From  Ayaan  Hirsi  Ali’s  book


ALI  HAS  NOW  BEEN  WORKING  IN HOLLAND  FOR  A  NUMBER  OF  YEARS…… HERE  COMES  9/11 -2001  AND  HER  THOUGHT  ON  ISLAM  RELIGION  AND  MIND-SET -  all  black  letting  is  mine  -  Keith Hunt

……..On September 3, I started work. The Labor Party's think tank was a small office, and I was just a junior researcher. My first task was to work on immigration, which I was beginning to see as the most important question facing Holland in the twenty-first century. I wasn't looking at Islam as a central question yet but studying migration, its causes, and the implications for a welfare state of absorbing all these new migrants. Should the Labor Party support more restrictive policies on immigration?

Holland wanted to keep its welfare state, but it clearly could not afford to offer its benefits to the whole world. They had to have some kind of restrictions on entry; the question was what. I planned to arrange a discussion among experts and organize their papers into a book. I was not writing policy, but I was required to nurture and expand the think tank's network of experts and do research for them; they would deliver a road map on how to deal with the question. 

How did other countries manage immigration, and how much migration could a welfare state absorb and still remain a welfare state?

One afternoon, in my second week of working at the Labor Party, I was reading old reports when a commotion erupted downstairs. I walked down to see what could be making so much noise, determined to tell these people to be quiet.

A clump of people huddled around the TV, which was tuned to CNN. I sighed. In those days I was prejudiced against America, and the American media. At Leiden I had even written a paper on media hype, using the Monica Lewinsky debacle as an example. During Bill Clinton's impeachment, CNN had constantly reported LIVE with BREAKING NEWS on completely trivial aspects of Clinton's sex life; the holier-than-thou manner of Kenneth Starr, Clinton's nemesis, always reminded me disagreeably of Ijaabo. Simply by devoting so much attention to this issue the media had made it seem important, and the whole episode left me with the impression that Americans were hysterical.

So when I saw the BREAKING NEWS banner that afternoon, I thought CNN had unearthed another minor event to bang its drum about. But as I stood there the second plane hit the World Trade Center. The anchorwoman was saying that it might not be an accident—that the two crashes might be a deliberate attack. Again and again we watched the horrific footage of planes hitting the towers. 

I found myself screwing my eyes tight shut and thinking, in Somali, "Oh Allah, please let it not be Muslims who did this."

I knew this could ignite a major world conflict. When I got home from work I told Ellen, "The Americans are going to retaliate. They are not like the Dutch—they are not going to say, 'Let's sit down and talk about this.' It will be the third world war." Ellen told me not to get so overwrought.

But that night we saw news footage that shocked me further. In Holland itself—in Ede, in the town I had lived in—a camera crew who happened to be filming on the streets just after the towers were hit recorded a group of Muslim kids jubilating. All of Holland was shaken by that, but I was far more frightened than most. Ellen kept telling me, "They were just kids, it's been overblown, if the cameras hadn't been there it wouldn't have happened." But I knew, inside, that the cameras just caught a part of it. If there had been more cameras in other neighborhoods they would have seen it there, too.

The morning after the 9/11 attacks, after getting off my commuter train, I found myself walking to the office with Ruud Koole, the chairman of the Labor Party. Ruud had been one of my teachers at Leiden. He greeted me by my first name—there isn't much hierarchy in Holland— and, like everyone in the world, we began talking about the Twin Towers attack. Ruud shook his head sadly about it all. He said, "It's so weird, isn't it, all these people saying this has to do with Islam?"

I couldn't help myself. Just before we reached the office, I blurted out, "But it is about Islam. This is based in belief. This is Islam."

Ruud said, "Ayaan, of course these people may have been Muslims, but they are a lunatic fringe. We have extremist Christians, too, who interpret the Bible literally. Most Muslims do not believe these things. To say so is to disparage a faith which is the second largest religion in world, and which is civilized, and peaceful."

I walked into the office thinking, "I have to wake these people up." 

It wasn't just Koole by any means. Holland, this fortunate country where nothing ever happens, was trying to pretend nothing had happened again. The Dutch had forgotten that it was possible for people to stand up and wage war, destroy property, imprison, kill, impose laws of virtue because of the call of God. That kind of religion hadn't been present in Holland for centuries.

It was not a lunatic fringe who felt this way about America and the West. 

I knew that a vast mass of Muslims would see the attacks as justified retaliation against the infidel enemies of Islam. War had been declared in the name of Islam, my religion, and now I had to make a choice. Which side was I on? I found I couldn't avoid the question. Was this really Islam? Did Islam permit, even call for, this kind of slaughter? Did I, as a Muslim, approve of the attack? And if I didn't, where did I stand on Islam?

I walked around with these questions for weeks; I couldn't get them out of my head. I became fixated on the 9/11 attacks. I combed through newspapers, searched the Internet. I saw how many demonstrations around the world took place, actively in open support of Osama Bin Laden. In northern Nigeria, hundreds of people were killed in communal riots. World leaders hurried to TV stations, calling on Muslims to condemn the attacks. There seemed to be a huge appeal to the morals of Islam. All sorts of articles called on Muslims to stand up and say that Islam does not permit this sort of slaughter of noncombatants. When I read them, I felt as though these articles were talking to me.

Mohamed Atta, the hijackers' leader, had instructed them on how to "die as a good Muslim." He used the prayer every Muslim utters when he is dying: he asks Allah to stand by him as he comes to Him. 

I read it and I recognized it. Everything about the tone and substance of that letter was familiar to me. This was not just Islam, this was the core of Islam. Mohamed Atta believed that he was giving his life for Allah.

Mohamed Atta was exactly my age. I felt as though I knew him, and in fact, I did know many people just like him. The people in the debating center I had attended in Nairobi, for example: they would have written that letter, if they had had the courage to do what Atta did. If I had remained with them, perhaps I could have done it, or perhaps Ijaabo would have. There were tens of thousands of people, in Africa, the Middle East—even in Holland—who thought this way. Every devout Muslim who aspired to practice genuine Islam—the Muslim Brotherhood Islam, the Islam of the Medina Quran schools—even if they didn't actively support the attacks, they must at least have approved of them. This wasn't just a band of frustrated Egyptian architects in Hamburg. It was much bigger than that, and it had nothing to do with frustration. It was about belief.

Infuriatingly stupid analysts—especially people who called themselves Arabists, yet who seemed to know next to nothing about the reality of the Islamic world—wrote reams of commentary. 

Their articles were all about Islam saving Aristotle and the zero, which medieval Muslim scholars had done more than eight hundred years ago; about Islam being a religion of peace and tolerance, not the slightest bit violent. These were fairy tales, nothing to do with the real world I knew.

Everything in the newspapers was "Yes, but": yes, it's terrible to kill people, but People theorized beautifully about poverty pushing people to terrorism; about colonialism and consumerism, pop culture and Western decadence eating away at people's culture and therefore causing the carnage. But Africa is the poorest continent, I knew, and poverty doesn't cause terrorism; truly poor people can't look further than their next meal, and more intellectual people are usually angry at their own governments; they flock to the West. I read rants by antiracist bureaus claiming that a terrible wave of Islamophobia had been unleashed in Holland, that Holland's inner racist attitude was now apparent. None of this pseudointellectualizing had anything to do with reality.

Other articles blamed the Americans' "blind" support for Israel and opined that there would be more 9/1l's until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved. I didn't completely believe this either. I myself, as a teenager, might have cheered the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and the Palestinian dispute was completely abstract to me in Nairobi. If the hijackers had been nineteen Palestinian men, then I might have given this argument more weight, but they weren't. None of them was poor. None of them left a letter saying there would be more attacks until Palestine was liberated. This was belief, I thought. Not frustration, poverty, colonialism, or Israel: it was about religious belief, a one-way ticket to Heaven.

Most articles analyzing Bin Laden and his movement were scrutinizing a symptom, a little like analyzing Lenin and Stalin without looking at the works of Karl Marx. The Prophet Muhammad was the moral guide, not Bin Laden, and it was the Prophet's guidance that should be evaluated. But what if I didn't like the outcome of that analysis? What would I do then?

Videotapes of old interviews with Osama Bin Laden began running on CNN and Al-Jazeera. They were filled with justification for total war on America, which, together with the Jews, he perceived as leading a new Crusade on Islam. Sitting in a dainty house in picture-perfect Leiden, I thought it sounded far-fetched, like the ravings of a madman, but Bin Laden's quotes from the Quran resonated in my brain: “When you meet the unbelievers, strike them in the neck." "If you do not go out and fight, God will punish you severely and put others in your place." “Wherever you find the polytheists, kill them, seize them, besiege them, ambush them." "You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as friends; they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them." Bin Laden quoted the hadith: "The Hour [of Judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them."

I didn't want to do it, but I had to: I picked up the Quran and the hadith and started looking through them, to check. I hated to do it, because I knew that I would find Bin Laden's quotations in there, and I didn't want to question God's word. But I needed to ask: Did the 9/11 attacks stem from true belief in true Islam? And if so, what did I think about Islam?

Osama Bin Laden said, "Either you are with the Crusade, or you are with Islam," and I felt that Islam all over the world was now in a truly terrible crisis. Surely, no Muslim could continue to ignore the clash between reason and our religion? For centuries we had been behaving as though all knowledge was in the Quran, refusing to question anything, refusing to progress. We had been hiding from reason for so long because we were incapable of facing up to the need to integrate it into our beliefs. And this was not working; it was leading to hideous pain and monstrous behavior.

We Muslims had been taught to define life on earth as a passage, a test that precedes real life in the Hereafter. In that test, everyone should ideally live in a manner resembling, as closely as possible, the followers of the Prophet. Didn't this inhibit investment in improving daily life? Was innovation therefore forbidden to Muslims? Were human rights, progress, women's rights all foreign to Islam?

By declaring our Prophet infallible and not permitting ourselves to question him, we Muslims had set up a static tyranny. The Prophet Muhammad attempted to legislate every aspect of life. By adhering to his rules of what is permitted and what is forbidden, we Muslims suppressed the freedom to think for ourselves and to act as we chose. We froze the moral outlook of billions of people into the mind-set of the Arab desert in the seventh century. We were not just servants of Allah, we were slaves.

The little shutter at the back of my mind, where I pushed all my dissonant thoughts, snapped open after the 9/11 attacks, and it refused to close again, I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. It is one version of events, as perceived by the men who wrote it 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad died. And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war.

The Prophet did teach us a lot of good things. I found it spiritually appealing to believe in a Hereafter. My life was enriched by the Quranic injunctions to be compassionate and show charity to others. There were times when I, like many other Muslims, found it too complicated to deal with the whole issue of war against the unbelievers. 

Most Muslims never delve into theology, and we rarely read the Quran; we are taught it in Arabic, which most Muslims can't speak. As a result, most people think that Islam is about peace. It is from these people, honest and kind, that the fallacy has arisen that Islam is peaceful and tolerant.

But I could no longer avoid seeing the totalitarianism, the pure moral framework that is Islam. It regulates every detail of life and subjugates free will. True Islam, as a rigid belief system and a moral framework, leads to cruelty. 

The inhuman act of those nineteen hijackers was the logical outcome of this detailed system for regulating human behavior. Their world is divided between "Us" and "Them"—if you don't accept Islam you should perish.

It didn't have to be this way. The West underwent a period of religious warfare and persecution, but then society freed itself from the grip of violent organized religion. I assumed—I still assume—that the same process could occur among the millions of Muslims. 

We Muslims could shed our attachment to those dogmas that clearly lead to ignorance and oppression. In fact, I thought, we were lucky: there were now so many books that Muslims could read them and leapfrog the Enlightenment, just as the Japanese have done. We could hold our dogmas up to the light, scrutinize them, and then infuse traditions that are rigid and inhumane with the values of progress and modernity. We could come to terms with individual expression.

For me to think this way, of course, I had to make the leap to believing that the Quran was relative—not absolute, not the literal syllables pronounced by God, but just another book. I also had to reject the idea of Hell, whose looming prospect had always frightened me from making any criticism of Islam. I found myself thinking one night, "But if that is so, then what do I believe, truly, about God?"


Around this time, Abshir, the young imam from Somalia, once again contacted me. He had been living in Switzerland for some years, and had just been hospitalized; he was set to undergo heart surgery the next day.

We talked about September 11, of course. I told Abshir, "All these statements that Bin Laden and his people quote from the Quran to justify the attacks—I looked them up; they are there. If the Quran is timeless, then it applies to every Muslim today. This is how Muslims may behave if they are at war with infidels. It isn't just about the battles of Uhud and Badr in the seventh century."

Abshir said, "You're right, and I'm just as confused as you. I'm being operated on for my heart, but it's my head that's hurting." He told me he had begun attending talks on Islam in Geneva by the French Islamic philosopher Tarek Ramadan. Ramadan is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood. After these talks, Abshir said, "I find I'm even more confused. He talks in circles. He says things like ‘The Prophet has declared Islam is peace, therefore it's peace.' "

I said, “Yes, but those verses about peace in the Quran apply only to life among the Muslims. The Prophet also said ‘Wage war on the unbelievers.' Who are the unbelievers, and who gives the signal to wage war?"

"It's certainly not Bin Laden who's the authority," Abshir said. "We can't wage war against a whole hemisphere where Muslims aren't in control."

I broke in, "Abshir, if we say the Quran is not timeless, then it's not holy, is it?"

He said, “What are you talking about?"

I told him, "I'm sorry, but I think I'm on the brink of becoming an apostate. I'm finding it more and more difficult to believe."

There was silence on the other end of the phone. Then Abshir said, "This thing has confused us all. You're living with a lot of stress. It's always difficult to maintain perspective in the context of a non-Islamic country. Give yourself a break, take some time off. You need to get back in touch with our family, with our kinsmen. You're too isolated from the Osman Mahamud. Ayaan, if you think about this, you risk Hell."

I said, "But if I'm questioning the holiness of the Quran, that means I also question the existence of Hell and Heaven."

Abshir said, "That's impossible."

I told him, "It's not just that. All these angels and djinns—I may be very underdeveloped in my understanding of the exact sciences, but I still see no proof of their existence. Abshir, looking at the paintings here in the West, are these the angels, beings in white dresses with chubby cheeks?"

Abshir said, "No, Muslim angels are totally different. They don't have wings."

I said, “You know I am now going to ask you what they look like, and you will tell me you don't know, because Allah reveals things in His time."

Abshir said, "I love you. I, too, am confused. This has had a huge impact on all of us. Please, don't do this, Ayaan. Give yourself a break."

I wished him lots of luck and the moral strength to find a way out of this dilemma. Abshir was intelligent, compassionate, and generous, but he was scared. Scared of the angel who would visit him after he died to interrogate him on his loyalty to Allah and the Prophet. He was scared of failing that exam, and of the endless hellfire that would await him. We hung up awkwardly. I knew I wouldn't be talking to him again.


In November 2001, I attended a debate at The Balie, a discussion house in Amsterdam. It was organized by Letter and Spirit, the review section of the newspaper Trouw, which was run by two men, Jaffe Vink and Chris Rutenfrans, and was fast becoming something of a forum for discussion of the relationship between Islam and the West. 

Letter and Spirit published all kinds of articles by people who didn't necessarily share the mainstream view that Islam was a peaceful, Aristotle-rescuing movement. At The Balie, the discussion was entitled "The West or Islam: Who Needs a Voltaire?"

The speakers, one after another, supported the premise that another Voltaire is needed in the West. They pointed out everything that is wrong with the West: the arrogance of invading other countries, and neocolonialism, and the decadence of a system that had created societies that only consume, and so on. It was the usual. Then came Afshin Ellian, from Iran, a professor of penal law at Amsterdam University, who eloquently proposed that Islam needed critical renewal.

It was time for general debate in the audience. 

Most people seemed to agree with the speakers who had criticized the West in some aspect or other. I decided to speak. I raised my hand for the microphone and said, "Look at how many Voltaires the West has. Don't deny us the right to have our Voltaire, too. Look at our women, and look at our countries. Look at how we are all fleeing and asking for refuge here, and how people are now flying planes into buildings in their madness. Allow us a Voltaire, because we are truly living in the Dark Ages."

When I finished, the room was full of raised hands, many of them Muslim. This was Amsterdam; lots of people attend these talks, so their presence at this debate was natural. But almost all of them seemed very angry with me and Afshin Ellian. 

They went on about Averroes and saving Aristotle, and how Islam discovered the zero, and so on. It was irritating. So what has happened in Islamic civilization since the year 1200? But I couldn't just take charge of the microphone; I could only roll my eyes and curl my lip.

When the debate ended, Afshin came up to me and said, "You're a little Voltaire yourself. Where did you spring from?"

I said, "I'm from Somalia," and Afshin said, "I just know our Muslim civilization will be saved by a woman." He was very nice. He was a refugee himself.


While we were talking, Chris Rutenfrans, one of the editors of the Trouw supplement, came up to us. He introduced himself and said to me, "Why don't you write us an article about these ideas, just as you said them here?"

I said I would be delighted, and in the next few days I worked furiously. But I was not allowed to publish articles without showing them to my boss at the Wiardi Beckman office, because the newspaper would identify me as a researcher there. A few days later, I showed my draft of the article to my director, Paul Raima. He was annoyed. We were a think tank, we were paid to think, and of course he was in favor of freedom of expression, he told me; but I couldn't possibly say such things. It would harm the Labor Party. Even if I signed it with just my name, no affiliation to the Institute at all, the minute a Muslim published such an article, all the racists and Islamophobes would seize on it.

I told Paul, "That's not relevant, because when something is true, it is true." But it was a sensitive time in Dutch politics. Pirn Fortuyn, a complete unknown in Dutch politics, had begun a meteoric rise in popularity on the basis of his accurate observation that ethnic minorities didn't sufficiently espouse Dutch values. Fortuyn pointed out that Muslims would soon be the majority in most of Holland's major cities; he said they mostly failed to accept the rights of women and homosexuals, as well as the basic principles that underlie democracy. Rather than dealing forthrightly with the issues that Fortuyn raised, the Labor Party had basically decided to avoid them.

Paul Kalma was honest, and a good person; there was a lot of affection between us. He was seeking to protect me, to prevent me from pandering to racists by voicing right-wing views. So he edited my article until he was comfortable that potential racists would not be able to abuse it.

In those days, especially in Labor Party circles, people were always positive about Islam. 

If Muslims wanted mosques and separate graveyards and ritual slaughterhouses, such things were built. Community centers were provided.

Islamic fundamentalist ideas were swelling in such centers, but Labor Party people usually dismissed this as a natural reaction. These immigrants had been uprooted, they said; they were clinging, temporarily, to traditional ideas, which would gradually fade away. They forgot how long it had taken Europe to shake off obscurantism and intolerance, and how difficult that struggle was.

When Somalis told me they didn't want to live gaalo neighborhoods, I knew they wanted to avoid contact with the ungodliness of Holland. 

But Dutch officials always saw it as a natural desire to form a community. When Muslims wanted their own school, I saw it as forcing children to obey ideas unquestioningly; the Dutch saw no harm in funding them. When satellite dishes began bristling from every apartment in municipal housing projects, tuned to Moroccan and Turkish TV, my Labor Party colleagues saw this as a natural desire to maintain contact with home.

But with the dishes came preaching, indoctrination. There were door-to-door preachers passing out cassettes in most Dutch cities, just like Boqol Sawm did in Eastleigh. Most migrant neighborhoods had shops selling traditional clothes and carpets and tapes, DVDs, and books on how to be a good Muslim in infidel territory. When the number of women wearing headscarves on the street became impossible to ignore, my Labor Party colleagues thought it was only recent immigrants, who would soon abandon the practice. They failed to realize that it was the second generation, who were rediscovering their "roots," brainwashed by jargon I recognized: tawheed, kufr, the evil Jews.

After my article was published I received dozens of letters from readers applauding me: "How wonderful that someone like you exists. Have you heard of Spinoza?" I received an invitation to speak at a symposium on Spinoza at the Thomas Mann Institute. I went back to my Enlightenment textbooks and read about Spinoza and figured people were probably connecting us because we were both refugees. (Spinoza's family emigrated to Holland in the 1600s to flee the Inquisition in Portugal.)

I received several other invitations to speak, one of which was in the little Dutch city of Hengelo; they invited me to give their fiftieth annual freedom and human rights speech in December. The title of the evening was "Should We Fear Islam?" I told Paul Kalma about it, and he said, "What is your answer?" I said, "Well, it's yes and no," and he said Fine, I should attend.


I was nervous. I had never written a speech before. I showed what I had written to Chris Rutenfrans from Trouw. He wanted to publish it; I asked him to let me give the speech first. But when I asked Paul for permission, and showed him what I'd said, he went scarlet. He told me I was personally attacking the minister for integration, and even the mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, who was prominent in our own Labor Party. (Actually, my intent was more like teasing them for being so silly as to think that Muslims would integrate best if the Dutch indulged every kind of Muslim self-segregation.) Paul said he had a duty to protect me from writing this right-wing stuff.

Everything I wrote about Islam turned out to be much more sensitive than any other topic I could have chosen to write about. I changed a couple of terms: I was learning that in these extremely civilized circles, conflict is dealt with in a very ornate and hypocritical manner.

When I told Chris Rutenfrans I had another draft, he realized right away that my boss had advised me to tone it down. He called Paul, and they had a shouting match. The next weekend, the revised article appeared in Trouw. But a week later Jaffe Vink, Rutenfrans's coeditor at the supplement, wrote an article about the quarrel. He quoted all the material that Paul made me remove, such as comparing Job Cohen to an ayatollah.

Two days later there was a board meeting at the Wiardi Beckman Institute, with Job Cohen himself, and my article—and Vink's piece in Trouw—was on the agenda. I just kept quiet. Paul Kalma told the board, "Ayaan is just starting out. She's sharp, but she shouldn't have gone so far." Cohen asked him, "This description of your quarrel in Trouw, is it true?" Paul said, "Of course I didn't want her to write this sort of personal attack. We're members of the same party. A conflict of opinion should be solved behind closed doors, not in a newspaper."

Cohen snapped, "If she wants to write it she should write it. I don't mind in the least being called an ayatollah; what I mind is censorship." He looked at me and said, "I've read what you said, and I want the opportunity to say I don't agree with you. This is an institute for thought. As long as it's well argued, you should be able to write what you want." He blew me away with his open-mindedness.

Cohen went on to say that the Labor Party needed more thinking about these subjects. He had been the junior minister for migration policy, and he said immigration wasn't so much the issue: people should be focusing now on the shocking deficit in integrating the children and grandchildren of immigrants into Dutch society. He said, "Ayaan, why don't you look into that for us?" I thought he was a hero.


I began reading everything I could lay my hands on about immigration and integration. 

Basically, I saw the problem as similar to those of the miye—the rural, poor lands—being brought to the city. European societies, with their thrilling technology, easy money, and bright lights, were decadent and tempting and unassailable, their codes a cipher. The question was how to adapt.

In February I attended a conference on Islam in Europe held by the European Social Democrat Parties in Granada, Spain. All present seemed to think that it would be easy to set up the institutions for a European Islam in peace and harmony. They seemed clouded by wishful thinking rather than operating with rigorous analysis. A tiriy community of so-called experts on immigration in Europe had been quoting each other for decades, it appeared: they shared an approach that was essentially socioeconomic. I thought we also needed a broader, cultural analysis of immigrant integration. In the past, Dutch social democrats had blamed the Catholic Church for keeping people poor and ignorant. I was only a junior researcher, but I thought to myself, "When are they going to look at Islam?"

Surely Islam was some kind of influence in the underperforming segregation of so many immigrants in Holland? As I went on doing research, it became painfully apparent that of all the non-Western immigrants in Holland, the least integrated are Muslims. Among immigrants, unemployment is highest for Moroccans and Turks, the largest Muslim groups, although their average level of skills is roughly the same as all the other immigrant populations. Taken as a whole, Muslims in Holland make disproportionately heavy claims on social welfare and disability benefits and are disproportionately involved in crime.

If Muslim immigrants lagged so far behind even other immigrant groups, then wasn't it possible that one of the reasons could be Islam? 

Islam influences every aspect of believers' lives. 

Women are denied their social and economic rights in the name of Islam, and ignorant women bring up ignorant children. Sons brought up watching their mother being beaten will use violence. Why was it racist to ask this question? Why was it antiracist to indulge people's attachment to their old ideas and perpetuate this misery? The passive, Insh'Allah attitude so prevalent in Islam—"if Allah wills it"—couldn't this also be said to affect people's energy and their will to change and improve the world? If you believe that Allah predestines all, and life on earth is simply a waiting room for the Hereafter, does that belief have no link to the fatalism that so often reinforces poverty?

I recommended that the think tank organize a body of experts to look more deeply into whether high unemployment, crime, and social problems among migrants were also caused by cultural issues—including Islam. Once we perceived these cultural causes of immigrants' misery, we could try to shift this mentality through open debate and real education.

Most women in Holland could walk the streets on their own, wear more or less what they liked, work and enjoy their own salaries, and choose the man they wished to marry. They could attend a university, travel, purchase property. 

And most Muslim women in Holland simply couldn't. 

How could you say that Islam had nothing to do with that situation? And how could that situation be in any way acceptable?

When people tell me it is wrong to make this argument—that it is offensive, that it is inopportune at this particular moment—my sense of basic justice is outraged. 

When, exactly, will it be the right time? 

Dutch parents breed their daughters to be self-reliant; many, perhaps most, Muslim parents breed them to be docile and submissive. As a result, immigrants' children and grandchildren don't perform in the same way as Dutch young people.

I thought about Johanna and how she explained things to her children, showed them how to make good decisions and stand up for themselves. Her husband was involved in their upbringing; Johanna was a self-reliant woman who chose her own partner and how many children they would have, and when. Clearly she was a very different kind of mother from a twenty-year-old Somali woman in a housing project. Why were we not allowed to look into the impact of such factors on children?

The Dutch government urgently needed to stop funding Quran-based schools, I thought. Muslim schools reject the values of universal human rights. All humans are not equal in a Muslim school. Moreover, there can be no freedom of expression or conscience. These schools fail to develop creativity—art, drama, music—and they suppress the critical faculties that can lead children to question their beliefs. They neglect subjects that conflict with Islamic teachings, such as evolution and sexuality. They teach by rote, not question, and they instill subservience in girls. They also fail to socialize children to the wider community.

That raised a dilemma. Holland's constitution itself permits faith-based schools, in Article 23. If the authorities were to close down only Muslim schools, permitting other forms of private schooling to continue, that would be discrimination. I thought it was time to start a debate on the funding of all faith-based schools. Holland has become an immigrant society, with citizens from all kinds of non-Western backgrounds: Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim. Perhaps everyone, native Dutch children, too, should learn to understand and grow up alongside children from all other backgrounds. Perhaps Article 23 of the Constitution should be abolished. Government funds would be better used setting up schools that are ideologically neutral and encourage kids to question and respect pluralism.

I was making Paul Kalma nervous about my views on education. I no longer sounded right-wing to him; I sounded positively communist. 

"Do you realize what Article 23 of the Constitution means to Holland, and to the feelings of the average Dutch person?" he asked me. "Don't you know the history of conflict that preceded it? Do you honestly imagine that article will be modified just because of the integration question?"

I said, "Oh, so we are no longer a think tank? Aren't we supposed to think things through? The arrival of migrants in this country is going to affect the heart of Dutch society, and it's time to face that."

I miss those days—those sharp but friendly discussions………






Keith Hunt