Monday, January 14, 2013

#14 / Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

French warplanes have bombed Gao, a city located in the one-time French colony of Mali. It would appear, from the news report I read, that the hostilities in Mali are essentially religious in origin, and that France's military intervention is in opposition to "a radical Islamist group" that the news report says is attempting "to enforce an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in northern Mali."

I recently finished reading Infidel, the autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is pictured above. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and lived thereafter in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Her life is a testimony to what is implied by a strict or "extreme" interpretation of Islamic law. She was subjected to genital mutilation while a young girl, and while she was a devout follower of Islam in her youth, she ultimately fled Kenya to escape an arranged marriage, demanded by her father and sanctioned by Islamic law. She was given asylum in the Netherlands, and she then rejected Islam, ultimately becoming an atheist. After obtaining citizenship in the Netherlands, she was elected to the Dutch Parliament. Currently, Ali lives in the United States, where she is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her story is an exciting and informative one, and I recommend the book.

Recommending Ali's book is different from agreeing with all the judgments contained in the book. Here is Ali on Islam, in the final few pages of Infidel:

People often imply that I am angry because I was excised, or because my father married me off. They never fail to add that such things are rare in the modern Muslim world. The fact is that hundreds of millions of women around the world live in forced marriages, and six thousand small girls are excised every day.... When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at the reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so. In [Islamic] societies, cruelty is implacable and inequality is the law of the land. Dissidents are tortured. Women are policed both by the state and by their families to whom the state gives the power to rule their lives....
In July 2010, Ali gave an interview to the Sydney Daily Telegram in which she is quoted as claiming that Christianity can, and presumably should, "combat the rise of conservative Islam."

Churches should do all in their power to win this battle for the souls of humans in search of a compassionate God, who now find that a fierce Allah is closer to hand.
Having read her story, (and I read it sympathetically), it seems to me that Ali is calling for what amounts to a religious war between Islam and Christianity - and she is doing that as an atheist,  who abjures all religion. Even if Islam in the "real world" rejects the values of compassion, tolerance, and freedom, as Ali claims, initiating a religiously-based conflict to oppose Islam seems to me to be a poor prescription for the ultimate triumph of these values for humankind. 

We have to find a better way. In the United States, the Founding Fathers thought they found it, in a demand that political action be totally separated from religious doctrine. This is an approach I continue to endorse. Not only freedom of religion, but freedom from religion is what our First Amendment guarantees.

Image Credit:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!