Friday, March 4, 2011

Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A few months ago, I watched an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali on CBC and was intrigued by this woman, a Somalian refugee, who has repudiated her past with Islam and speaks out about the threat of Islam to the western world. I ordered her book Nomad and just finished reading it, and recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about what it is like to be a woman in the Muslim world.

A brief background on Ayaan as it is necessary to understand where she has come from and this is not readily available in the mainstream media.

Ayaan was born in Somalia in 1969 to a Muslim family. At the age of eight, her father moved the family to Saudi Arabia, then Ethiopia, and finally Kenya. Her father abandoned the family to marry another woman and Ayaan was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother, both of whom accepted Islamic beliefs without question even though those beliefs had caused their own miserable povery-stricken lives. At the age of 22, Ayaan's father sent her to Toronto where she was to wed a Muslim man whom she did not know. During a stopover in Holland, Ayaan bolted and sought refugee status in that country.

She found the Dutch to be very kind and hospitable and she spent a number of years getting educated and even getting herself elected as a member of the House of Representatives. Her life story was the subject of a movie by Theo van Gogh, for which he died at the hands of an Islamic terrorist. Ayaan herself has 24-hour security as the death threats made to her are very real. No one who speaks, as she does, against Islam is left unthreatened.

Ayaan came to the US in 2003 and works as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. She does not fit the type for a conservative ideologue, as many of her beliefs would fall into the liberal category. I found, reading her book, that she is definitely her own woman and also a woman in progress. I suppose you could call her an atheist humanist, and the back cover of her book cites remarks from Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Deepak Lal, none of whom are known to be sympathetizers with Christianity.

Yet Ayaan herself is very sympathetic to Christianity, to the point that my husband said "wait for her next book", implying that this woman could very likely convert to Christianity given the way her mind is working.

Some samples of her writing:

Here is something I have learned the hard way, but which a lot of well-meaning people in the West have a hard time accepting: All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not.
In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn't translate into a rich mosaic of colorful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance, and abuse.
Is there nothing beautiful in Islam? There is beautiful architecture, yes, and encouragement of charity, yes, but Islam is built on sexual inequality and on the surrender of individual responsibility and choice. This is not just ugly; it is monstrous.
Multiculturalism helps immigrants postpone the pain of letting go of the anachronistic and inappropriate. It locks people into corrupt, inefficient, and unjust social systems, even if it does preserve their arts and crafts. It perpetuates poverty, misery, and abuse.

And if you cannot look at the root of what is wrong with Islam today, then in a very real sense Islam has already defeated the West.
When the multiculturalists use the word diversity they assume that immigrants will somehow maintain their traditional culture within the Western way of life and the Western value system, like an exotic exhibit of primitive carving in a smart new museum. Unfortunately for the West, radical Islamists reject diversity, for Islam justifies the oppression of women as well as all kinds of violence, including child marriage and marital rape. The West should eliminate such practices from its own societies and condemn them wherever else they occur across the globe. We cannot do so, however, without acknowledging that there is something wrong with the religion that justifies them.
You cannot subject Karl Marx to scrutiny and give the Prophet Muhammad a free ride.

In speaking of the Said sisters who were killed in Texas by their father because they had defied the family ways and were dating American boys and adopting American ways, Ayaan says that she found the press was avoiding this issue.
This is just how self-censorship works. We do not wish to offend. We fear the perception that we might be acting disrespectfully. And we fear the possibility of retaliation. (actually I think the fear is of being murdered, my words)
This is not an ancient custom, long forgotten, like medieval witch burning. Every
year at least five thousand honor killings are committed around the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund, which adds that this is a conservative estimate. Most of them take place among communities from or in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco, all of them Muslim contries. Not all the victims are Muslim - honor killings do also occur among Sikhs and non-Muslim Kurds - but most of them are.

Ayaan does not have much respect for Western feminists:
In fact a certain kind of feminism has worsened things for the female victims of misogyny perpetrated by men of color. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Christina Hoff-Sommers, calls this `the feminism of resentment.``
Because these Western feminists manifest an almost neurotic fear of offending a minority group`s culture, the situation of Muslim women creates a huge philosophical problem for them.
If feminism means anything at all, women with power should be addressing their energies to help the girls and women who suffer the pain of genital mutilation, who are at risk of being murdered because of their Western lifestyle and ideas, who must ask for permission just to leave the house, who are treated no better than serfs, branded and mutilated, traded without regard to their wishes. If you are a true
feminist, these women should be your first priority.

On Islam as a religion:
I have a theory that most Muslims are in search of a redemptive God. They believe that there is a higher power and that this higher power is the provider of morality, giving them a compass to help them distinguish between good and bad. Many Muslims are seeking a God or a concept of God that in my view meets the description of the Christian God. Instead they are finding Allah.
The Christian leaders now wasting precious time and resources on a futile exercise of interfaith dialogue with the self-appointed leaders of Islam should redirect their efforts to converting as many Muslims as possible to Christianity, introducing them to a God who rejects Holy War and who has sent his son to die for all sinners out of love for mankind.
The 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.

Ayaan has also established the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation which aims to combat several types of crimes against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and honor violence, through education, outreach and the dissemination of knowledge.

A must read and a woman whom I will be anxious to hear more from - you can get Nomad from Amazon Books

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