Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's talk at Harvard plus Q and A

Hotair Audio: Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Harvard and pajamas media
Free Press Political Blogs on Hirsi & the Harvard Crimson

I Really Wonder What You Are Doing Here at Harvard

How can an atheist reform Islam?

What is your agenda?

Why are you speaking about Islam when you are not a theologian?

Isn't what you're doing extreme and dangerous and how is it serving the cause?

Why should a Muslim listen to you?

Aren't you setting up a straw man argument, saying that Muslims are

either good Muslims or they're Osama bin Laden?

Why are you only harping about Islam?

What about the Hindu texts?

From Miss Kelly; Most questions were to her were fairly hostile.
The Q&A afterwards demonstrated the forces that Ayaan is working against
Ayaan was unflappable and graceful in her responses.
"I speak about Islamic texts because that is what I know.

Religion is public, ideas are public.It is necessary and urgent to review, revise,
and discuss Islam as a body of ideas.It is time to examine the links between religion and values."

Here are some of Bridget´s? impressions at Roger Houston Ayaan Hirsi Ali's talk

Some people where complaining bitterly about the Ayaan Hirsi Ali's terrible bias. How could Harvard ask her to speak? She did not even offer the other side. She did not even discuss Islamic issues... I kid you not.

The venue was somewhat smaller than I had imagined it would be, considering the speaker. Ms. Ali has been suggested to be one of the most influential thinkers of our time and is perhaps the most hunted woman on the planet. With this in mind, I brought my husband, a US Marshal. Though he was not acting in an official capacity, he is always armed and always ready for the unthinkable.

The audience was subdued, quiet, yet politely hostile. Comprised mostly of Dutch students, there was a smattering of staunch supporters, a few French students, and many Muslims -perhaps half of the audience. Many of them left early, including the heavy set Pakistani girl who blathered on in an indulgent soliloquy, punctuating her monolog with phrases like, "I'm sure you would agree", and "Wouldn't you agree" so it seemed more like she was having a dialog than simply pontificating.

"When you come out in public, I'm not sure how you serve the cause. You are not an Islamic scholar. I think it is entirely your business, wouldn't you agree, but you are a public figure. I think you need to be more responsible; you do not have adequate scholarship."

Ms. Ali did not let her get away with it, either, "I am wondering if you could please tell me what your question was?", she asked, forcing the Pakistani girl to be more succinct.

She could not, so after accusing Ms. Ali of being inept, and "unscholarly", having the nerve to "recklessly bring this matter to the public", she left. But not before Ms Ali had replied,

"You were brought up a Muslim and I am a Muslim. I do not think it is responsible NOT to go public. The fact that the media is finally starting to come on to this problem... that's something. I do not think it is responsible not to go public about the values in Islam that underly the oppression of women. Living in an open society, religion is public. If you are engaged in a public debate, you can go public. So, I disagree with you."

A French student asked (very smarmily), "What is your position? You are an atheist trying to reform Islam?"
Ms. Ali replied, "I refuse to think in terms of identity. ...I have become a liberal. I feel that the freedoms of many people are under threat. I find that changing the position of women in Islam has become a priority for me. It is time we address the subjugation of women. It is time."

Overall, the audience was polite, though. Some of the questions even made sense. Well, sort of. Throughout all of the obligatory, pointless monolog-cum-pseudo-questions, Ms. Ali suffered in dignity. She was firm, resolute, and as patient as a mother is with ignorant children.

Her voice broke at one point when she reflected on her relationship with Theo Van Gogh.

When she was discussing her ideas for Submission Part One with Theo, she had wanted to use puppets, or placards. Theo said, "No, It is better if you put this idea in a film. I want to do this for you." His main problem with the project was not the danger, it was the utter lack of humor. "Maybe I'll save the humor for Parts Three and Four?", he joked.

"We thought everything was good after we finished filming. We could start Parts Two and Three. And then one morning, I got a phone call. Theo was," her voice faltered just a bit "...killed."

"So now I have to live with the fact that Theo Van Gogh is dead. Though I did not kill him, I have to live with the fact that he is dead."

"I had protection before Theo Van Gogh was killed. I have to do what these gentlemen tell me to do. I have to comply. I comply with things I am told by the authorities. The emphasis on security... it has made me more radical. I cannot be complacent. Let others do it, it will go away - I can't do that anymore."

She described herself at various times as a Muslim, an atheist, a women's rights advocate, a member of Parliament, a liberal, a refugee, and a rational being.

Rational being fit her best, I thought. She is rational. She is also very beautiful, poised, and has a firm handshake. There was a sadness to her, though she kidded and smiled. No matter her last name, she is a women of the West. She weighs information and scrutinizes it, holds it to her mind's crucible and determines if the matter is sound enough to be temporarily accepted, or, if it is too fanciful and backward, discarded with the the rest of the superstitious tripe. She is a scientist.

She described her life in the camp with other asylum seekers and what became a growing fascination:

"I am a Muslim", she began, "How on Earth was it possible for a non-western country to be so peaceful? I realized that we asylum seekers from Tunisia, from Somalia, from Iran, from Iraq, we from Muslim countries misunderstood Islam. In our countries, government terrorized you. Here, government served the people. Governments did nasty things to you, they terrorized you, they took your money. In the West, they did things like take your garbage away. It was unthinkable."

"The West appealed to my reason. I thought it was fascinating what humanity could accomplish. A good number of students who went through the refugee camp with me and then came to the West saw something else. The same things that fascinated me, infuriated them. They saw the West as an enemy of Islam."

"I thought to myself, these people (westerners) are the enemies of God? These people are in trouble with God, but they are doing things better than you? That became a curiosity for me. Who would believe these people are in trouble with God? I became more curious."

She described her job as an interpreter, which she held until becoming a member of Parliament. She found that she could not relate to the women she interpreted for. In Somalia, the situation for women was bad, without recourse. In the West, there was legal help, a woman could flee an abusive family and have the support of the government.

"I looked down on these women. In Holland, all you have to do is call the police. Here, we are all equal, I thought. In Somalia, you cannot run away from abuse."

Then she proceeded to explain that in Holland, now, the abusive man has community backing to abuse women.

"He would argue, That's my culture. That's my religion. The violence is just a symptom of it. And the police would back off. So Holland is not as equal as I thought."

On September Eleventh:

I was in a blissful state of mind. I had gotten rid of the cognitive dissonance. I was thirty one or thirty two at the time. If you really want to have a good time, you have to be in Amsterdam! At the time, I don't remember much about crime in Amsterdam. Everything was good... and then 9/11 happens. It was in the evening for us when it became clear that it was the Muslims behind it. I really followed it. I read the letters from Bin Laden and Atta on the internet, and it was all terribly familiar. This was Islam. I knew I had to find my own moral way through it.

"If you have a fight with God, he will take you to hell. I had to admit that I had been avoiding that fight. It is Islam, or it is not Islam. I am convinced that Islam can be performed by Muslims, that it can be compatible, and liberalized. The best way to begin this is to start a dialog with God."
"There are dogmas in Islam that are not compatible with open society."
"I wanted to make more Submissions. I wanted to challenge the concept of submission, the concept of God. I thought that it was time it shifted. Instead of blindly obeying Allah, you challenge Allah and ask, Is this really fair? Is this really moral? I was no longer afraid of the concept of hell."
Another Pakistani? girl challenged Ms. Ali with some shrill multi-culturalistic equivalence non-sense and was soundly defeated.

"Why aren't you concerned with domestic violence across the board? There is plenty of violence in America, (girl proceeded to prattle off some statistics about violence in the US, Hindu countries, etc.) which is a Christian country. Would you characterize domestic violence as a Christian problem? You don't talk to women, you talk about them."

Ms. Ali summoned strength and spared the twit her much needed evisceration.

"I sometimes talk to them. I do talk about women in other cultures. On March 8th I gave a speech in Köln. Look it up and you will see that there is an agenda against women in general. Female genital mutilation, girls dying in child birth because they are too young, Indian widows killed, I give an inventory. The rise of radical Islam is an important part of this. I feel I have the moral obligation to discuss the source. I think if I think you are enriching the debate if you question it, you are not the enemy of Islam. We can look elsewhere using reason to discover answer to these problems, and we do not have to abolish religion. But we must do it by finding a balance."

So, now I'll I have to do is meet Oriana Fallaci and I can say I have met my heroes and die happy. It was a joy seeing Ayaan Hirsi Ali in person. I only wish she were an American.

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