Taking the fight to IslamIn 1989, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali Muslim, supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. But on moving to Europe her views changed and she turned against Islam. Two years ago she fled Holland after the brutal murder of her artistic collaborator Theo van Gogh. Who is this fierce critic who lives under the constant threat of death?
Sunday February 4, 2007
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not the only critic of Islam who lives with round-the-clock protection. But surely none wears their endangered status with greater style. The Dutch Somali human-rights campaigner looks like a fashion model and talks like a public intellectual. Tall and slender with rod-straight posture and a schoolgirl smile, she is a thinker of stunning clarity, able to express ideas in her third language with a precision that very few could achieve in their first. This combination of elegance and eloquence would be impressive in any circumstances. Under threat of death, it is nothing short of incredible....
the article goes on to say:
When it comes to words, Hirsi Ali is not one to look for the mincer. She speaks in a language that makes no concessions to the softening euphemisms of political correctness. Those immersed in circumspection and ever vigilant to the contemporary sin of offence are bound to ask themselves if she's allowed to say what she says. In this respect her predicament is reminiscent of the moment in Basic Instinct when Sharon Stone lights a cigarette under interrogation in a police station. She's told that's it's non-smoking environment and she replies: 'So arrest me.' Hirsi Ali's life is already in jeopardy. She's long past the point of polite restraint.
Some observers find her forthright approach refreshing and, indeed, intoxicating, but many
recoil from her unadorned conviction. Writing in the New York Review of Books, the historian Timothy Garton Ash described Hirsi Ali as a 'slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist'. Last year when Garton Ash chaired a discussion with Hirsi Ali at the ICA, he seemed both to admire the incisiveness of her quietly spoken logic and to wince at its unshakeable conclusions.
'For him,' Hirsi Ali laughs, 'the Enlightenment is complex. For me, it isn't. There's nothing complex about it.' A student of 17th- and 18th-century political ideas, she doesn't mean that she thinks the Enlightenment was some kind of uniform philosophical movement. The simplicity, for her, is the legacy of the Enlightenment, the things we take for granted about Western sociopolitical culture: the rule of law, the rights of the individual, freedom of expression. To Hirsi Ali these are bedrock precepts that should not be compromised in the name of cultural diversity.
To read the whole article, go here.