German guardian assigned her by her clan would find her if she stayed in Germany.
Canadian and German citizens doing little more than kidnapping. Don’t hold your breath for them to ever do something about it.
In the Netherlands, she … found a job as a cleaning lady (''I would rather clean than beg'') in the Riedel juice factory in Ede, a heavily Moroccan city that has since become notorious in the Netherlands as the place where a television camera caught children and teenagers celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center.
13 years ago she was a woman on the run for her life with nothing to her name. I don’t see a victim here anywhere, do you?
She also worked as a translator for immigration and social-service agencies. She interviewed Muslim women married off to reprobate cousins because they had lost their honor (virginity) and no one outside the family would have them. She interviewed battered wives and women infected with the AIDS virus who were under the impression that Muslims could not contract it. She came to marvel -- and despair -- at the tenacity of traditional Islam's grip on women who, now living in the West, seemingly had little reason to fear it.
And where were (and are) all those fine, Left organizations in Europe concerned with women’s rights?
In 1995, she entered the University of Leiden. She studied political science and political philosophy, … which she remembers with a desperate gratitude.
Knowledge is freedom. With freedom comes responsibility. She learned that early, and did more than most: she acted.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, Hirsi Ali was in her second week of work as a researcher at the think tank of the center-left Labor Party, a job she'd sought after a short corporate stint peddling drugs to doctors for GlaxoSmithKline. Although she now describes herself as an atheist (''I do not believe in God, angels and the hereafter''), she had not at that point wholly lost her faith. The water-cooler talk that week was converging on agreement that it was simplistic to blame the attacks on Islam. Hirsi Ali begged to differ. She had been haunted by the letter left by the hijacker Mohamed Atta, in which he reminded his accomplices to pray for martyrdom. ''If I were a male under the same circumstances,'' she says, ''I could have been there. It was exactly what I used to believe.'' …Soon she had the chance to talk this way in public. Television interviewers were clamoring for immigrant analysts. … Asked her opinion of Pim Fortuyn's characterization of Islam as a ''backward religion,'' Hirsi Ali replied that by certain measures, including the treatment of women, Fortuyn's statement was not an opinion but a fact. Muslim leaders began to threaten her and her employers. ''Every time I went on TV,'' she says, ''I got a threat.'' In London, her father received menacing calls about her from Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands. Not only Muslims but also multiculturalists were outraged. Hirsi Ali wasn't impressed. ''I was like, 'I can't say that?' '' she recalls. '' 'For five long years in Leiden, you taught me to state facts. Now I do.' ''
OK, she needs some Church’n, but we can get to that at the right time. Her directness and transparency is blindingly refreshing. You know where she stands, and she challenges anyone to debate her on the merits.

When you look at what is going on in The Netherlands, a country looked at as one of the most “progressive” and “open” societies, you wonder where it all went wrong. I can’t believe it, but the NYT Mag article puts the blame right where it belongs.
Until recently, the Netherlands adhered to a national policy cumbersomely known as ''integration with maintenance of one's own identity.'' It arose partly out of unspoken guilt over the country's failure to save many Jews under German occupation during World War II and partly out of a modish multiculturalism.
Ahhhh, yessss. The multi-culti nightmare. Chickens are a’roost’n.
But she prefers to describe her legislative achievements in broad terms. ''I confront the European elite's self-image as tolerant,'' she says, ''while under their noses women are living like slaves.''
BING. Right on the 10 ring. Oh, and the hits keep coming!
Disrupting political classifications is explicitly what Hirsi Ali means to do. In her view, consensus-seeking politicians of all parties work hard to keep off the table the issues most Dutch people care about. Sometimes she refers to these people -- from Dijkstal to the Christian Democrat justice minister Piet Hein Donner to Job Cohen, the Labor mayor of Amsterdam -- as ''the Baby Boomers,''
Yep, she is naming names and has the right target set. Baby Boomers. The cancer is everywhere, fouling the nest hither and yon.
Hirsi Ali claims a direct line of intellectual inheritance from the Dutch Enlightenment, and says she is merely laying claim as a Dutch person to freedoms won for her fellow citizens starting in the 17th century. … She calls Spinoza her biggest Western inspiration.
It is hard to argue that fact. At least she is standing up for what made HER country great. Is she too little, too late? Have things gone so bad that there isn’t an easy way out? Will her countrymen rise to her banner in time? Will The Netherlands be burned in order to save it?
The present Dutch crisis looks very different if you believe a tribal principle is at work. It can look apocalyptic, in fact. In late February, sitting in an empty conference room in The Hague, clutching her black woolen wrap, Hirsi Ali speculated on one consequence. ''The Netherlands is an art country,'' she said. ''If the citizens of Amsterdam, 60 percent of whom will soon be of non-Western origin, are not made part of that, all of this will decay and be destroyed. When the municipality has to vote on whether funds go to preserve art or build a mosque, they may ask, 'Why should I pay for this stupid painting?' They may do a host of other things that are undemocratic, illiberal and unfriendly toward women and homosexuals and unbelievers.'' Hirsi Ali fears that inaction will be grist for the mill of an extreme right that is on the rise. ''If we don't take effective measures, now,'' she said, ''the Netherlands could be torn between two extreme rights'': an Islamic one and a non-Islamic one.

Last fall, entering the Dutch Parliament wasn't much different than entering one of the museums nearby. Now it is like entering a military base. You go in through a side entrance, which has been equipped with bulletproof glass, behind which the main hall is piled up with office furniture, crime-scene tape and two-by-fours.
One light hearted note: this is from Chaper 43 of “If I was Single and Living in Amsterdam”,
In mid-February, Hirsi Ali shocked the country by revealing the location at which she was being kept in hiding -- a naval base in Amsterdam. She complained, ''I want a house just like anybody else.'' After days of recriminations in the press, she now has one. Her undisclosed location has become permanent. ''I sleep very little,'' she says. ''I have no real social life. It's like having a body with no bottom,'' she adds, using a Somali expression. Her friends worry that she will not soon find the chance to marry and have children. ''Well, who on earth can I saddle with a relationship?'' she asks. ''It's not off-limits, and technically it can all happen. But is it, as we say in Dutch, verstandig? Sensible? It doesn't seem sensible now.''
There should be a line of men around the corner for this woman. Who wouldn’t want to be a Denis to her Maggie? Sigh.
Hirsi Ali has been dealt a full house of the royal virtues: courage, intelligence, compassion. She has needed them. Hers is a big, heroic life that moves her fellow citizens but now gets lived mostly in locked rooms and bulletproof cars. She leads that life partly above other Dutch people, as a national symbol -- and partly below them, as a prisoner. She is a democracy campaigner for whom the role of an ordinary democratic citizen is off-limits, an egalitarian for whom equal treatment is turning out to be an elusive and maybe impossible thing.
Yep, you read it in the New York Friggin Times Magazine. I ping on the NYT a lot, but it has some good writers that do some great work. Pinch needs to put this on the OP-ED pages.

Just to be clear, AHA is far from perfect, as I am. I don’t agree with everything she believes or doesn’t believe in. I would be worried if I did. What she deserves respect for is the fact that she displays the very best characteristics of those that have stood for freedom. IMHO she, someone that came to the West already an adult, represents and defends Western freedom better than those born to it. A living example that being Western isn’t a geographic or racial construct; is it a concept of how civilization should be run.

Thomas Jefferson would have understood her very well. Now that would be some dinner table conversation! I’ll leave you with some of TJ’s “talking points":
...the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God."

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness,..

I will leave you with a funny, but I think critical point she made;
The important thing, she insisted, was that people be able to talk about Islam openly, in an atmosphere free of intimidation. In her 2004 book, The Cage of Virgins she wrote, ''When a 'Life of Brian' comes out with Muhammad in the lead role, directed by an Arab equivalent of Theo van Gogh, it will be a huge step forward.''

Hat tip LGF

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