Wednesday, August 18, 2010

email to Ayaan Hirsi Ali (AHA foundation)


firstly, I would like to support the right of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others to speak freely about all issues.

However, I feel that her campaign is misguided. She is entitled to her own views on Islam, and in spite of what many Muslims say about apostasy, she is entitled to promote her views; but her focus on Islam as being a threat to the West, and the cause of misery within the Muslim world, is way off the mark. Moreover, even if she herself opposes such action, her campaign is likely to simply add weight to those who would like to destroy Iran, invade Somalia with Ethiopian troops, etc.

All the abuses of women listed on the website certainly occur, but none are restricted to Muslim countries. Honour killings are well known to occur among Hindus and Sikhs, and occasionally even in Christian Mediterranean countries; female circumcision is unknown in most Muslim countries, but common among Christian Ethiopians and others.

A campaign against such crimes based on persuading Muslims that the very core of their culture and identity needs to be ditched in favour of Westernisation, widely seen as the grossest form of vulgarity, can never succeed - especially when it is easily demonstrated that such abuses are in fact not rooted in Islam.

If someone is genuinely concerned for the situation of Muslim and other women, rather than in becoming a mascot for the "clash of civilisations", they would do better to support the steady but unglamorous work being done by thousands of people all over the world to reform people's attitudes, promote education, explain why FGM is not Islamic, etc; it is better to work with people rather than just against them.

I am far from saying that Islam is or should be beyond criticism; but how does calling Mohammed a paedophile help? It is true that Muslim apologists overlook or shy away from such matters as Ayesha's marriage and hadith condoning FGM, and then there are the laws of evidence and inheritance, but we only bolster the position of America's Wahabi allies if we insist that Islam is immutable, and we take George Bush's all or nothing, with or against us approach. Indeed, those who are the enemies of Islam, who see the world in Osama's terms as believer v infidel, West v East, democracy v terror, should celebrate the 9-11 attack as bringing on the fight to the death between good and evil.

But instead of this easy "little jihad", intellectually lazy, suited to extremists and young hotheads, people of influence as you wish to be should be promoting the "greater jihad" the striving by all people of good faith to understand what is the best way forward, to find a better way than conflict if any other is possible. The Muslim world, and the smug West as well, is crying out for reform. We will not achieve it with bombs, insults, incomprehension.

Liberal democracies should promote their values primarily by refraining from unjust wars, from supporting vile dictatorships, from continuing economic and ecological policies that impoverish hundreds of millions, by allowing free movement of people (like Ayaan) to better their lives, and by making reasonable acommodations with other cultures as long as the primacy of host culture views is assured.

In this context, I support the criminalisation and active suppression of FGM and all forms of abuse committed against women residing in the West; I find the banning of scarves in French schools deplorable; I oppose banning the burqa as escalating a trivial issue; I think that shari'a law can be used as arbitration like the Beth Din subject to regulation and oversight which is wholly lacking today.

Ayaan, I would ask you, do you have more friends among the women you seek to protect, or among those who know little of the Muslim world? Do you think that Muslim women have on the whole benefited from your actions? Or have you simply been a weapon in what history may one day come to call "the Oil Wars"?

If you have read me to the end, I thank you.