NOTE: Several readers have asked why I haven’t written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s current situation. Given my past interest in her life and career, and my review of her autobiography, it doesn’t seem consistent to ignore the latest flap, does it?
My silence is merely a sign of my ambivalence concerning Hirsi Ali. This is a complex, ambitious woman. But she is limited by her lack of education in Western history, and it shows in some of her statements and decisions. As I said in the above-cited review:
During her life in Holland, Ali shed her Muslim faith and became an atheist. That part of her journey seems fated: once the fire has been extinguished, it cannot be lit again. So she sets out to discover what her life will be as a non-believer. In the book at least, she appears not to have a quarrel with religion per se, though she is suspicious of any inroads it might make into political life. One can hardly blame her. However, the limits of her personal history are visible here: she doesn’t know enough history to understand that the religious impulse can be retained without harming the commonweal. The consuming, all-or-nothing Islam of her childhood predestines her passage from a totalitarian ‘all” to an equally doctrinaire “nothing.” That is the pity of trading one kind of fundamentalism for another.
After receiving her U.S. green card and promptly returning to the Netherlands the following day, Klein Verzet reports that the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, told Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she is not welcome there.
It is my understanding that Ms. Ali is a Dutch citizen (perhaps seeking naturalized citizenship in the U.S., but not there yet). Thus I don’t see why, beyond being rude, the PM can make that statement.
Of more immediate interest, K.V. also has a link to a Dutch — and larger European audience — debate on democracy:
The Dutch are due to launch a public debate on the state of their national democracy Friday.
The week-long event is to be launched on public television Friday evening with the publication of the largest opinion poll ever held on the state of the Dutch democracy.
Some 200,000 Dutch nationals spent 21 minutes between August and October 1 filling out an online survey developed by consultancy company McKinsey. The survey asked Dutch citizens about the state of Dutch democracy, civil rights and current affairs.
The Dutch democracy week is part of a global event, “Why Democracy?”, a project initiated by 40 international television broadcasters.
Among them are the BBC, Finnish and Danish public broadcasters, as well as the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel. The international free newspaper Metro is also participating in the event.
Between 5 October and 12 October the 40 broadcasters participating in the global event will air a variety of talk shows, documentaries and movies dealing with the theme of democracy.
They hope to reach an audience of some 300 million people in Europe and beyond.
Among the documentaries will be one concerning “torture methods employed by authorities in the U.S.”… just in case you wanted to know the slant on this continental “debate.” If Gitmo didn’t exist, then they’d have to find something else to gnaw on. The fact that the United States incarcerates terrorists in comfortable circumstances counts for nothing. Our assiduous compliance with their religious requirements is simply what ought to be done anyway. The truly horrific prisons in their native countries are irrelevant. Gitmo is emblematic of an America that her enemies are determined to demonize. And it’s all so predictably tiresome.
It used to be that Europe could depend on America’s racist attitudes toward our black citizens…
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…Unfortunately for the finger pointers, history has proved Europeans even more unwelcoming toward minorities than America ever dreamed of being. Thus that subject is now off the table. Instead they have been forced to stick to their broken record mantra about our ‘torture’ of terrorists — thugs who have killed many of our citizens — not to mention what they did to their own people.
When Gitmo is eventually gone, Europe will rise up with one voice decrying whatever new atrocity they can dredge up against the U.S. I believe the shrinks call this kind of behavior avoidance or denial: pointing fingers at America while giving the old Gallic shrug about their own incendiary “youths” saves having to actually do anything. Lord knows what extremes they’d be forced into were the big, bad American villains not so busy stomping out whole villages.
If you want a close-up and personal view of real European attitudes, just look at the treatment of Ms. Ali at the hands of both the government and her Dutch neighbors. The former had members who, for expedient political reasons, wanted to strip her of her Dutch citizenship. The latter, her neighbors in the apartment she rented when she lived in the Netherlands, petitioned to have her removed because her presence there was a nuisance and a danger.
So the bad Americans have Gitmo with its certified killers, and the Netherlands have Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom they have decided should be left to her own fate. Maybe in their big debate on democracy, they can ponder how one treats a citizen that others have repeatedly sworn to kill just because she made a movie.
This is not to say that I think Ms. Ali has shown good judgment in some of her decisions. The film, “Submission” was neither necessary nor particularly enlightening. The little I saw of it didn’t seem to have much aesthetic appeal either. She knew the inherent danger in releasing this work, and she warned Theo van Gogh. But she also knew how little he understood; yet she collaborated with him anyway. She is not responsible for his death, but at the very least she bears some of the burden of grief foisted upon his family.
I admire her courage in fleeing a forced marriage, in pursuing an education, and in using her considerable social skills to get others to help her along the way. She has many admirers for these things, and deservedly so. The obstacles she has overcome are quite extraordinary.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a formidable woman, but she isn’t perfect. Her mistakes have been costly to herself and others. I do not think any government has an obligation to provide security for her — this protection would not be necessary if she had not, of her own free will, made that mediocre movie. Actions have consequences, and this one is hers.
Though I don’t agree with her socialist political philosophy and I find her militant atheism without nuance, I would be willing to donate money to a private fund designated for her protection. However, it is not a government’s job to protect its citizens from their own folly. If any such fund is started, I’ll be glad to publicize it and to make a donation.
But just to put things in perspective, Ms. Ali’s accomplishments pale beside those of real heroines like Mukhtar Mai. She has an autobiography, too, though she didn’t actually write In The Name of Honor, since Mai is illiterate. But her story is singular for the courage she displayed in the face of brutality, for her transcendence of a public humiliation designed to kill her, and beyond that, for her vision and vocation: to bring schools and electricity to her small village and to bring justice to her rapists. In the face of hatred, instead of dying, she flourished.
Mai has no doubt that the powerful clan she brought to justice will eventually kill her. But she also realizes that there are worse things than dying, and she knows her work will persist after her, living on in the literate boys and girls of her village.
It is the way of the world that desperately ambitious people like Jimmy Carter get the Nobel Prize while courageous individuals like Mukhtar Mai actually live out the principles of such awards. If Mr. Carter and his ilk had any integrity or humility, they would admit the fact that the Mukhtar Mais of this world should be standing in their place.
Don’t hold your breath.