Ayaan Hirsi Ali Met With Protests In Seattle
It was a scene you don’t see everyday in Seattle: Some three dozen Islamic women in cloaks and veils descended on Town Hall last night to wave pickets and pass out fliers. They were there to protest the appearance of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial Somali émigré who’s been speaking out against Islamic fundamentalism and oppression of women.
Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch member of parliament who’s now a fellow at the conservative D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute, came here at the behest of the World Affairs Council to talk about her views on Muslims and her new book Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.
“We don’t want hate speech here,” said Entisar Ibrahim, one of the protesters, her black hijab revealing only her eyes. But when asked exactly how Hirsi Ali was a “virulently Islamaphobic bigot,” as the fliers labeled the visiting author, Ibrahim couldn’t say.
She said nevertheless that she and her fellow protesters—whom she said came from all over the city rather than any specific neighborhood or mosque— were worried that Hirsi Ali’s message would incite anti-Islamic feeling in Seattle. She added that the city at the moment was mostly free of such sentiment but that she occasionally gets pointed comments about her appearance, such as: “Don’t you know you’re free here?”
At least one woman coming into Town Hall for the talk seemed confused by the branding of Hirsi Ali. “I thought she was a Muslim woman,” the audience member said.
Not exactly. Answering questions from the audience and World Affairs Council CEO Ian Moncaster, a very Western-looking Hirsi Ali, in leather boots and a cowl-neck sweater, described herself as a “dissident of Islam.” She certainly didn’t promote violence against Muslims. But she did put forward the deeply contentious idea that Islam was simply incompatible with modernity and feminism. Moderates who yearned for spirituality were better off converting to Christianity. (Judaism could work too, she said, but the Jews stubbornly refuse to proselytize.)
As for the protesters outside, she said, “I welcome them in the room.” She said she’d like to directly ask them about a passage in Islamic doctrine that counsels husbands to beat their wives.
Nina Shapiro’s piece seemed pretty biased in favor of Ali, a likely consequence of one of Seattle Weekly’s cartoonists having to go into hiding after a fatwa was placed on her for the unpardonable crime of drawing pictures of Mohammed as a cherry and a box of pasta.
As for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I respect the hell out of her a whole lot more than the liberals who have handed the issue of Islam and assimilation over to the Right by becoming paralyzed with political correctness and multiculturalism. Nevertheless, there is a lot of cognitive dissonance going on with the woman. I subscribe to the newsletter of her AHA Foundation and the latest edition contained a report on “genuinely moderate Muslims:”
A group of genuinely moderate, non-Islamist Muslims have testified on Capitol Hill.
They emphasized the importance of educating members of Congress about the link between nonviolent political Islam and a totalitarian, violent strain.
Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a former radical Islamist, describes Political Islam as a system of governance in which Muslims are “given superiority over non-Muslims in society” where “that superiority is codified in the laws and its presided over by a ruler with arbitrary and unchecked powers, with a class of clergy who interpret the law and impose that law.” Muhammad also emphasized the importance of the U.S. government moving to “stop legitimizing groups” like CAIR, MPAC, and ISNA, which he described as a “fifth column” in the United States. “It’s got to get to the point where these groups are seen as pariahs on Capitol Hill,” Muhammad said.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser said Islam needs to have its own Reformation similar to the one in Catholicism which began centuries ago and separated church and state.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government and its agencies tend to not speak with or listen to these genuine moderates.
Now, if there are “genuinely moderate Muslims,” how does that fit with Ali’s argument that “Islam was simply incompatible with modernity and feminism?” There seems to me real potential for the growth of hybrid, enlightened Western Muslims and it’s a mistake to cut that root instead of cultivating it.
Find more of Michael Orion Powell’s work at his blog.