Ayaan Hirsi Ali

By: Jerrold Freitag
November 13, 2012

The Somali-Dutch infidel and nomad AYAAN HIRSI ALI (Ayaan Hirsi Magan Isse Guleid Ali Wai’ays Muhammad Ali Umar Osman Mahamud, born 1969) smuggled and battled her way out of Somalia and through the Dutch Parliament to wage trickle-down war against bad thinking. She is secular reason’s youngest and toughest champion, sharing stages with Dawkins, Harris, and (no longer) Hitchens. Intellectually, religion didn’t seem worth the wit of mocking until Rushdie’s Satanic Verses garnered fatwah and exiled him underground, while armchair leftists didn’t speak up. As theists work to roll back the Enlightenment, they paused to honor Hirsi Ali with her own fatwah — stuck to the murdered body of her friend, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. In Infidel and Nomad, she lights up petty bourgeois acceptance of idiotic differences — there are more ways we’re all alike than different. Why are we plodding in mud of your supernatural daddy vs. mine? She opposes the moderate appeasement strategy that says “not all of religion is crazy, only the really crazy parts.” Let the Germans have Poland again? Never! And yes, it’s that serious.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: George V. Higgins.

READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–1973).

What do you think?

  1. Two other aspects of the “moderate appeasement strategy” are:

    1. The True Scotsman Fallacy: Crazy Religious Nutjob XYZ isn’t a True Religion ABC. This is seen when people say that Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are labeled as “not true Christians.” Unlike, say, the Catholic Church, whose dogma on homosexuality is exactly the same as Phelpsian rhetoric, except with a German accent this time around.

    2. Multiculturalism means not being judgmental: Just because XYZ culture/nation-state/absolute monarchy practices abhorrent things based on their “authentic” (there’s that slippery word again) beliefs, despite being racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., etc., we — as enlightened, tolerant Westerners — shouldn’t judge them, cuz that’s like racist and junk. Shortly after 9/11, Dan Savage rightly criticized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and had the courage to say that maybe, just maybe, the United States as an open democracy was a wee tad superior to the Saud’s personal fiefdom of intolerance, wholesale corruption, and Wahhabist fanaticism.

  2. The goal is Stephen Colbert’s; not to see race. Celebrating differences risks accompishing the opposite by only underlining differences. I’m lost at what the correct formula might be, but celebrating our differences seems like splitting hairs, impossible and would leave little time to work toward similar goals. Campatible peaceful ends.

    Post Structuralism made some messes. This is one. Many bad institutions have been demysitfied. But it takes too long nowadays to describe what would be a reasonable way to think—but if we don’t try, it’s a dangerous free for all. Hirsi Ali’s thinking is praised and maligned by the right and the left, depending. The Dutch Right likes that she comes down on Islam. The Left blames her for fueling anti-immigrant sentiment. Her artistry leaves small thinking to vanquish in the crossfire.

    “How often have I endured bizarre conversations with government officials who cling to the illusion that the threat is temporary or that it can be negotiated.” (Hirsi-Ali, Newsweek, 9-17-12)

    The variables of the problem are so many, that it’s exhausting just to frame the discussion. It’s easier just to mind your own knitting. But Dan Savage is on the front lines with the right approach. He brings the enormity of the problem to the global scale. Reminding us that we shouldn’t want to associate with bullies, abusers and nit wits.

  3. Trying to find a discussion about “Islam in the west” without screaming, obsessing with seemingly shallow symbols, ignorance spewing from both sides is hard and that points to the real problem.

    Hirsi Ali points out that in Europe there is a constant discussion about minaretes and burqas which is totally beside any real issue. If there is a clash between two cultures, the clothes and buildings are not where to start the debate.

    How to separate the political aspects from the religious, the social matters from law, real issues and aesthetics is where the discussion fails time and again. The reason is that this is not only methodological for the discussion but also the essence of those questions to begin with; a secular viewpoint and one that is not.

  4. I’ve only ever heard the Vatican comment on radical secularism in their worries. Are you giving the discussion a B+? I’m glad for any secular brow I can get. But is the matter middlebrow? If a US politician comes out, I could affirm. Maybe I just proved your point. I can be sorta slobrow™.

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