INSIDE  THE  ISLAM  WORLD


FROM  THE  BOOK  INFIDEL


by  AYYAN  HIRSI  ALI


HIRSI  ALI  IS  NOW  IN  HOLLAND  -  WANTS  TO  STUDY  “POLITICAL  SCIENCE”  -  All  black  lettering  is  mine  for  emphasis  -  Keith Hunt






CHAPTER 13

Leiden


I could study political science in just three universities: Amsterdam, Nijmegen, or Leiden. In Nijmegen the courses didn't interest me; it was all public administration—land use and waterways—and social geography. Amsterdam appeared chaotic: I had heard that students marked their own exams and demanded equality with professors. But Leiden, Holland's oldest university, had rigorous standards. And when I visited the old city, with the tiny canals and flocks of students careering around on bicycles, I wanted with all my heart to be a part of it.


Leiden was so pretty it was like walking through an illustration from the Ladybird books of fairy tales with which I'd learned English in Nairobi. Houses had long-necked bell towers, stepping-stone roofs, and curiously tiny, twisted staircases that I always found so perilous to navigate, each little step much thinner than your foot. Every staircase made me feel more foreign, yet I marvelled at this dollhouse of a city.


So, midway through my year at the vocational college, I had applied to Leiden. That was not a happy experience. The woman at the desk told me she was legally obliged to register my application, but made it clear that she thought it most unwise. She sent me to talk to the dean of students, who also seemed dubious. She told me I would do far better to return to vocational college and complete my three-year social work course there: it would qualify me for a real job right away. I might fail a degree in political science in Leiden. It was perhaps too abstract to be useful. Better to stay where I was, it might suit me better. I told her I wanted to apply anyway. I was determined to try, at least.


Now that I had my propadeuse, the condition for my entry, I could begin classes in Leiden. Almost immediately, I was swamped. The first three courses were basic: Introduction to Political Science, Introduction to History, Introduction to Public Administration. There were piles of books to read every week: books on the art of governance, books about what is a state, books about the history of Holland and Europe. We didn’t have to memorize them, but we needed to know the themes, the theories, and — this was new — we needed to develop our own opinions. We were always asked what we thought……..



For the first few months, I didn't socialize much. When I wasn't studying I was working as a translator. I had now registered as a Somali interpreter, and I worked all the time. In the morning, if I didn't have class, I would leave my beeper on. I bought my own phone so I could be available for phone translations from all over the country until late at night. I was called by police, by hospitals, by law courts, by all kinds of shelters.


The worst calls were when I had to break the news to someone that, no, the authorities won't allow your wife and children to come to Holland to be with you. No, we cannot give you the opportunity to go back to Somalia and get your children, even though you have been raped and your husband has been killed and four of your fingers have been cut off. Or, I have to inform you that you have HIV/AIDS. Sometimes I would put the phone down in my little room and shake with the feelings I had just translated.


One Somali girl lived in an asylum center, just as I had, and she had an Ethiopian girlfriend, just like me. This Somali girl got in a car with four men; she thought she was meeting her girlfriend at a party. She was raped repeatedly, then ran away from the house and was found in the village, which was when the police called me. I sat in my little room in the attic of Chantal's lovely home and tried to translate what they were telling her. I explained to this girl that she must not wash herself, because the sperm and blood that were still trailing between her thighs were evidence. I couldn't ask if she had been infibulated because the rules are you can't insert your own questions and opinions, you are purely a machine. I could only try to calm her down.


The girl was completely hysterical. She was frantic that the other people in the asylum center would shun her because she was defiled. The policewoman I was translating for had me talk the girl through her story and persuade her to give evidence. She told her that in six months they would give her an HIV test, if she wanted one. I asked the policewoman if it would be possible to have her transferred to another refugee center, so there would be no shame; she agreed. The girl grew calmer.


I put the phone down, blown to pieces by this horrible world, and then I had to walk downstairs to have dinner with Chantal. There could not have been a greater contrast with her tidy, gentle, pleasant life. Sometimes it was hard even to talk about what I had been doing. When I told Chantal my stories, she was horrified. She said these things were unheard of in Holland.


It didn't occur to me then, but this was also another kind of education—an education in suffering, abuse, pain, misery, and the evils of ignorance.


I did abortion clinic translations. If it was a phone translation, then mostly I had to explain to the girl what abortion means, translate a few questions: Does the father know? Have you thought about keeping the baby? I knew the form by heart. Then, when I put the phone down, I would know that this girl would now have an abortion, and I had been instrumental in this sinful act. I would stuff it all behind the shutter in my brain and go on to my next class or appointment.


Sometimes I would have to go to the abortion clinic and explain to the girl that because her scar was still almost completely closed up, she would have to have complete anesthesia to cut it open and remove the baby. The girl would always be horrified and insist, "Then you must resew me afterward." Mostly the doctors would nod, but they never did it. One young doctor asked me to explain. "It's unnecessary and dangerous for you, and we in Holland don't do these things," he told me to tell the girl. She just cried, helplessly.


When I went to the awful places—the police stations, the prisons, the abortion clinics and penal courts, the unemployment offices and the shelters for battered women—I began to notice how many dark faces looked back at me. It was not something you could avoid noticing, coming straight in from creamy-blond Leiden. I began to wonder why so many immigrants—so many Muslims—were there.


It was particularly striking when I visited women's shelters—terrible, depressing places. 


The addresses were supposed to be secret. Perhaps thirty women, but sometimes as many as a hundred, would live in each shelter, and children ran everywhere in the living space. There were hardly any white women: only women from Morocco, from Turkey, from Afghanistan—Muslim countries—alongside some Hindu women from Surinam.


The Somali cases were almost always the same, again and again. 


The husband took all the welfare money, spent it on qat, and when the wife hid the money he would beat her until finally the police intervened.


One Somali woman was about my age, from a rural area. She couldn't read or write Somali or speak a word of Dutch. She had been married in Somalia, to a man who had come to visit, looking for a wife, and who then brought her straight to Holland. She almost never left the apartment on her own: she was frightened of the foreign streets. Her husband beat her; finally, the police brought her, horribly bruised and cut, to the women's shelter. This woman was not only homeless in Holland; she could not go back to her family in Somalia either. She told me it was Allah's will. "Allah gave me these circumstances and, if I am patient, Allah will remove this misery."


Women like this never pressed charges. The prospect of making their way alone seemed to them impossible. They were convinced that by accepting systematic, really merciless abuse, they were serving Allah and earning a place in Heaven. They always went back to their husband.


I was only a translator, but I absorbed these stories and had to confront the unfairness of it. The social workers would always ask the women, "Do you have family here? Can they help you?" The women would say to me, "But they support my husband, of course!" 


You must obey your husband if you are Muslim. If you refuse your husband and he rapes you, that is your fault. Allah says husbands should beat their wives if they misbehave; it's in the Quran.


This attitude made me angry. I knew that many Dutch women were abused, too. But their community and their family didn't approve of it. Nobody blamed them for the violence, or told them to obey better.


I went to prisons, to the penitentiaries in Rotterdam and The Hague. Mostly they were violent assault cases; Somalis weren't usually involved in stealing or dealing drugs. But if Somali men disagree, losing their temper and grabbing a weapon is almost second nature. One man had hit his landlord on the head with a hammer when he came to the flat to ask for the rent. Social services sent the man to counselling, but I don't believe there was jail time.


I went to remedial schools, schools for children with learning disabilities, schools for the mentally handicapped and the deaf. 


Once, I was called to a school to help a teacher explain to some parents that their seven-year-old was extremely aggressive. If he beat up one more child he would have to be sent to a special school for aggression treatment. I had trouble even finding the words in Somali to explain what aggression treatment might be.


The child told his side of the story: a kid stuck his tongue out at him and called him a bad name, so he beat him up. Doing this was completely congruent with his upbringing. In Somalia, you attack. You hit first. If you wait to be hit, you'll only be bullied more. I was taught that, too.


Having heard the kid's story, the parents said, "See: the other child started it!" The teacher, who was a young woman, said, "But this other child didn't hit." And the parents, in chorus, exclaimed, “You don't wait to be hit!"


I had to ask to be released from the rule of strict translation so I could explain things. I told the teacher, "Where we come from, aggression is a survival tactic: we teach our children to hit first. You will have to explain more."


The teacher looked at me as though I was mad. She explained that if all the children were allowed to hit each other, then it would be survival of the fittest: the strongest would bully the others. And the parents nodded. This satisfied them, because they wanted their child to be the strongest.


Finally, I said to the parents, "Look, in Holland, if you hit people, then they think something is wrong with you. Here, they solve disagreements by talking. If your son continues to hit, he will be taken to a place where the children are mentally unwell, to be treated for an illness."


So then they listened. They made all sorts of agreements and arrangements to meet again. When the meeting ended, all three of them said how illuminating it had been for them, to see that such an unusual culture could exist.


I cycled home thinking, "This is why Somalia is having a civil war and Holland isn't." It was all there. People in Holland agree that violence is bad. They make a huge effort to teach their children to channel aggression and resolve their disputes verbally. They had analyzed conflict and set up institutions to regulate it. This was what it meant, to be citizens.


I wasn't strong enough to think all these things through just yet. I didn't feel ready to step back and ask myself why so many immigrants— so many Muslim immigrants—were violent, on welfare, poor. I just absorbed the facts. But I was beginning to see that Muslims in Holland were being allowed to form their own pillar in Dutch society, with their own schools and their own way of life, just like Catholics and Jews. They were being left politely alone to live in their own world. The idea was that immigrants needed self-respect, which would come from a strong sense of membership in their community. They should be permitted to set up Quranic schools on Dutch soil. There should be government subsidies for Muslim community groups. To force Muslims to adapt to Dutch values was thought to conflict with those values; people ought to be free to believe and behave as they wish.


The Dutch adopted these policies because they wanted to be good people. Their country had behaved unspeakably in Indonesia, and didn't (much) resist Hitler; in Holland, a greater percentage of Jews were deported during the Second World War than in any other country in Western Europe. Dutch people felt guilty about this recent past. When massive immigration began in Holland, which wasn't until the 1980s, there was a sense among the Dutch that society should behave with decency and understanding toward these people and accept their differences and beliefs.


But the result was that immigrants lived apart, studied apart, socialized apart. They went to separate schools—special Muslim schools or ordinary schools in the inner city, which other families fled.


At the Muslim schools there were no children from Dutch families. 


The little girls were veiled and often separated from the boys, either in the classroom or during prayer and sports. 


The schools taught geography and physics just like any school in Holland, but they avoided subjects that ran contrary to Islamic doctrine. Children weren't encouraged to ask questions, and their creativity was not stimulated. They were taught to keep their distance from unbelievers and to obey.


This compassion for immigrants and their struggles in a new country resulted in attitudes and policies that perpetuated cruelty. 


Thousands of Muslim women and children in Holland were being systematically abused, and there was no escaping this fact. Little children were excised on kitchen tables—I knew this from Somalis for whom I translated. Girls who chose their own boyfriends and lovers were beaten half to death or even killed; many more were regularly slapped around. The suffering of all these women was unspeakable. And while the Dutch were generously contributing money to international aid organizations, they were also ignoring the silent suffering of Muslim women and children in their own backyard.


Holland's multiculturalism—its respect for Muslims' way of doing things—wasn't working. 


It was depriving many women and children of their rights. Holland was trying to be tolerant for the sake of consensus, but the consensus was empty. The immigrants' culture was being preserved at the expense of their women and children and to the detriment of the immigrants' integration into Holland.


Many Muslims never learned Dutch and rejected Dutch values of tolerance and personal liberty. They married relatives from their home villages and stayed, inside Holland, in their tiny bubble of Morocco or Mogadishu.


I worked every day as an interpreter, before class, after class, on weekends. At night I translated documents, often reports on children with suspected learning disabilities. The child would be three years old, not talking, unable to play with educational toys like blocks and puzzles, did not recognize a pen. The mother would be young, uneducated, barely able to speak Dutch. There were medical reports on battered women or social workers' recommendations that children should be removed from their parents' homes. 


Twenty-five cents a word made seventy-five guilders a page. I could easily have quit school and made a very good living as a Somali interpreter for the rest of my life, but I didn't think of it for one minute.

………………..


SO  OUT  OF  THINKING  YOUR  DOING  A  GOOD  THING  IN  LETTING  MUSLIM  FAMILIES  INTO  YOUR  NON-MUSLIM COUNTRY,  INVARIABLY,  SOONER  OR  LATER  YOU  END  UP  LIKE  HOLLAND.


THE  MUSLAM  RELIGION  FROM  THE  QURAN,  AS  WE  HAVE  SEEN,  CLEARLY  AND  PLAINLY  SAY,  YOU  DO  NOT  MAKE  FRIENDS  WITH  DISBELIEVERS,  JEWS  AND  CHRISTIANS.


IT  IS  A  DIVISIVE,  ESTRANGING,   ISOLATING  RELIGION.


IT  IS  A  RELIGION  THAT  COCOONS  AND  ENVELOPS  ITSELF  FROM  OTHERS;  IF  MUSLIMS  DO  NOT  THEY  ARE  NOT  DEEP  ROOTED  OR  SINCERE  FOLLOWERS  OF  THE  QURAN.


A  NON-MUSLIM  COUNTRY  THAT  BRINGS  IN  MUSLIMS  BY  THE  CART  FULL,  WILL  END  UP  BEING  A  NON-INTERGRATED  PART OF  THE  POPULATION.


AND  SOME  OF  THOSE  CHILDREN  AS  THEY  GROW  INTO  TEENS,  WILL  BECOME  RADICALIZED  BY  ISIS  AND  OTHER  SUCH  GROUPS,  THROUGH  THE  COMPUTER,  SMART  PHONES  ETC.  THEY  WILL  WANT  TO  FOLLOW  FULLY  WHAT  THE  QURAN  TEACHES,  THAT  ALL  DISBELIEVERS,  JEWS  AND  CHRISTIANS,  ARE  THEIR  EVIL  ENEMIES,  AND  ISLAM  MUST  ONE  DAY  RULE  THE  WORLD.


Keith Hunt