"Ayaan Hirsi Ali Upends Leftist Stereotypes in Santa Monica"
"On May 24th, at Track 16 Gallery in fashionable Bergamont Station in Santa Monica CA, dozens of marginal works of art were nearly destroyed by the exploding heads of some of SoCal's finest and most dogmatic liberals, as a roomful of them were injected with some cognitive dissonance when author Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the author of "infidel", a deeply personal account of her disillusionment with the rejection of her Muslim upbringing as well as her latest book "Nomad", which chronicles her continuing journey. She also collaborated with late film director Theo Van Gogh on the short documentary film "Submission", the release of which resulted in the brutal assassination of Van Gogh by a homegrown Dutch Islamic jihadist and ultimately drove her from the Netherlands because of her inability to find adequate security there. She continues to be an outspoken critic of the subjugation and mistreatment of women under fundamentalist Islam, and the AHA Foundation which she founded aims to combat several types of crimes against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriages, honor violence, and honor killings. These would seem to be fairly non-controversial goals, especially in a pro-feminist Western society, but they recieved a rather chilly response that night from the tolerant progressives of Santa Monica.
During the interview portion of the evening, I was struck by how quiet the room was. Statements made by Ms. Ali that in most cities in middle America would have recieved applause were met with a respectfull but stony silence. When the floor was opened for questions from the seemingly stunned audience, one after another of Santa Monica's finest political thinkers rose unsteadily from their chairs to ask a question that might allow them to hold onto their deeply-held and carefully nuanced progressive beliefs in the face of someone who must have seemed to them to be an untouchable figure, a woman born in Somalia who left Islam and became and atheist, as well as an unrelenting critic of the injustice and violence that is routinely taught in the Muslim world.
In response to a lady who asked passionately if it was not true that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had created more terrorists then they had thwarted, Ms. Ali calmly replied that the jihadists of course used these wars as propoganda for recruitment, just as they would use any situation for recruitment, since they are in the business of destroying free societies and bringing them under submission to shari's law, and that no matter what the West did, the jihadists would recruit and terrorize.
One very confused and shaken white-haired gentleman could barely form a question, stammering that he had "great respect" for her but disagreed with almost everything she said. As he rambled on, many of his collegues began to call at him, "What's your question?" and "No speeches, ask a question" He finally concluded with a semi-coherent plea along the lines of, "Well, how do we deal with these extremists?"
Ali replied that once you have decided to "deal" with the jihadists, you have legitimized their demands of submission, and that you cannot "deal" with fanatics who wish to destory your nice free society with bike paths and reusable shopping bags and replace it with a totalitarian theocracy. She went on to object to the vague use of the terms "extremists," asking "Exremists of what?" If we were talking about white supremacists, or radical Marxists or Communists or any other "ists" that used terrorism and violence to bring about their goals, we would not hesitate to identify the ideas behind their philosophy that drove them to such ends. Why should we hesitate to confront the fact that these particular killers were driven by their fanatical religious beliefs?
She deftly fielded a question about the "perversion" of Islam by fanatics by proclaiming that she was more concerned about the perversion of the word "liberalism," because of the willingness of many Western liberals to accept and excuse some of the most heinous criminal acts committed by practitioners of the Muslim faith, like arranged marriages, spousal abuse, subjugation of women by force, denial of education to females, and female genital mutilation in the name of multiculturalism and a so-called "respect" for other civilizations. American liberals, she said, appear to be more uncomfortable condemning the ill treatment of women under Islam that most conservatives are. This led her into a repudiation of multiculturalism, and how, despite some honorable intentions in it origins, it had mutated into a belief system that actually denies access to the freedom and justice guaranteed by the American Constitution by allowing injustice to continue within protected minority communities by not encouraging them to assimilate and become full Americans.
In response to a question about how long America should stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said it was her hope that the Americans would stay for 50 to 100 years, if that is how long it took to modernize those socieities, even while acknowledging that there did not seem to be the political will for such an effort to be sustained.
The best question of the evening came from a young man who simply asked what would be the best way to bring about an "Enlightenment" in the Muslim world. She replied that the best way would be to ask them questions about their religion and cause "cognitive dissonance" among those who blindly follow the violent exhortations of their imams. I actually laughed out loud when she used those words, as the congnitive dissonance occurring at that moment in the Track 16 gallery was practically audible. I could swear I heard the word, "What?!" thudding over and over again in the formerly comfortable brains of those around me.
The only applause of the night signaled the end of the evening, and as I lined up to have my book signed by Ms. Ali, I was struck by how short the line was. Out of the 150 to 200 people I guessed were in attendance, only about 25 or so lined up to greet this remarkable individual. As I made my way down the line, I passed pockets of fervent discussion, and caught fragments here and there. I overheard one rather agitated gentleman say, "I just think there are problems in this country that she just does not understand! I mean, what is the difference between a fanatical mass-murdering Taliban regime and a mass-murdering evangelical Christian in the White House, which this country voted in for eight years!?"
In Nomad, Hirsi Ali states unequivocally that Christianity and Islam are definately not equivalent, if for no other reason than Christianities willingness to tolerate questioning and even blasphemy without issuing death sentences, and actually calls for a "strategic alliance" between secular people -- atheists like herself, Richard Dawkins, and others -- and Christians in order to combat the oppression inherent in an unenlightened, unreconstructed Islam (Nomad pp 240-241) If this man had asked Ms. Ali his ridiculous question, she would have asnwered it handily. So why did he not? Why was he huddled in the furthest corner of the room spewing his nonsense to his nodding compatriots? What about Ayaan Hirsi Ali had flummoxed him and his fellow travellers into circles of insular outrage?
Well, she was black, so they could not dismiss her as a racist, she had lived in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, and the US, so they could not call her an ignorant provincial hick, she was an avowed atheist, so they could not call her a Christian bigot on a crusade against peaceful Islam, and she was multi-lingual, articulate, and brilliant, so they could not just call her stupid. All the pejoratives they usually apply in people who diagree with them would not work, and so they were left to confront her ideas, and those ideas stripped them naked, rent their garments of superiority and condescension into tatters at their feet, and left them angry and confused, whinning to each other in the corners of the room, unable to say anything to her face. Their favorite weapons, ad hominem name-calling and sneering condescension were disarmed.
Ms. Ali flanked by 3 or 4 pleasant looking but serious suits, a private Security Service force necessary to protect her from the religion of peace, signed my book as I stammered out an inadequate "Thank you so much for your courage" She smiled and said. "Thank you very much."
Not a very scintillating exchange I know, but as I left the gallery that evening, I realized that the real crux of the matter, and the truly paralyzing aspect for the liberals around me, was simply that -- her courage. To the Hollywood community, a community that did not even have the courage to list Theo Van Gogh during the 2005 Oscar ceremony as one of the people in film sho had died that year, a woman willing to continue espousing her deep convictions after being threatened with death by the same people who had murdered her colleague was utterly confounding. And for someone like me, a person who writes from behind a mask, not even for fear of death but of the eonomic retribution I might face from the supposedly tolerant community in which I live and work, the evening I spent in a room with Ayaan Hirsi Ali was all the more humbling."