Two years ago, movie director Theo van Gogh’s throat was cut on a street in Amsterdam in the name of radical Islam. I had partaken in his last work, Submission, where we represented, in the most accurate way possible, the condition of Muslim women: tyranny, humiliations, violence. In this film, we showed Muslim women who had finally rebelled, talking to God in a tone of defiance. It made Imam Fawaz of the Hague scream with hate during the delivery of a vengeful sermon. My friend Theo, the “criminal bastard”, was subsequently riddled with bullets and stabbed to death with a dagger.
Resident Fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Time has passed. After a bad quarrel regarding my Dutch naturalization and my resignation from the Dutch Parliament, I was rapidly rehabilitated. Here I am, once again a Dutch citizen, an émigrée in the United States. Whatever one may say of it, the United States remains in many regards the greatest champion of liberty. At the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, I have more time and more means to diffuse my ideas.
People ask me incessantly what it’s like to live with perpetual death threats. This question is most often asked by Westerners, with the naiveté of those who consider life to be naturally peaceful. Born in Somalia, the daughter of an opponent of Siyad Barré’s dictatorship, I grew up in my country, then in Saudi-Arabia and in Kenya in an environment in which death invited itself without end. A virus, a bacterium, a parasite, a drought, a famine, a civil war, soldiers, torturers: death could take all forms and hit anyone, anytime. When I had malaria, I got well again. When I was circumcised, my wound transformed into scar tissue, and I survived. When my Qur’an teacher fractured my skull, doctors saved me. A bandit put the blade of his knife against my throat: I’m still alive, and more of a rebel than ever before.
I remember Saudi-Arabia where, under the cover of purity, our most minor gestures were haunted by sin and fear: hangings, the cutting off of hands, women controlled and stoned to death, such was and such remains the everyday life of that country. The respect for the literal words of the Prophet is incompatible with human rights, in contradiction to philosophy of classical liberalism. Submerged in a medieval mentality, numerous Muslim countries profit from Western technological advances, pretending to ignore that these advances find their very origin in Enlightenment-thinking. It’s this blindness coupled with hypocrisy that renders the transition towards modernity a most arduous one for the faithful. I quit the world of faith, genital mutilation and forced marriage for that of reason and sexual emancipation. I made the journey towards human rights. At present, I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other.
Some, in the West, find such a distinction to be politically incorrect, but it’s necessary to realize that it is Islam which is most traumatized by fundamentalism, not the Western world. Europe only feels the shock waves because of immigration and globalization. It’s by making morality relative and by affirming the equality of cultures that a number of Western intellectuals embark on the path, without realizing it themselves, of self-destruction. Three concepts are at the heart of your culture: 1) freedom of the individual as an end in and of itself, 2) rationality, 3) separation of the scientific and the religious.
Created on a humanist base, your institutions are the expression of the life here on earth, while Islamic philosophy, rejecting individual freedom, submits the individual to God. On Islamic soil, rationality and science enter into a conflict with the Qur’an: any innovation becomes unacceptable. The government cannot be founded on the thought of man: life on earth, after all, is only temporary. It’s necessary to invest in the hereafter. Islam is a cult of the hereafter. Such is the veritable schism with the West: the two world views are incompatible. I, personally, have opted for life in the here and now.
When I was a child in Somalia, under the tree where she braided, my grandmother told us stories and asked us questions, in order to know if we had understood the concept: being able to recognize the enemy, in particular. She told me: “It’s a very useful instinct. If you don’t know what you have to fear, you will not survive.” And when she caught me in flagrante delicto of incomprehension, she called me doqon! This word means two things: being foolish and naïve. We said, in Somalia: “Stupid like a date palm tree!” Dates from that tree are treasures, and the one who loses them is an imbecile.
No, Europe is not traumatized by Islam, but she is like a date palm tree which despoils itself, foolish and naïve. Things fall. She remains inert. Worse, she gives freedom to the enemies of freedom. At the heart of your beautiful West, it is the right-thinking people with a socializing tendency who do this the most, in the spirit of pacifism, voluntary blindness and conformism, when confronted with the rise of fundamentalism, when confronted with the aggressiveness of radicals, when confronted with the dangers of communitarianism. Stupid. Like the data palm tree. Please: don’t be doqon.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a resident fellow at AEI.