Sunday, August 28, 2011

Renaissance Woman!

I just finished NOMAD, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This followed up her heroic Infidel. I especially relate to Hirsi Ali because, in my own way, I'm also an infidel and a nomad. She is now in the US, still under 24-hour guard, simply because she dares to speak the truth. She's not only an inspiration to the power of the mind to overcome the clutches of implacable culture, but she's overhauled my own thinking on how to handle immigrant Muslim populations in the West.
In Nomad, she recounts more stories of her upbringing - mixed with stories of relatives who made it to the West and who, mostly, have not assimilated. She talks about her own refugee claim in Holland, how officials asked her all about her history of abuse and suffering - but never about what she planned to do once accepted into Holland. Her thesis here: How do we make citizens out of refugees?

The top ten refugee nations - are all Muslim. So why then, when Muslims arrive in the West - are they allowed to continue traditions that clearly have not worked?

The Quran is "perfect scripture" not to be questioned and among its injunctions: kill the infidels, take their property, convert them by force, kill the homosexuals and adulterers, condemn Jews and treat women as chattel. Women under Islamic law cannot travel, work, study, marry or leave their home without permission. They don't choose with whom they have sex, (or, once married, when and whether to have sex), what to wear, whether to work or to walk down the street.

Such traditions are allowed to continue in host countries in the West - and it's here Ali posits:

"Well meaning Westerners, eager to promote respect for minority religions and cultures, ignore these practices in the name of religious sensitivity - or to stop society stigmatizing Muslims - they deny countless girls the right to wrest their freedom - and thus fail to live up to the ideals and values of a democratic society. "

I used to think what's the fuss? Let 'em wear the hijab, the birka (I look rather ravishing in one) 
I used to think they should be allowed to cover up in a birka and nudists should be allowed to run around nude. I still think the nudists should be given free range flesh, but now I'm not sure about the other bit. It's like the way I feel about my own circumcision: I lacked choice in the matter. I hadn't thought about the implications a cage has for a woman - her mind and her humanity. 

Nomad is a call to wake up and get real. To expose and address the prime delusion - that transitioning to the West can happen without choosing between values. One side wants to better their circumstances without changing; the other side is too mamby pamby to force assimilation. Assimilation into citizens.

Hirsi Ali is not short on solutions. She calls upon three institutions which could ease the transition to civilization:

1. Public Education: Keep critical thinking alive and don't gloss over the facts for the sake of sensitivity - no matter how impolite the truth may be.

2. Feminist Movement: 2.0! Feminists (men and women) should make the plight of women their own. Why haven't they awoken to gendercide?

3. Moderate Christians: Compete for the hearts and minds of Muslim populations with a religion that is not so whacked.

Hirsi Ali an atheist so this last suggestion is perplexing. However, she allows that some people are unable to live without a spiritual anchor and that the community of Christian churches offer a more moderate view and a more loving prophet in Jesus Christ. This suggestions has even opened my mind (which is, once opened, now mostly shut to the idea that religion can be good for anyone...) not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Christianity is (at least today) the lesser of two evils.

For her views, Ali has been branded conservative. She finds this odd, seeing as conservatives want to retain the status quo and she most definitely wants to enact change. Nomad is an alarming call to action - and a must-read for anyone interested in helping to solve a problem that is not going away anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

I found your book review of Ayaan Hirsi's books quite interesting. I have read other reviews of NOMAD. Your comments, however, left me somewhat intrigued, so I am definately going to read them.

I have attended several college/university discussions on the cultures affected by Islam. I have read several tracts on the faith, and have limited travel experience within the Muslim regions of the world.

With the abovementioned limited expertise,I would caution anyone not to make simplistic suppositions based on the contents of two books. The issues surrounding Islamic culture are far too complex and divergent from Western thought for a simplistic solution to any Islamic based problem.

Jesse Archer said...

Thanks for your comment. I also have limited travel experience in the muslim world, and agree about simplistic suppositions.
I'm curious about the topic and just happy to have someone really discussing it and offering solutions- without pussyfooting around or being racist.
If you have suggestions for further readings, I'd love to hear them.

Anonymous said...


I hate to recommend books on so complex an issue because all they reveal are the biases and prejudices of the writer. They are, after all, secondary sources with all the inherent weakness such materials contain.

If I were to recommend any book to you, it would be a translation of the Quran (or Koran.) A knowledge of the Talmud/Bible would also be helpful because they greatly influenced the thinking of Mohammed.

Thank God you have curiosity about a world dividing problem. Out of curiosity comes discussion and expansion of knowledge. This usually leads to a solution. That is, if enough people from both sides of the issue take it seriously enough.

Keep thinking and discussing such issues and your understanding will grow.