For well over a decade I have seen Ayaan Hirsi Ali for exactly what she is; a hero to the West and the ideals of The Enlightenment.
Strong, fearless and direct - there is no better advocate for the freedoms that the West takes for granted, and few better at describing the true nature of the fringes that threaten modernity, human rights, and the progress of our civilization.
Rich Lowry has a great primer for those who aren't fully up to speed on who Ayaan is and what she stands for. Read it all, but here is a taste;
Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be the perfect feminist hero. Viewed from a certain level of abstraction, it is hard to imagine one person who fits the role on so many levels: She’s an escapee — literally — from an abusive patriarchy. She’s an African immigrant who made her own way in a Western country, the Netherlands, starting from nothing. She’s a fierce advocate for women’s rights. She’s a target for deadly violence by angry men who want to shut her up. She left her religion and became a scourge of its repressive practices.
All this — her searing personal experience, her Third World background, her secularism — would seem fit to make her a rock star of contemporary feminism. Except for the blemish on her record: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a dissident from the wrong religion.Yes, that is the great irony of all this. She is despised by the left because she pushes back at the force that is most aligned with the self-loathing towards their own society as the left - radical Islam.
As it is with much of the left, the most important thing for them is to feed that which helps prop up the left's cultural masochism, and destroy those who try to get them to tell light from dark.
When all respectable people nod sagely at the cliché that Islam is a “religion of peace,” she says, “No, it’s not.” When all respectable people — and many discreditable ones — recoil and insist, “You can’t say that,” she says, “Yes, you can.”
Our society, and especially the left, tends to reflexively celebrate dissenters. But some heretics are more welcome than others. In the case of Islam, the pieties of multiculturalism clash with what should be an imperative of feminism (i.e., forcefully standing up for the basic rights of women in Muslim societies), and feminism tends to lose out.
“The concern,” as one feminist wrote of Hirsi Ali, “is that her intervention into the issue of gender equality in Muslim societies will strengthen racism rather than weaken sexism.” In the fashionable neologism designed to be an all-purpose conversation-stopper, she is “an Islamophobe.” Brandeis University notoriously rescinded a planned honorary degree for her last year, and the Muslim Students Association at the school huffed, “she incites and supports insensitivity and irresponsibility.”That great stew of cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy, and a need to feel superior to the comfort purchased by others that nurtured you ... yep, that's our left.
In her life, she survived multiple times things that would crush lesser men and women ... yet she thrives ... and she keeps up the fight for the one light left on this planet; the fruits of The Enlightenment.
Hirsi Ali recalls the dissidents from communism in the 20th century like the great Whittaker Chambers. Their personal experience redoubled their commitment to the fight for freedom and human dignity. They, too, were often dismissed as fanatics and as embarrassments to polite opinion. But their intellectual contributions, and the examples of their own bravery, were indispensable in the long ideological struggle.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not just a heretic; she is also a believer. She has more confidence in Western civilization and its values than people who have never had to live outside it, or face down the enemies who want to destroy it. If she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves, so much the worse for her detractors.