Wednesday, May 25, 2005


"Der Spiegel" interviews Somali-born Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and kindly translates the work into English.

She broke with Islam over its treatment of women, which alone would have earned her a death sentence in strict Islamist circles. She also said of Muhammad, "Measured by our western standards, he is a pervert. A tyrant" (he married a 9-year-old girl). Strike two for her. Islamic organisations and individuals filed charges against her for "discrimination" (Ah, Europe). The prosecutor in the case did not pursue charges, because her criticism "does not contain any conclusions with regard to Muslims, and the worthiness of them as a group is not denied."

Strike three came in 2004, when with Theo van Gogh, she made the film "Submission" about the oppression of women in Islamic cultures. Dutch Muslims found the film disgraceful and blasphemous. Van Gogh was murdered by a radical Islamist on Nov. 2, 2004; the letter pinned to his body mostly was addressed to Hirsi Ali.

The Spiegel interviewers (identified as Conny Neumann and Michaela Schiessl) ask her some odd questions. At one point they actually equate her with the Sept. 11 terrorists:

SPIEGEL: Now you are beginning to sound like a martyr yourself. The September 11 terrorists also died for an idea.

Her answer is remarkably restrained. But I guess, being in Europe and all that, she hears this all the time:

Hirsi Ali: I would like to draw a distinction there. If we all keep still and remain silent, there will be more than just one or two deaths. I prefer to follow the philosopher Karl Popper. He says that freedom is not to be taken for granted. It is vulnerable. One must fight for it and be willing to die for it. The Islamic scene is very aggressive. Those Muslims who wish to kill someone receive a great deal of support from their home countries. There is plenty of wealth, there are plenty of sponsors and there are plenty of desperate people who choose this path. We must defend ourselves if we wish to preserve our Western values. The price we pay is to be threatened.

More weasely appeasement talk follows. This part, at least, will be familiar to Americans. The gist of it is, "by attacking those who attack you, you cause more trouble for yourself and make more enemies":

SPIEGEL: You seem to be resistant against the hostility. In your book, you are unrestrained in your denunciation of Islam as backward, and you call for policies that force immigrants to become integrated. You are also in the process of preparing a second part of the film "Submission." Aren't you concerned about generating even more rage against you?

Her answer is a classic:

Hirsi Ali: What else can they do but issue a death threat? Now that I've already been given the maximum sentence, at least I can act freely.

She also ridicules the Dutch authorities' response to 9-11, which seems to be typical of many European nations, I'm afraid.

They called together the Muslim leaders, gave them money and asked them to keep their young people under control. It was laughable. Then they tried to force the many different groups under one roof. That effort produced two groups, one for liberal and one for orthodox Muslims. Their spokesmen were then expected to enforce all agreements internally. This is simply a naive expectation.

SPIEGEL: Why? After all, Islam is a highly authoritarian religion with strong leaders.

Hirsi Ali: Do you know what young Muslims who are drawn to radical Islam call these "leaders" who negotiate with the government? Charity whores. They consider them to be collaborators, traitors, idiots.

And her observations about the "closed communities" where much of Europe's Muslim minority lives, are chilling:

For her book entitled "Invisible Parents," the journalist Margalith Kleijwegt did some research in the Moroccan section of Amsterdam, where Van Gogh's murderer, Bouyeri, lived. She knocked unsuccessfully on doors six times. The seventh door was opened, and then she learned a great deal about this community. For example, she learned that no parents in that neighborhood knew about the murder, that no parents even knew who Van Gogh was or had heard about the film. They only watch Arab television where they are fed with conspiracy theories about the West. They spend every vacation at home in Morocco. They can't speak or write Dutch, and they don't read newspapers. The lesson of Margalith Kleijwegt's book is that the parents are not equipped to give their children the upbringing necessary in a modern western society. They also have many children and these parallel worlds are growing. We look on without even knowing what happens in them.

When the "spiegel" interviewers protest that her suggestion for insuring better integration of immigrants into Dutch society "sounds like a lot of trouble," she puts them in their place:

Hirsi Ali: So what? What is at issue is defending our values, and that can certainly lead to arguments.

SPIEGEL: Aren't you concerned that tensions would arise in these forced communities?

Hirsi Ali: The other alternative creates even greater tensions. If you allow the ghettos to grow, you'll have clashes between skinheads and Muslim extremists, for example.

Taken aback, or so it seems, the interviewers start pitching her phrases that, I suspect, they find abhorrent, just to see if she will embrace them. Sure enough, she does.

SPIEGEL: Ignore the cultures of the immigrants?

Hirsi Ali: Blindly respecting their cultures is the wrong approach. Here's an example: Many children in Holland's Arab ghettos are taught the teachings of Ibn Abu-Taymiya, one of the founders of pure Islam who preaches the holy war as a way of life. Instead of studying European philosophers, the children are taught to abide by 11th century teachings!

SPIEGEL: Integration and European culture can't be imposed on people.

Hirsi Ali: But we can do something about it. This is where society comes in. Artists, kindergartens, churches, they should all penetrate into the ghettos. It's really grotesque: We have all kinds of NGOs that send people all the way to Africa to convince people to use condoms. But they don't dare touch the problems we have at home. Charity begins at home.

SPIEGEL: Perhaps this is partly because part of democracy means allowing people to think as they wish.

Hirsi Ali: Democracy also includes legitimate intolerance. The intolerable cannot be tolerated. We must declare war on Islamist propaganda. Why should we ignore that women in our midst are being suppressed, beaten, enslaved? Why should we ignore that people preach hatred and vow to destroy us?

And with that, the interview ends. And the interviewers probably hustled away, muttering and shaking their heads, "She speaks just like ... just like ... one of those awful Americans!"