In the last decade or so, we Westerners have heard the testimony of two brave young women born of Muslim parents in muslim-majority areas. These women are Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and Somali-born writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Both have shown determination in speaking out against islamic fascism. Both have done it at tremendous risk to their lives (Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s friend and collaborator Theo van Gogh was stabbed while she received countless threats, while everyone knows Malala (as she’s known throughout the Western world) was shot at point blank range in the most cowardly of acts). Both could be called freedom fighters and, surely, feminists, as they have spent countless hours advocating the education of girls.
In October 2014 Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, on which she had missed out, so to speak, the previous year. One can easily argue that the Nobel Peace Prize is bogus, 1979 recipient Mother Teresa being among the best illustrations of this fact as she spent decades fighting against the empowerment of women in Calcutta. Still, it is one of the clearest signs that you’ve got the mainstream Western left on your side. Few months earlier, in April 2014, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited from a ceremony at Brandeis University, during which she was scheduled to receive an honorary degree. There is the statement from Brandeis University:
Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.
Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.
That’s for the general context. The central question, of course, is something along the lines of “Why are these two women treated so differently by the Western left?”. Why is Ms. Yousafzai a hero and Ms. Hirsi Ali a villain, while their messages are so similar? The main reason, as far as I can tell, is, predictably, the left’s very careful toeing the line of religious sensitivity. Ms. Yousafzai is raising the alarm about islamists from inside Islam, while Ms. Hirsi Ali is doing so from the outside, and is hence instantly suspected of bigotry and ill intentions. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to put it plainly, has fallen victim to the liberal theorem, which states that “we need more moderate voices” (I’ve provided a link to a certain moment in a debate, but I’m almost sure that later in the debate, Rabbi Neuberger almost uses this exact phrase. It’s hard to find without rewatching the whole thing, though). For saying that the harsh treatments faced by girls and women throughout the muslim-majority world, and some parts of the Western word, are largely motivated or condoned by Islam, rather than claiming, as Ms. Yousafzai, that “Islam says about equality, there’s no difference between a man and a woman”, Ms. Hirsi Ali has been repeatedly attacked by the Western left press. As always, the Huffington Post has been leading the charge as seen here
Both these articles were written in the aftermath of the Brandeis debacle. From them, I’ve selected some excerpts, which I think really illustrate the “progressive” position here. Let’s start with a paragraph found in :
[Hirsi Ali] has expressed her support for defeating Islam (not extremists, but the entire faith) by military means if necessary. Let’s be clear: Such measures do not constitute “criticism.” Instead, they are dangerously close to advocating genocide.
This blurring the lines between ideas and people is the heart of the progressive argument. Ms. Hirsi Ali has repeatedly attacked ideas, and she has also explained that so-called “extremists” are simply relying on a straightforward reading of the Islamic holy scripture. But most people on the left won’t have that. They’ll cling forever to their “we need more moderate voices” motto, and claim that violence is a betrayal of the holy texts. Later in the article:
Brandeis University’s statement described Hirsi Ali as an “advocate for women’s rights.” Others described her in the same way, including the New York Times andUSA Today. While there’s no doubt that Hirsi Ali has shed enormous light on cruel practices that target some Muslim women (including female genital mutilation, of which she was a victim), it feels cheap to hail her as a champion in that regard.
It is unclear how Hirsi Ali can be an advocate for Muslim women while simultaneously calling for the outright defeat of their faith.
It’s hard for me not to picture the writer, a Mr. Nathan Lean, let out a celebratory “nailed it!” while typing these sentences. Be that as it may, it is so feeble a line of argumentation, it barely deserves refuting. Indeed, it is obvious to any objective observer that muslim women are victims of their faith more than anything else. It is, as far as I can see, only their faith, or maybe rather, the fact that they were indoctrinated as children, which prevents them from realising how harshly they are treated. If they stop believing, they’ll have no reason at all to keep accepting their sinister fate. Mr. Lean pursues:
Her tragic experiences seem to have provoked within her an animus for Islam that she believes all women who suffer like she did must share. In her attempt to “save” them from these practices (which are mostly cultural, not religious),
(fact-denying at its best)
Hirsi Ali denies them the right to interpret their religion differently — to believe in the goodness of their faith and also bemoan its severe interpretations.
In other words: “I want these women to be moderately religious, this way they’ll share my motto that ‘extremists are the problem, not religions'”.
Instead she insists that their “nihilistic cult of death” is the real culprit.
As argued above, it’s clear to me that it is.
A quick Google search will teach you that Mr. Lean yearns to be a dhimmi, but really is a theocrat in the making.
Let’s take a look at  now. Its author, Ms. Sabety, gracefully offers a caveat paragraph to explain us that she was initially on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s side. Then, the author tells us what changed her mind. A key excerpt goes thusly:
She milks the Boston Marathon bombing! […] [T]o blame the marathon bombing, perpetrated by two young Chechen/Dagestani immigrants, on the religion of so many millions of people struck me as incredibly vulgar and downright dangerous.
This is not quite an argument ad populum, but we’re pretty close. If anything, it’s not even an argument. It’s really an argumentum ad vacuum. The reader has to sit through a barrage of indignant questions about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s planned speech at Brandeis in hope of learning what is “incredibly vulgar and downright dangerous” in Ms. Hirsi Ali’s attributing the Boston marathon attacks to Islamic doctrine, but only in vain. Ms. Sabety’s next point is (for real) that the right reaction is not to
blame the Boston Marathon bombing on an entire civilization — the same one, incidentally (and for how long do we need to repeat this fact?) that produced Rumi, Gibran and algebra!
Here again, we’re confronted to the intentional confusion between “an entire civili[s]ation” and a well-defined, finite set of religious documents. And just to answer Ms. Sabety’s question: for how long you need to repeat that the islamic civilisation produced algebra is up to you, but, just so you know, tomorrow morning we’ll all wake up learning of a heinous crime motivated by the holy islamic scriptures, either in Africa, in Asia, or maybe even, Europe, and at that moment you and your apologist friends will mysteriously feel compelled to remind us, once again, that a handful people who, around one thousand years ago, happened to have been indoctrinated in the muslim faith as children, were great at math. Because of course, that perfectly compensates for the daily dosis of holy violence the world has to take.
And then there’s the nail in the coffin
Hirsi Ali closes her op-ed by claiming that Islam needs to be reformed. I think that is a great idea. But how is she helping the women of Somalia or Iraq from a podium at Brandeis? Let me use the Protestant Reformation as an analogy: Giving this speech to a mostly non-Muslim, American audience, publishing it in The Wall Street Journal, is like Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of a mosque in Cairo rather than on the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg!
Once again, hard not to picture Ms. Sabety jubilating while writing this. But by writing this paragraph, she’s thrown a boomerang which I’ll happily let find its way back to her. I can just give it a soft nudge in the right direction. What does Ms. Sabety think the reaction of a muslim crowd would be to a woman who’s left their religion, and criticises their religion continually? Why does she think Ms. Hirsi Ali is writing for The Wall Street Journal, and working for the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute? The answer to the first question can be found in any newspaper on any day of the year in any country of the world, while the answer to the second question is calmly and clearly explained by the great Jerry Coyne here, and can be summed up as follows: Western liberals and feminists are not standing up for the values they claim to love. Ms. Hirsi Ali, who is as close as you can get to an allegory of the Enlightenment, is not welcome in their circles. Though she embodies everything they pretend to love, admire, and fight for, she has been excluded from the political left by people who think that, in the case of Islam, criticism of religion is worse than theocracy.