Page 1 of 2 Hirsi Ali, atheism and Islam
Few public figures have done more to earn our sympathy than the Muslim apostate
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fugitive from her native Somalia, and now a virtual exile
from her adopted country, the Netherlands. Under constant threat since the 2004
murder by an Islamist of her collaborator, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh,
Hirsi Ali warns the West that Islam presents a mortal threat to its freedoms.
America took her in last year when the Dutch government connived to remove her
refugee status, but she remains
something of an embarrassment to the George W Bush administration. This autumn
the Dutch government removed her security detail, and the Americans have taken
no steps to protect her. That is a stain on the honor of both countries.
Although she has the credibility of a witness as well as the moral standing of
a victim, Hirsi Ali remains a bystander civilian in the great war of our times,
whose broadest front is in the global South. That is, she proclaims herself to
be an atheist. Millions of Muslims reportedly convert to Christianity each
year, mainly in Africa. Islam is stagnant in Asia while tens of millions become
Christian. Yet all the Muslim apostates whose voices we hear are atheists - not
only Hirsi Ali, but also Salman Rushdie, the celebrated author of The Satanic
Verses, the Syrian poet Adonis, and the pseudonymous Ibn Warraq, author
of Why I am not a Muslim and several compendia of Koranic criticism.
Why do Muslim apostates gravitate towards atheism? That is not true of other
religions. Many Jewish converts achieved prominence in 20th-century
Christianity - for example, the recently deceased Cardinal Jean-Marie
Lustiger, the martyred Carmelite nun Edith Stein (now canonized), and the great
Protestant theologian Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy. But the name of no prominent
Muslim convert to Christianity (much less to Judaism) comes to mind.
It is easy to change what we think, but very hard to change how we think.
Contrary to superficial impressions, Islam is much closer in character to
atheism than to Christianity or Judaism. Although the "what" of Muslim and
atheistic thinking of course are very different, I shall endeavor below to
prove that the "how" is very similar.
Hirsi Ali states that the West is at war with Islam, not with "terrorism",
"Islamism", "radical Islam", or "Islamo-fascism". Here is a snippet from her
November exchange with Reason :
Reason: The Polish
Catholic Church helped defeat the [Wojciech] Jaruzelski puppet regime .
Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?
Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the
political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has
become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.
Reason: Don't you mean defeating radical Islam?
Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it's defeated, it can mutate
into something peaceful. It's very difficult to even talk about peace now.
They're not interested in peace.
Reason: We have to crush the world's 1.5 billion Muslims under
our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, "defeat Islam"?
Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there's no
middle ground in wars.
Nonetheless Hirsi Ali has no clear idea
how a war with Islam might proceed. Again, from the Reason interview:
Ali: Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop
the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners
converting to Islam, and they're the most fanatical sometimes. There is
infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop
that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in
the eye and flex your muscles and you say, "This is a warning. We won't accept
this anymore." There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.
Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don't do that, then you have
to live with the consequence of being crushed.
that the West will crush Islam by force borders on the absurd. Western armies,
to be sure, could make short work of the military forces of any Muslim country,
but what would they do then? Would they order Muslims to abandon their
spiritual life in favor of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, the heroes of Hirsi
Ali? The West cannot stop Muslims from burning in effigy the editors of a
Danish newspaper in their own countries.
Secular liberalism, the official ideology of almost all the nations of Western
Europe, offers hedonism, sexual license, anomie, demoralization and gradual
depopulation. Muslims do not want this. In Africa, Christian missionaries go to
Muslims and offer them God's love and the hope of eternal life. But I am aware
of no Christian missionaries active in the Muslim banlieue (outskirts)
of the Paris suburbs or the Turkish quarters of Berlin.
By contrast, there is indeed a war with Islam, and it is being won in parts of
the world where Christians wage it on spiritual grounds. No Christian army has
had to march in its support. Europe, meanwhile, is losing ground to Islam
because it declines to fight.
Hirsi Ali, to be sure, sympathizes with Judaism and Christianity, and allows
that the two sister religions might be instrumental in countering Islam - but
only because they are compatible with secular liberalism. As she told the
London Spectator on November 28:
Christianity is different from Islam
because it allows you to question it. It probably wasn't different in the past,
but it is now. Christians - at least Christians in a liberal democracy - have
accepted, after Thomas Hobbes, that they must obey the secular rule of law;
that there must be a separation of church and state. In Islamic doctrine such a
separation has not occurred yet. This is what makes it dangerous!
I remember Hobbes as a hard-handed apologist for Oliver Cromwell's dictatorship
rather than as a liberal democrat, but that is a quibble. The pressing question
is why Muslim apostates cling to the secular liberalism that has failed so
thoroughly in Western Europe. The trouble is that old habits of mind die
slowly. That is not only true of Muslims. The sort of Eastern European Jews who
hailed the false messiahs of the 17th century, for example, were