Hirsi Ali criticizes and breaks from Islam.
By Kirsten Powers
War on women alert: One of the most forceful fighters against misogyny in the modern era is under attack.
Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a vocal critic of women's oppression under Islamic law. She's blasted arranged marriage, legally sanctioned domestic violence, genital mutilation, and the killing of adulteresses and rape victims. Despite being a supporter of abortion rights, an atheist, and an advocate of gay and women's rights, she is despised by many who claim to be defenders of women's rights. Over the years, they have worked to delegitimize her in the hopes that she will be silenced.
The latest effort was a successful campaign to pressure Brandeis University into withdrawing its offer of an honorary degree. Her offense? Expressing the wrong opinions.
Hirsi Ali was raised Muslim. As a 5-year-old, she was forced into genital mutilation. At one point, she was beaten by a religious teacher until a rib broke.
At 22, she fled a forced marriage for the Netherlands where she became a member of Parliament. While there, she made a movie critical of Islam's treatment of women with her friend Theo Van Gogh. For this, he was murdered by an Islamic fanatic. The killer stabbed a note into his chest addressed to Hirsi Ali. It promised her death.
Yet she continues to speak out. "It may be naive, stupid, irrational, but I'm doing this because I think that if I do, there'll be less honor killings, fewer little girls undergoing female genital mutilation like I did," Hirsi Ali told The Washington Post in 2007. In her best seller, Infidel, she recalled her time in Saudi Arabia, where she could hear the cries of neighborhood women being (legally) beaten by their husbands. But this life experience is no match for the "expertise" of liberal Westerners who seem to believe the problem is that Hirsi Ali just doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut.
In reviewing her book, Nomad, Nicholas Kristof lamented that, "Hirsi Ali denounces Islam with a ferocity that I find strident. … Her memoir suggests that she never quite outgrew her rebellious teenager phase." Yes, if only she would be more demure in describing her own oppression. Guardian columnist Emma Brockes complained that in criticizing Islam, Hirsi Ali "is startlingly direct" and is "deliberately, almost narcissistically provocative."
Yet, when author Anne Rice announced she had "quit Christianity" because it was anti-gay, anti-feminist and anti-science, Brockes only wanted to know "what took her so long?" Speaking of "startlingly direct," Rice said, "(I) began to really study (Catholicism) and I found that it was not an honorable religion, that it was not honest."
So, condemning the Catholic Church and Christianity broad-brush is heroic. But a woman who breaks with and criticizes Islam is a mouthy, immature narcissist who must be silenced. Got it.
SoRo: Hirsi-Ali is beauty, brains, and bravery personified. She truly is a modern-day heroine.