Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali native who fled a forced marriage to a cousin, became a member of the Dutch Parliament, and has faced death threats from Islamist terrorists who see her as a blasphemer and apostate. Writes Stephen Emerson
Work changed for most people during the COVID-19 pandemic. For writers and thinkers, including best-selling author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the question was clear: How does someone who relies on public speaking to get her message out when public events pose a health risk?
The answer, in part, is the Ayaan Hirsi Ali podcast, launched earlier this year.
Hirsi Ali is a Somali native who fled a forced marriage to a cousin, became a member of the Dutch Parliament, and has faced death threats from Islamist terrorists who see her as a blasphemer and apostate.
She is accustomed, therefore, to tackling new experiences. Still, before starting in broadcasting, Hirsi Ali consulted her friend, neuroscientist, author, and veteran podcaster Sam Harris.
“He said, ‘it’s a guilty secret,'” Hirsi Ali told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “And I agree with him totally. I get to read the works of other people. And then I choose the conversation I want to have and whom I want to have it with. And that’s what I share with my audience.”
Hirsi Ali’s remarkable life is an open book. She chronicled the beatings and female genital mutilation she suffered growing up in a conservative African Muslim family, and her eventual decision to leave the faith, in Infidel. She followed that with Nomad, which builds on her upbringing, her path to Europe and, ultimately, the United States.
She also has examined the need for a reformation in Islam in Heretic, and her new book, Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights, tackles the difficult conversation about physical and cultural threats to Western women brought by young Muslim male migrants.
Thus far, podcast episodes have focused on issues ranging from immigration and integration, to climate change, to honor violence. But it is the threat to free speech that seems to dominate her thinking. She described “very healthy conversations” she used to enjoy with scholars at more liberal think tanks when she worked at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
“Everything was on the table,” Hirsi Ali said. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Today, people seem to speak in slogans, and feelings have replaced facts and data. Those who dare to disagree, or who say something provocative, can face a mob of self-righteous activists seeking to punish the offender.
It is “not the center-left liberals, but the Woke liberals,” she said. “Honestly, these people are not liberal in any way. They demonstrate that they’re illiberal. They want you to be either a member of their tribe and agree with them, do as they say, promote the tribal interest, or look outside and look at the others and only feel hostile to them.
“I know that from my clan life. I come from Somalia. that’s exactly how all our civil wars were. Just that attitude. The other clan is not just the other clan. They are not fellow human beings. They are enemies to be destroyed.”
She previously saw this closing of the minds while living in the Netherlands.
Western civilization was bashed as inherently racist, colonialist and destructive. So if immigrants came into the country and brought some dangerous ideas about the treatment of women, some people would argue not to judge or intervene.
Criticizing, or just calling attention to the way Islam treats women or gay people, was considered out of bounds.
“I remember thinking, ‘this is madness, and obviously at some point it is going to stop,'” Hirsi Ali said. “It didn’t stop. It got worse and worse. The Islamists became successful in their endeavors to shut down the voices of people like me. We got the label ‘Islamophobes.’ And anybody who even posed the slightest question would just get this stamped on them.”
She sees “Wokeism” as the American iteration of this attitude.
When an Iraqi immigrant ran over and killed his daughter outside Phoenix in 2009 because, in his mind, her Westernized lifestyle brought dishonor to the family, it failed to spark much debate about honor violence or the culture that fosters the very idea that dishonor should be met with violence. Such violence, even when it’s short of murder, often includes help from several members of the family.
But as she discussed with Detective Chris Boughey, those who aid and abet often escape punishment. That’s what happened in the Almaleki case, when only Faleh Almaleki faced charges.
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