From  the  book  “The  Caged  Virgin”  by  Ayaan  Hirsi  Ali


Defending Western Ideals

In November 2005 I attended a conference for the press, held by journalists, at the Krasnapolsky Hotel in Amsterdam and sat in on a session about the perceived bias with which the media covers Islam, a perception held by some Arab-Islamic journalists. There, Submission, the ten-minute film I had made with Theo van Gogh, was shown.

For making this film, Theo was killed by a Dutch Muslim.

I found myself in the odd position of defending freedom of expression, a free press, and the rights of women to Arab-Islamic journalists and commentators. I found it odd because the Western journalists holding the conference were largely quiet in the face of this criticism. Those who spoke up basically mumbled something about free expression, or approached me after the session and whispered into my ear that I had done a good job. I noticed the embarrassment they felt at defending the very right from which they earn their bread.

I had noticed this same sense of uneasiness in early 2006 among Western journalists, academics, politicians, and commentators when dealing with how to respond to the cartoons of Muhammad in Denmark. In fact, many seriously defended the assertion that Denmark had to apologize for the cartoons. This attitude was repeated in the fall of 2006 when the pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who wrote that the founder of Islam spread his religion by the sword, and the New York Times urged the pope to apologize.

Tony Blair, a leader I admire, wrote in the first 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine that what we were facing after September 11 was a battle of ideas, a battle of values. Blair began by incisively outlining the most crucial conflict of our time, but then lost the line of his argument in inconsistency when he came to clarifying the parties involved in the war of values. He backpedaled against his argument and declared that the Koran is a great book, ahead of its time and good for women.

Why are Westerners so insecure about everything that is so wonderful about the West: political freedom; free press; freedom of expression; equal rights for women and men, gays and heterosexuals; critical thinking. Why are Westerners reluctant to scrutinize ideas about faith?

It is not the end of history. The twenty-first century began with a battle of ideas, and this battle is about the values of the West versus those of Islam. 

Tony Blair and the Pope should not be embarrassed in saying it, and you journalists and Westerners should stop censoring yourselves. Islam and liberal democracy are incompatible; cultures and religions are not equal, And perhaps most important of all, Muslims are not half-wits who can respond only in violence. The Koran is not a great book; it is reactionary and full of misogyny. The Byzantine emperor's analysis was correct: Muhammad spread his faith by the sword.

Journalists, like the rest of us, face the unpleasant reality of taking sides or getting lost in the incoherence of the so-called middle ground. The role of journalists serving the West, who understand what this particular battle is about, will be to inform their audiences accordingly.

As I travel from country to country to testify from experience and observation that Islamic dogma creates a cult of death, a cage for women, and a curse against knowledge, I get both support and opposition. Europeans and Americans ask:

But what about the good Muslim living next to me? What about the different schools of thought in Islam? Is there no difference between the Muslims of Indonesia and the ones in Somalia, or the Muslims in Saudi Arabia and those in Turkey? Can we really generalize? What about the women who voluntarily wear the headscarf and the burka and are happy to relinquish their freedom as their faith requires? If we give Catholics and Protestants and Jews their schools and their universities, isn't it only fair to give Muslims theirs, too? If generations of Jews, Italians, and Irish have assimilated, is it unreasonable to think that Muslims will assimilate, too, eventually? Isn't it more fruitful to engage in debate with your opponent and convince him through dialogue to take back his declaration of war than to attack him? Isn't it obvious that military attacks, such as those in Afghanistan after 9/11 and in Iraq, create more terrorists, and therefore more people who are determined to destroy the West than there would be if we had dialogue with them?

These questions are legitimate and deserve serious answers.

Let's make a moral distinction between Islam and Muslims. Muslims are diverse. Some, like Irshad Manji and Tawfiq Hamid, want to reform their faith. Others want to spread their beliefs through persuasion, violence, or both. Others are apathetic and do not care much for politics. Others want to leave it and convert to Christianity, like Nonie Darwish, or become atheist, like me.

Islam unreformed, as a set of beliefs, is hostile to everything Western.

In a free society, if Jews, Protestants, and Catholics have their own schools, then Muslims should have theirs, too. But how long should we ignore the fact that in Muslim schools in the West, kids are taught to believe that Jews are pigs and dogs? Or that they should distance themselves from unbelievers and that jihad is a virtue? Isn't it odd that everywhere in Europe with large Muslim organizations, demands are made not to teach kids about the Holocaust, while in mosques and Muslim bookshops The Protocols of the Elders ofZion is distributed?

And what about in Muslim lands, where Jews, Catholics, and Protestants cannot have their own schools, or churches, or graveyards? 

If Muslims can proselytize in Vatican City, why can't Christians proselytize in Mecca? 

Why do we find this acceptable? If Christians, Jews, and atheists take to the streets in large numbers to protest against their own elected governments in objection to the war in Iraq, to the war against terror, why don't Muslims march in equally large number against the beheadings of Western aid workers? Why don't Muslims stand up for their own? Why are Jews and Christians and atheists in the West the ones fighting genocide in Darfur? Why does it pass unnoticed in Muslim lands when Shias kill Sunnis and Sunnis kill Shias by the thousands? It doesn't add up, does it? If you ask me, "What is the role of journalism today?" I would urge you to look into these questions.

As a woman in the West I have access to…. 

education. I have a job, and I can change jobs as I wish. I can marry the man of my choice, or I can choose not to marry at all. If nature allows it, I can have any number of children I want. I can manipulate nature and freeze my eggs. I can have an abortion. I can own property. I can travel wherever I want. I can read whichever book, newspaper, or magazine I wish. I can watch any movie I want or go to the museum of my choice. I can have an opinion on the moral choices of others and express my opinion, even publish it. And I can change my mind as time goes by. I can establish a political party or join an existing one; I am free to change parties or give up my membership. I can vote. I can choose not to vote. I can stand for election to office or go into business. This is what makes the West so great.

In Muslim lands, except for a very lucky few, women are denied….

education, have no job, and are forced into marriage with strangers. In the name of Islam, women are denied the right to their bodies; they cannot choose whether to have children or how many to have. They have no rights to abortion, and often they die trying to get one. They cannot own property, trade, or travel without the risk of robbery or rape. Most women (and men) live with state and religious censorship on what they can read (if they can read at all) and what films they can watch, and they have hardly any museums or art they can enjoy.

Of the fifty-seven Muslim nations that are members of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference), only seven are democracies, but that is a somewhat generous count.

The seven are Benin, Guyana, Indonesia, Mali, Senegal, Surinam, and Turkey. Two additional countries, Niger and Afghanistan, held democratic elections in 2004 and 2005, respectively, that were free and fair, but both countries find themselves in a precarious situation. Indonesia and Turkey are frail and corrupt, and face the risk of being overtaken by the agents of pure Islam. Turkey has some defense against these forces with its army but Indonesia has none. And in few of these countries—except for the usual showpieces to delude the West—can women, in practice, establish their own political parties or play a meaningful role in a party.

This obsession with subjugating women is one of the things that makes Islam so reprehensible. The agents of Islam from Riyadh to Tehran, from Islamabad to Cairo know that any improvement in the lives of women will lead to the demise of Islam and a disappearance of their power. This is why, among other things, they are so desperate to cage in women. This is why they also hate the West.

Please don t be fooled by the few shrill voices—in or out of the veil—who enjoy the status quo and betray their fellow women. Many Western women who don the veil in later life are converts. Highly educated and verbal, they live in free countries where they try to hijack the justice system and force the acceptance of the veil.

By doing so, they betray the millions of women in other countries who do not have the freedom not to wear the veil.

Another type of woman who also betrays her sister women loves to call herself a liberal Muslim and says she sees no problem with Islam and women, yet she has been fortunate enough to be born into a family that gives her more freedom than the average Muslim woman. For this reason, she has no feelings of solidarity with women like me who have had to struggle to get out of it. If this woman were criticizing Islam and its practices, she would find out soon enough how little freedom she actually has.

A third type of woman is a political ideologue….

generally Communist and West-hating, who trumpets, "Look at me, I am Muslim and free. It is the colonization of my country by the West that keeps us down.” This woman also betrays other Muslim women by her blind adherence to an ideology that demands she ignore the local problems whose source is in Islam and claim a distant devil as the cause of her culture's dystopia.

If we do not understand the differences between Islam and the West—why one is so great and the other so low—and we don't fight back and win this battle of ideas in order to preserve our civilization, in my view there is no point to your profession or mine.




Keith Hunt