Vol. 1 No. 1 2007
A New Voice from Inside Islam
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The Free Press, 20077
REVIEWED BY JANE M. MCCABE
The late Orianna Fallaci's (1930-2006) last clarion call was to alert Westerners to the danger of making too many concessions to Muslim immigrants and to warn us that the ultimate goal of radical Islam is not to adapt to Western life but to convert the West to Islam!
My personal interest in Islam began in the 1970's when I studied theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the course of my now 30-year study, I have gone from incomprehension to fascina-tion to outrage. Incomprehension fueled my study, and I diligently read four or five biographies of Mo-hammed, various histories and finally did a verse-by-verse study of the Koran, comparing its Biblical refer-ences to those in the Bible. Fascination increased as my knowledge increased. I loved Islam's pristine absoluteness, in contrast to the ambiguities of Christianity. I even considered converting to Islam.
My study led me to write a book on religion! Revelation! The Single Story of Divine Prophecy to Abraham and His Descendants the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The thesis of this work is If God has periodically imparted knowledge to human kind through chosen prophets, then Mohammad is either a true prophet or he is not. I still think he is, though my faith in this has been shaken because of the implacable stanch of modem radical Islam..
In recent years, fascination has turned into outrage-outrage because of Muslim oppression of women, its fanaticism and sexual paranoia, and the continuing violence in Iraq. Westerners are beginning to recognize that Muslims do not share our values and don't think the way we do. Muslim countries did not have an Enlightenment, therefore, have not made many scientific advances we have, and our progress is a humiliation to them.
Nor is the Muslim world willing to accept criticism from Westerners, whom they consider infi-dels, therefore corrupt and decadent. Ms. Fallaci was Italian, an atheist but nevertheless a product of the Christian tradition. Her voice was therefore more easily dismissed by Muslims.
Because of this I have been waiting and hoping for voices, voices of reason, from within the world of Islam. Such is the voice of Ayann Hirsi Ali!
You may recall that Ms. Ali was elected to the Dutch parliament during the 1990's. She was also associated with the murder of Theo Van Gogh, who in 2004, was assassinated while riding his motorcycle in Amsterdam by a Muslim fanatic. This murder was in retribution for the perceived blasphemy, committed by Van Gogh and Ms. Ali, because they produced a film in which verses from the Koran were written on a woman's naked body.
How did a Muslim woman go from being a tribal girl in Somali to being elected to the Dutch parliament? Infidel is Ayaan Hirsi Ali's story. With clear-sighted prose and carefully reasoned honesty, Ms. Ali tells of early life in Somali and Kenya, her flight from an unwanted marriage to Holland, her rise within the Dutch political system and her election to parliament. Finally, she describes her fight for human rights, particularly the rights of Muslim women, and of the necessity of going into hiding because of threats against her life. Ms. Ali is an extraordinary woman, and Infidel is an extraordinary story!
Students of world history will recall that during the fifty years since Somali achieved its independ-ence, it was governed by the autocratic Siad Barre, but since his overthrow in 1991, it has been tom apart by civil war. Ms. Ali's father was the leader of one of the factions opposing Barre. In 1990 with her mother and sister, she fled to Kenya. Because of the deluge, some refugees were prevented from crossing into Kenya, and the border area was in chaos.
Less than 20 years old, Ms. Ali proved her mettle after a man named Mahamuud pleaded with her brother to go to the border and help bring his family out of Somali. When he refused, Ayaan went in his stead. She successfully bribed the Kenyan soldiers at the border and helped Mahamuud rescue his family.
Early in 1992, Ayaan's father arranged for her to marry a Somali man who was living in Canada. It was a marriage that she did not want; nevertheless, plans were made for her to fly to Dusseldorf, Ger-many, and from there to Canada, where the marriage would take place.
Ayaan had spent her entire life in Somali and surrounding countries. Her first glimpse of Europe, as seen in Dusseldorf, seems worth recording:
"Everything was so clean, it was like a movie. The roads, the pavement, the people- nothing in my life had ever looked like this, except perhaps Nairobi Hospital. It was so modern it seemed sterile. The landscape looked like geometry class, or physics, where everything was in straight lines and had to be perfect and precise. The buildings were cubes and triangles, and they gave me the same neutral, almost-frightening feeling. "
Rather than to fly to Canada, Ayaan secretly took a train to Holland:
"It was Friday, July 24, 1992, when I stepped on the train. Every year I think of it. I see it as my real birthday: the birth of me as a person, making decision about my life on my own. I was not running away from Islam, or to democracy. I didn't have any big ideas then. I was just a young girl and wanted some way to be me; so I bolted into the unknown. "
Ms. Ali later says of Holland, and this quote is of particular interest to me:
"This was an infidel country, whose way of life we Muslims were supposed to oppose and reject. Why was it, then, so much better run, better led, and made for such better lives than the place we came from? Shouldn't this place where Allah was worshipped and His laws obeyed have been at peace and wealthy, and the unbelievers' countries ignorant, poor, and at war?"
"I wanted to understand the conflict. In 1992 and 1993, it seems as if they whole world outside the West was breaking out in civil war and tribal conflicts. The end of the cold war had unfrozen old fault lines of hatred. And of all the countries where war had broken out, so many seemed to be Muslim. What was wrong with us? Why should infidels have peace, and Muslims be killing each other, when we were the ones who worshipped the true God? If I studied political science, I thought, I could understand that. "
While still a Dutch parliamentarian, she was successful in getting the government to acknowl-edge female circumcisions were being performed on young Muslim girls and to keep track of the number of honor killings. There is no practice more barbaric, dangerous and detrimental to the health and well-being of a woman than female circumcision. In one year over 300 honor killings were reported in Holland.
Let Ms. Ali speak for herself:
"For centuries we had been behaving as though all knowledge was in the Quran, refusing to question anything, refusing to progress. We had been hiding from reason for so long because we were incapable of facing up to the need to integrate it into our beliefs. And this was not working; it was leading to hideous pain and monstrous behavior ...."
"We Muslims had been taught to define life on earth as passage, a test that precedes real life in the Hereafter. In that test, everyone should ideally live in a manner resembling, as closely as possible, the followers of the Prophet. Didn't this inhibit investment in improving daily life? Was innovation therefore forbidden to Muslims? Were human right, progress, women's right allforeign to Islam?"
By declaring our Prophet infallible and not permitting ourselves to question him, we Muslims had set up a static tyranny."
"True Islam, as a rigid belief system and a moral framework, leads to cruelty. The inhuman act of those nineteen hijackers was the logical outcome of this detailed system for regulating human behavior. Their world is divided between "Us and Them "-if you don't accept Islam, you should perish."
There's more that Ms. Ali has to say, but I'll stop here and let interested readers read her wonderfully relevant book for themselves.
Jane McCabe's book, Revelation!: The Single Story of Divine Prophecy to Abraham and His Descendants - the Jews, Christians and Muslims, is available in paperback, $22.99, Xlibris Corporation, (December 2000), ISBN: 0738844896
Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, $26, Hardcover, The Free Press, (February 6, 2007), lO-digit ISBN: 0743289684, 13-digit ISBN: 978-0743289689