Monday, June 13, 2005

Hirsi Ali Faces the Left's Rage

Perhaps concerned that Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament, who has warned Europe of that dangers of Muslim immigration, was getting too much good press, The Nation, America's leading leftist magazine, set out to air the views of Ms. Ali's Islamist critics. However, Ms. Ali's critics do more to expose themselves than they damage Ms. Ali.
Seven months ago, Hirsi Ali's implacable campaign against what she views as Islam's oppression of women prompted a Muslim fanatic to ritually slaughter Theo van Gogh, her Dutch collaborator on the film Submission. The murderer used his knife to affix a five-page letter to the corpse promising the same treatment for Hirsi Ali and another Dutch politician who has criticized Islam. The murder sent Dutch society into paroxysms of rage and fear, sparking dozens of attacks on mosques and schools. But it didn't seem to faze Hirsi Ali. In a series of defiant interviews, the former refugee refused to be intimidated. When a group of Muslims tried to block her from making a sequel to Submission, she fought back in court and won. Like a dark avenging angel, she seemed to loom over Holland's wintry Dutch, her ubiquitous media presence a virtual guarantee of further conflict.
Note that Deborah Scroggins, author of The Nation article, deftly places the blame for "further conflict" on Ms. Ali's "media presence," and not on the Islamist thugs who choose to commit the violence. Ms. Scroggins also breathlessly reports that a number of Dutch intellectuals have come to view Ms. Ali not as a voice for freedom and tolerance, but as an agitator of "Islamophobia." They have, in Ms. Scroggins words, "come around to the Muslim point of view."
In a series of "Letters to Hirsi Ali" published this spring in the newspaper De Volkskrant, several well-known, mostly male writers charged her with poisoning the political atmosphere with her strident attacks on Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They argued that by pandering to Dutch prejudices and putting Muslims on the defensive, she contributes to the very Islamic radicalization she claims to want to stop. In a book rushed into print in February, the popular historian Geert Mak went so far as to compare Submission to Joseph Goebbels's infamous Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew. He warned that the Netherlands could be on the road to civil war. "When the time comes for us to tell our grandchildren, how will we tell the story of the last months of 2004?" Mak asked breathlessly. "The tone, the new tone that suddenly had taken hold? Where did it all begin?"
Well, it began when leftists intellectuals and politicians opened the Netherland's borders to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from countries whose cultures were the diametric opposite of the Netherlands. It began when these immigrants were permitted to settle into their own enclaves where they continued to practice their own culture and resisted any effort to adapt to the culture of the Netherlands. Leftists like Mr. Mak conveniently ignore the fact that Islamism preceeds Ms. Ali by many decades and that Islamist violence in Europe and around the world began well before Ms. Ali was born. But the strident leftists who support the multiculturalist delusion which has plunged the Netherlands into chaos will never admit the intellecutal bankruptcy and horrendous consequences of their own policies, instead they will side with the Islamists and blame the critics of Islam. To that end, many former allies of the multiculturalist left find themselves jettisoned from the left's advocacy - especially women and homosexuals, whose rights and safety have taken a backseat to the hard left's new championing Islamic extremists.
The backlash against Hirsi Ali has astonished and disappointed many Dutch feminists, who continue to count themselves among her biggest fans. Margreet Fogteloo, editor of the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, said flatly that Mak is crazy. "People like him feel guilty because they were closing their eyes for such a long time to what was going on," she said. In what appears to be a Europe-wide pattern, some feminists are aligning themselves with the anti-immigrant right against their former multiculturalist allies on the left. Joining them in this exodus to the right are gay activists, who blame Muslim immigrants for the rising number of attacks on gay couples.
The experience of Dutch homosexuals and feminists should be a wake-up call to their counterparts throughout Europe and in the US: the multiculturalists consider them to be expendable.

Ms. Scroggins details Ms. Ali's personal history, which offers strong insight into the formation of her views on Islam and why she might view it as a threat to the liberal, secular culture of modern Europe: personal experience.
Born in 1969, she's the daughter of a Somali opposition politician who attended Columbia University in the 1960s, becoming a staunch anti-Communist. But exposure to the West failed to change his traditional attitudes about the proper place of women, and he justified those attitudes by invoking Islam. Back in Somalia, he eventually took four wives. As is customary in Somalia, Hirsi Ali's mother and grandmother forced her to undergo what she calls "the cruel ritual" of female genital mutilation at the age of 6. "I remember the lesson I learned more than the pain," Hirsi Ali told one interviewer. "That to be a Muslim woman is to be born for the pleasure of men." A year later, after the Somali dictator Mohammed Siad Barre imprisoned her father, the family was forced to flee the country. In Saudi Arabia she and her sister were veiled and kept indoors, forced to endure what she now calls "gender apartheid."

Under the influence of an Iranian teacher, Hirsi Ali spent her high school years fully veiled. She has said that when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie, her first thought was, "Oh, he should be killed." Later Hirsi Ali began trying to find a way out of what she would eventually call "the virgin's cage," the obsession with sexual morality that she now argues has crippled the Muslim world. At the age of 22, she saw her chance. "As a Muslim girl, I was given in marriage to a nephew, after which I was expected to live out my days in isolation, as a housewife and mother," she has written. The nephew lived in Canada. In Germany on the way to join him, she fled from relatives, hopped a train to Amsterdam and asked the Netherlands for asylum. Perhaps because she had already placed herself outside the social pale of the local Muslim community, she took another unusual step. Rather than turning to other immigrants for help, as most newcomers do, she found herself a Dutch foster mother. Her foster mother helped her learn the language. She took jobs as a cleaner and at a factory. Eventually she managed to earn a degree in politics at Leiden University.

Hirsi Ali began translating for the Dutch social services in shelters and hospitals while she was still in the asylum center. Over the years, she met women who had been locked inside their homes for years; she interviewed others who had been raped and beaten. She heard about girls who had been killed for holding hands with non-Muslim boys. Armed with her new understanding of women's rights under Dutch law, she was outraged to learn that the authorities seldom interfered in such cases, writing them off as "family conflicts." She had read and strongly agreed with the late American feminist Susan Moller Okin's argument that multiculturalist policies aimed at protecting "culture" often end up contributing to the repression of women and children. She took particular exception to the Dutch policy of subsidizing more than 700 Islamic mosques, schools and clubs. She said conservative Muslim men use them to perpetuate their ideas about gender and sexuality and to prevent Dutch Muslim women from exercising their legal rights.

Ms. Scroggins highlights the angry response from Muslim advocates who denounce Ms. Ali, but who also reveal their own motives.

Miriyam Aouragh is a second-generation immigrant of Moroccan background. A self-described peace and women's activist, Aouragh was the first in her family to attend university. She's now studying for a PhD in anthropology. She scoffs at the idea that Hirsi Ali is a champion of oppressed Muslim women. "She's nothing but an Uncle Tom," Aouragh said. "She has never fought for the oppressed. In fact, she's done the opposite. She uses these problems as a cover to attack Islam. She insults me and she makes my life as a feminist ten times harder because she forces me to be associated with anti-Muslim attacks."

Aouragh accuses Hirsi Ali and her political allies of deliberately fostering the hostility that has led to the attacks on Islamic institutions and to police brutality against young Muslim men. "I'm surprised the Arab-Muslim community isn't more angry with her," Aouragh said. "When she talks about Muslims as violent people, and Muslim men as rapists, this is very insulting. She calls the Prophet a pedophile. Theo van Gogh called the Prophet a pimp, a goat-fucker. Well, no, we don't accept that."

In all her years in Dutch schools Ms. Aouragh apparently missed the lessons regarding freedom of speech. She may not like what Theo van Gogh had to say about the Prophet; she can argue against it, or even protest it if she feels like it; but she does have to tolerate it, does have to accept his right to say it. But she doesn't, as most Muslim refuse to tolerate any critique of their religious practices, resorting immediately to threats and violences, not only in Europe, but around the world. It is interesting that Ms. Scroggins, writing for the secular, usually anti-religious Nation, chose not to confront Ms. Aouragh about this last point. Ms. Aouragh, however, was on quite a roll, and her remarks speak for themselves.

Although the press has focused on the threats against critics of Islam like Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, Aouragh says that there have been many more attacks on Dutch Muslims than on non-Muslims. She suspects that what the Dutch really fear is not Islamic fundamentalism but the prospect of having to deal with a new generation of highly educated young Muslims who demand a fair hearing for their values. "We are telling them, 'We have rights, too. You have to change your idea about freedom or face the consequences.'"

Note that last remark in which Ms. Aouragh unwittingly gives away the whole game: The Dutch will have to change their ideas about freedom or face the consequences. In short, because of the rising numbers of Muslims inside the Netherlands - the product of the failed multiculturalist experiment of mass immigration - Dutch culture will have to surrender its most basic values of free speech, religious critique sexual liberation and gender equality and conform to the desires of Muslims and their culture ... or face the consequences. And exactly what consequences would those be? Ms. Aouragh doesn't say, but the implied threat is very clear. Theo van Gogh, one wagers, now understands the "consequences" of criticizing Islam. Many Dutch now understand it too.

The horrendous treatment of women in Muslim societies - both within Europe and around the world - has become undeniable, even as leftist multiculturalists perform intellectual and rhetorical gymnastics trying to blame everything else but Islam for the problem. European feminists, meanwhile, find themselves increasingly siding with anti-immigrationist and right-leaning forces in combatting the problem of Muslim violence toward women, a cause that the hard core left has not completely abandoned because it posed the politically incorrect problem of confronting Islam.

In Human Visas, a new book that probably points in the direction Europe is going, Norwegian journalist and human rights activist Hege Storhaug argues that strict controls on immigration are the best way to protect European values and Muslim women's rights. Storhaug, the information director of Human Rights Service, says that Europe's concept of Muslim integration used to amount to "Get the father a job and integration will follow." The new motto, she says, should be "Integrate the mother and two-thirds of the job is done, because the mother will integrate the children."

Storhaug says that to dry up radical Islam, European governments need to break up the "parallel societies" Muslims have established in cities across the continent. Older men in these communities prevent integration by controlling marriages. "The families are under tremendous pressure to bring relatives from the home country to Europe," she said. "Relatives are willing to pay a lot for those residency visas. Especially with young immigrant brides, they become completely dependent on their husbands and in-laws. Young women who are born in Norway are forced to marry cousins who can then come to this country." She says that in the ninety such forced marriages her group studied, all but three of the brides said they had been raped.

Denmark has been widely criticized for passing a law in 2002 establishing a number of tests for citizens or residents who wish to bring spouses into the country from overseas: Both partners must be at least 24 years old. They must demonstrate that the marriage is voluntary. They must have a certain income and own a residence with at least two rooms. And they must show a stronger connection to Denmark than to any other country. As a result, the number of people from outside the European Union who were allowed to join Danish spouses or other close family members fell from 10,950 in 2001 to 3,835 last year. In November the Netherlands became the first to follow Denmark's example, raising the age to 21 to qualify for family reunion.

<> When the Danish measure was proposed, Muslim groups opposed it vigorously. But Storhaug quotes immigrant parents who now say the law has released them from family pressures to use their children as "human visas." And she says young Muslims can continue their education without fear of being married off. "It's rubbish to say the Danish policy is racist," she said. "It's the best policy for women in Europe."


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