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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Breaking Through the Islamic Curtain Spectre is haunting Europe

Preface Excerpt From 'The Caged Virgin' at npr An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A Call for Change in Islam English translation by Jane Brown.

The attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, prompted the West to launch a massive appeal to Muslims around the world to reflect on their religion and culture. American President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and numerous other leaders in the West asked Muslim organizations in their countries to distance themselves from Islam as preached by these nineteen terrorists. This plea was met with indignation from Muslims who thought it was inappropriate to hold them responsible for the criminal conduct of nineteen young men. Yet the fact that the people who committed the attacks on September 11 were Muslims, and the fact that before this date Muslims in many parts of the world were already harboring feelings of immense resentment toward the United States in particular, have urged me to investigate whether the roots of evil can be traced to the faith I grew up with: was the aggression, the hatred inherent in Islam itself?

My parents brought me up to be a Muslim -- a good Muslim. Islam dominated the lives of our family and relations down to the smallest detail. It was our ideology, our political conviction, our moral standard, our law, and our identity. We were first and foremost Muslim and only then Somali. Muslims, as we were taught the meaning of the name, are people who submit themselves to Allah's will, which is found in the Koran and the Hadith, a collection of sayings ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad. I was taught that Islam sets us apart from the rest of the world, the world of non-Muslims. We Muslims are chosen by God. They, the others, the kaffirs, the unbelievers, are antisocial, impure, barbaric, not circumcised, immoral, unscrupulous, and above all, obscene; they have no respect for women; their girls and women are whores; many of the men are homosexual; men and women have sex without being married. The unfaithful are cursed, and God will punish them most atrociously in the hereafter.
When my sister and I were small, we would occasionally make remarks about nice people who were not Muslim, but my mother and grandmother would always say, "No, they are not good people. They know about the Koran and the Prophet and Allah, and yet they haven't come to see that the only thing a person can be is Muslim. They are blind. If they were such nice and good people, they would have become Muslims and then Allah would protect them against evil. But it is up to them. If they become Muslims, they will go to paradise."

There are also Christians and Jews who raise their children in the belief that they are God's chosen people, but among Muslims the feeling that God has granted them special salvation goes further.

About twelve years ago, at age twenty-two, I arrived in Western Europe, on the run from an arranged marriage. I soon learned that God and His truth had been humanized here. For Muslims life on earth is merely a transitory stage before the hereafter; but here people are also allowed to invest in their lives as mortals. What is more, hell seems no longer to exist, and God is a god of love rather than a cruel ruler who metes out punishments. I began to take a more critical look at my faith and discovered three important elements of Islam that had not particularly struck me before.

The first of these is that a Muslim's relationship with his God is one of fear. A Muslim's conception of God is absolute. Our God demands total submission. He rewards you if you follow His rules meticulously. He punishes you cruelly if you break His rules, both on earth, with illness and natural disasters, and in the hereafter, with hellfire.

The second element is that Islam knows only one moral source: the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad is infallible. You would almost believe he is himself a god, but the Koran says explicitly that Muhammad is a human being; he is a supreme human being, though, the most perfect human being. We must live our lives according to his example. What is written in the Koran is what God said as it was heard by Muhammad. The thousands of hadiths -- accounts of what Muhammad said and did, and the advice he gave, which survives in weighty books -- tell us exactly how a Muslim was supposed to live in the seventh century. Devout Muslims consult these works daily to answer questions about life in the twenty-first century.

The third element is that Islam is strongly dominated by a sexual morality derived from tribal Arab values dating from the time the Prophet received his instructions from Allah, a culture in which women were the property of their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, or guardians. The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen. Her veil functions as a constant reminder to the outside world of this stifling morality that makes Muslim men the owners of women and obliges them to prevent their mothers, sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and wives from having sexual contact. And we are not just talking about cohabitation. It is an offense if a woman glances in the direction of a man, brushes past his arm, or shakes his hand. A man's reputation and honor depend entirely on the respectable, obedient behavior of the female members of his family.

These three elements explain largely why Muslim nations are lagging behind the West and, more recently, also lagging behind Asia. In order to break through the mental bars of this trinity, behind which the majority of Muslims are restrained, we must begin with a critical self-examination. But any Muslim who asks critical questions about Islam is immediately branded a "deserter." A Muslim who advocates the exploration of sources for morality, in addition to those of the Prophet Muhammad, will be threatened with death, and a woman who withdraws from the virgins' cage is branded a whore.

Through my personal experiences, through reading a great deal and speaking to others, I have come to realize that the existence of Allah, of angels, demons, and a life after death, is at the very least disputable. If Allah exists at all, we must not regard His word as absolute, but challenge it. I once wrote about my doubts regarding my faith in the hope of starting a discussion. I was immediately confronted by zealous Muslims, men and women who wanted to have me excommunicated. They even went so far as to say that I deserved to die because I had dared to call into question the absolute truth of Allah's word. They took me to court to prevent me from criticizing the faith I had been born into, from asking questions about the regulations and gods that Allah's messenger has imposed upon us. An Islamic fundamentalist murdered Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who helped me make Submission: Part I, a film about the relationship between the individual and God, in particular about the individual woman and God. And he threatened to kill me, too, a threat that others have also pledged to fulfill.

Like other thinking people, I like to tap into sources of wisdom, morality, and imagination other than religious texts -- other books besides the Koran and accounts of the Prophet -- and I would like other Muslims to tap into them, too. Just because Spinoza, Voltaire, John Stuart Mill, Kant, or Bertrand Russell are not Islamic and have no Islamic counterparts does not mean that Muslims should steer clear of these and other Western philosophers. Yet, at present, reading works by Western thinkers is regarded as disrespectful to the Prophet and Allah's message. This is a serious misconception. Why should it not be permitted to abide by all the good things Muhammad has urged us to do (such as his advice to be charitable toward the poor and orphans), while at the same time adding to our lives and outlook the ideas of other moral philosophers? After all, the fact that the Wright brothers were not Islamic has not stopped Muslims from traveling by air. By adopting the technical inventions of the West without its courage to think independently, we perpetuate the mental stagnation in Islamic culture, passing it on from one generation to the next.

The most important explanation for the mental and material backlog we Muslims find ourselves in should probably be sought in the sexual morality that we are force-fed from birth (see chapter 3, "The Virgins' Cage"). I would like to invite all people like me who had an Islamic upbringing to compare and contrast J. S. Mill's essay "On the Subjection of Women" (1869) with what the Prophet Muhammad has to say on the subject of women. Both were undeniably interested in the role of women, but there is a vast difference between Muhammad and Mill. For instance, Mill considered his beloved wife an intellectual equal; Muhammad was a polygamist and wrote that men have authority over women because God made one superior to the other. Mill, a model of calm reason in the face of contentious issues, argued that if freedom is good for men, it is good for women, a position that today most of the modern world considers unassailable.

Yet any investigation into the Islamic trinity by a Muslim is thought to be an act of complete betrayal of the religion and the Prophet. It is extremely painful for a believer to try to question. And it is extremely painful for a believer to hear that other Muslims are questioning the Islamic trinity. Muslim's strong emotions and condemnations of people who do question the trinity impress outsiders, myself included, especially when they are expressed on a massive scale by entire communities and even nations, as has happened in Egypt, Iran, and Indonesia.

Think, for instance, of the murder of Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam, a Western city in a Western democracy, for exercising his free-speech rights to look critically at Islam in Submission: Part I, the film he and I made. While you may have heard of the death threats that have been made also against me for this film, you may not know that when I initially spoke on the immoral practices of the Prophet Muhammad, more than one hundred fifty complaints were made against me to the police and the government. Four ambassadors visited my party leaders -- ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Malaysia. They carried a letter attached to which was a list of twenty-one countries belonging to the Islamic Conference -- including Turkey -- that supported the letter. The main complaint in their letter was that I had insulted the Prophet and had deeply hurt the feelings of more than 1 billion Muslims. Death threats followed against me and also against the leader of my party when he refused to take seriously this complaint and evict me from Parliament.

Think also of the reaction to the Miss World beauty pageant in Nigeria in 2002. Religious extremists protested the holding of the contest and became violently inflamed when a Christian journalist in an independent newspaper suggested, in reply to the scolding question, What would the Prophet Muhammad make of this improper display of women's beauty and bodies?, that the Prophet may have chosen a new wife from the contestants had he been alive today. This was felt to be a grave insult to the Prophet. During the subsequent protests, the office of the newspaper was burned down; two hundred people were killed and at least five hundred were injured.

Think also of the aftermath of Newsweek's story in May 2005, of a 2002 FBI report made available to the journalist, that a soldier had flushed a Koran down a toilet at Guantánamo Bay, where Afghan and Pakistani soldiers suspected of being Taliban members are being held after capture in Afghanistan. Violent protests erupted in Pakistan and Afghanistan and lasted for several days; at least sixteen people were killed.

Think also of the situation that began in Denmark when the author of a biography of Muhammad wanted a drawing on his book jacket that represented the Prophet. All the artists he approached said, No, we can't do it; we fear Muslim reprisals and would fear for our lives. Hearing of the author's challenge, the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten asked cartoonists to depict the Prophet as a test of whether freedom of expression had been limited in Denmark as a result of Islamic terrorists. Twelve cartoonists agreed, and the newspaper published their images in September 2005. Muslim organizations immediately demanded an apology, which the editor-in-chief refused to make, saying that a democracy makes use of all means of expression, including satire, and the images were not intended to insult the Prophet or Muslims. Nonetheless, 3,000 of the 187,000 Muslims living in Denmark protested the paper, which had to post guards as a result of death threats. Eleven foreign ambassadors visited the paper to complain. Months later, in January 2006, Muslim countries began to boycott Danish products. The Danish economy lost some 90 million euros in about a week; companies were forced to lay off hundreds of employees. In February, newspapers in other European countries published the images in support of Denmark and freedom of the press. Islamic extremists attacked and burned the Danish embassy in Beirut; one person was killed. Other European embassies in Islamic countries were attacked. A Christian priest was killed by a Turkish man screaming "God is great." As protests were fomented around the world, violence increased and the death toll mounted. Some moderate Muslims who called for restraint in Islamic countries were silenced by their governments, even jailed. Yet European governments are seriously considering limiting the freedom of the press to discuss Islam; some newspaper editors were fired for printing the cartoons. The tragedy for many Muslims is that their inability to criticize the dogma of religion in their own countries will be continued in Europe.

I am amazed that Muslims are not more offended by the invocation of Allah and "God is great" for murder than by cartoons. Why do Muslims not fly into flights of rage when people who go to help Iraqis are kidnapped, tortured, and beheaded in the name of Islam? Political cartoons that point up problems with an extremist religion are used to manipulate people into violence instead of reflection and debate. Freedom of expression for Muslims is a one-way street; Muslims can criticize the West, but the West cannot criticize the practices of Islam.

I understand that a Muslim may feel a duty to scold anyone who attempts to call into question the absoluteness of God's word or someone who regards other sources of morality as equal, or superior even, to the Prophet Muhammad's. History shows that for many people to make a mental transition of this magnitude and question their beliefs is always a very slow process, and one that generates resistance and causes bloodshed. In this context I can place the murder of Theo van Gogh, the death threats and legal steps against me, and the intense rejection and condemnation of me as an individual, a heretic, and a blasphemer. Remember that the Protestant Reformation took many years of protest (the source of its name) as well as bloodshed and widespread unrest to establish itself firmly. A quick look at Islamic history shows us that critical voices from within Islam have almost all been either killed or exiled. I find myself in good company: Salman Rushdie, Irshad Manji, Taslima Nasreen, Muhammad Abu Zaid -- they all have been threatened by fellow believers and are now being guarded by non-Muslims.

Nonetheless we who were brought up with Islam must summon the courage to break through this wall of emotional resistance or to climb over it, until eventually the number of critics grows large enough to counterbalance the entrenched opposition effectively. In order to achieve this we will need the help of the liberal West, whose interests are greatly served by a reform of Islam. But above all, we Muslims must help each other.

I am feeling optimistic about that reform. I base my optimism on positive signs, like the local elections in Saudi Arabia (although women were excluded from these elections, at least the elections were held); the successful elections in Iraq and Afghanistan (where a secular government has taken over after the Taliban); the demonstrations against the terror of the Islamic Party by journalists and academics in Morocco; and the promising agreements between Sharon and Abbas about the future of Israel and Palestine. Abbas is more reasonable than the late Arafat and seems to act in the interest of the Palestinians, and Israel's giving back the land to the Palestinians for self-rule is good progress, although the election in which Hamas became the ruling party is a setback. Another indication of progress is Pakistan's acceptance of Israeli aid to the victims of the terrible October 8, 2005, earthquake. Of course, I realize that these are quite recent developments.

I am optimistic, and I normally would have looked to the West for help in reforming Islam, from secular liberals, Westerners who are traditionally opposed to the enforcement of religious beliefs and customs. In certain countries, "left-wing," secular liberals have stimulated my critical thinking and that of other Muslims. But these same liberals in Western politics have the strange habit of blaming themselves for the ills of the world, while seeing the rest of the world as victims. To them, victims are to be pitied, and they lump together all pitiable and suppressed people, such as Muslims, and consider them good people who should be cherished and supported so that they can overcome their disadvantages. The adherents to the gospel of multiculturalism refuse to criticize people whom they see as victims. Some Western critics disapprove of United States policies and attitudes but do not criticize the Islamic world, just as, in the first part of the twentieth century, Western socialist apologists did not dare criticize the Soviet labor camps. Along the same lines, some Western intellectuals criticize Israel, but they will not criticize Palestine because Israel belongs to the West, which they consider fair game, but they feel sorry for the Palestinians, and for the Islamic world in general, which is not as powerful as the West. They are critical of the native white majority in Western countries but not of Islamic minorities. Criticism of the Islamic world, of Palestinians, and of Islamic minorities is regarded as Islamophobia and xenophobia.

I cannot emphasize enough how wrongheaded this is. Withholding criticism and ignoring differences are racism in its purest form. Yet these cultural experts fail to notice that, throught their anxious avoidance of criticizing non-Western countries, they trap the people who represent these cultures in a state of backwardness. The experts may have the best of intentions, but as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

My own criticism of Islamic religion and culture is felt by some to be "harsh," "offensive," and "hurtful." But the attitude of the cultural experts is, in fact, harsher, and more offensive and hurtful. They feel superior and do not regard Muslims as equal discussion partners, but as the "others" who should be shielded. And they think that criticism of Islam should be avoided because they are afraid that Muslims can only respond to criticism with anger and violence. These cultural experts are badly letting down us Muslims who have obeyed the call to show our sense of public responsibility and are speaking out.

I have taken an enormous risk by answering the call for self-reflection and by joining in the public debate that has been taking place in the West since 9/11. And what do the cultural experts say? "You should have said it in a different way." But since Theo van Gogh's death, I have been convinced more than ever that I must say it in my way only and have my criticism.

Copyright ©2002, 2004 by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Augustus Publishers.
English translation copyright ©2006 by Jane Brown

AFTER THE CARNAGE OF THE terrorist bombings in London on July 7, 2005, Tony Blair defined the situation as a battle of ideas. “Our values will long outlast theirs,” he said, to the silent acquiescence of the world leaders who stood alongside him. “Whatever (the terrorists) do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.”

By defining this as a battle of values, Blair raised the question: which values are at stake? Those who love freedom know that the open society relies on a few key shared concepts. They believe that all humans are born free, are endowed with reason and have inalienable rights. These governments are checked by the rule of law, so that civil liberties are protected. They ensure freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, and ensure that men and women, homosexuals and heterosexuals, are entitled to equal treatment and protection under the law. And these governments have free-trade practices and an open market, and people may spend their recreational time as they wish.

The terrorists, and the Sharia-based societies to which they aspire, have an entirely different philosophical point of view. Societies that espouse the following of Sharia law, which is a code derived from a literalist reading of the Koran, are fundamentalist Islamists. They believe that people are born to serve Allah through a series of obligations that are prescribed in an ancient body of writings. These edicts vary from rituals of birth and funeral rites to the most intimate details of human life; they descend to the point of absurdity in matters such as how to blow your nose and with what foot to step into a bathroom. Humans in this philosophy must kill those among them who leave their faith, and are required to be hostile to people of other religions and ways of life. In their hostility, they are even sanctioned in the murder of innocent people. The edicts make no distinction between civilians and the military — anyone who does not share this faith is an infidel and can be marked for murder.

In this Sharia society women are subordinate to men. They must be confined to their houses, beaten if found disobedient, forced into marriage and hidden behind the veil. The hands of thieves are cut off and capital punishment is performed on crowded public squares in front of cheering crowds. The terrorists seek to impose this way of life not only in Islamic countries, but, as Blair said, on Western societies too.

The central figure in this struggle is not bin Laden, or Khomeini, or Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, or Sayyid Qutb (the Egyptian schools’ inspector whose ideas fed the minds of those who flew the planes on 9/11), but Muhammad. A pre-medieval figure to whom these four men — along with all faithful Muslims in our modern world — look for guidance, Muhammad and his teachings offer a fundamental challenge to the West. Faithful Muslims — all faithful Muslims — believe that they must emulate this man, in principle and practical matters, under all circumstances. And so, before we embark on a battle of ideas, we will need to take a look at this figure, and his presence in the daily lives and homes of faithful Muslims today.

On reading the Koran and the traditional writings, it is apparent that Muhammad’s life not only provides rules for the daily lives of Muslims, it also demonstrates the means by which his values can be imposed. Yet remnants from some of the earliest Korans in existence, dating from the 7th and 8th centuries, show small aberrations from the text that is now considered the standard Koran. Nonetheless, just as some fundamentalist Christians cannot understand that the Bible went through numerous changes, interpretations, and translations before it became the contemporary text now widely used, and consider it inerrant, many fundamentalist Muslims consider the Koran a perfect, timeless representation of the unchanging word of God.

To spread his visions and teachings, which he believed to be from God, and to consolidate his secular power, Muhammad built the House of Islam using military tactics that included mass killing, torture, targeted assassination, lying and the indiscriminate destruction of productive goods. This may be embarrassing, and even painful, for moderate Muslims to admit and to consider, but it is historical fact. And a close look at the propaganda produced by the terrorists reveals constant quotation of Muhammad’s deeds and edicts to justify their actions and to call on other Muslims to support their cause.

In their thinking about radical Muslim terrorism most politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and other commentators have avoided the core issue of the debate, which is Muhammad’s example. In order to win the hearts and minds of those millions of undecided Muslims, it is crucial to engage them in a process of clear thinking on how to evaluate the moral guidance of the man whose compass they follow. The advantage of this rational process is that it provides an alternative to the utopia as well as the hell promised by the terrorists. Indeed, the threat of Hell is the single most effective menace that the fundamentalists hold over the heads of young men and women in order to indoctrinate and intimidate them into violent action. Yet the literal translation of utopia is “not (a) place”, from the Greek “ou”, meaning not, or no, plus topos, meaning place. The dictionary defines a utopia as “an imaginary and indefinitely remote place”. The true alternative to such an impossible place is the open society, democracy, which has already been empirically proven to work. The open society gives Muslims, as it gives Christians and Jews, the opportunity to liberate themselves from the ever-present menace of Hell. The extremists tell the young people that they must defend their faith, avenge insults against Muhammad and the holy word of God, the Koran. What is it exactly that they think they are defending? A call for clear thought on this important question should not be offensive, or hurtful, to Muslims. And yet many people in the West flinch from doing so. The communis opinio now seems to hold that questioning or criticising a holy figure is not polite behaviour, somehow not done. This movement for cultural relativism within Western society betrays the basic values on which our open society is constructed. As thinking human beings, we should never censor our analytic thoughts; we should never censor our reason.

Along these lines, I would argue that Tony Blair should rethink his Bill against blasphemy. Years ago some British Muslims unsuccessfully called for Salman Rushdie to be tried under Britain’s blasphemy law after the publication of his controversial novel The Satanic Verses.

But the law recognised only blasphemy against the Church of England, Britain’s dominant, official religion. But in June 2005 the British Parliament approved government plans to outlaw incitement to religious hatred. This Bill was aimed primarily at preventing racism against Muslims in Britain.

Even though the Home Secretary argued that the Bill wasn’t about stopping people from making jokes about religion — which would be a tragedy in the land that gave birth to Monty Python — or stopping people from having robust debates about religion, it is unclear why this Bill was necessary. Inciting religious hatred is already against the law. And as the head of a civil rights group in Britain said: “In a democracy there is no right not to be offended.” He added that religion is related to a body of ideas and people have the right to debate and criticise other people’s ideas. Another activist fighting the Bill averred: “The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas — even if they are sincerely held beliefs — is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.”

Muslims in Europe and across the world may be seen as roughly dividing into three groups. Most visible are the terrorists, who resort to violence (and their allies, the fundamentalists, who do not kill or maim, but provide the terrorists with material and non-material or psychological assistance). Second, their polar opposite is a group of people (and although tiny, it is growing) which may be characterised by its questioning of the relevance and moral soundness of Muhammad’s example.

They may one day provide an intellectual counterweight to the terrorists and their supporters. I, who was born and bred a Muslim, count myself among them. We in this group have embraced the open society as a true alternative to a society based on the laws of Muhammad — a better way to build a framework for human life. We could call this group the reformers.

The terrorists have far more power and resources than the reformers, but both groups vie to influence the thinking of the vast majority of Muslims. The reformers use only nonviolent means, like writing, to draw attention to debates over core values. The terrorists and fundamentalists, however, use force, the threat of force, appeals to pity (“look at what the West is doing to Islam and Muslims”), and ad hominem smears to evoke a knee-jerk community to withdraw into self-defence.

In the West, these tactics give rise to moral relativists who defend so-called victims of Islamophobia; meanwhile, the reformists are shunned by their families and communities and live under the constant fear of assassination. In short, the core of the debate is made taboo, and the fundamentalists attain a near monopoly on the hearts and minds of the third and largest group of Muslims, the undecided.

Who are these “undecided” Muslims? They are the group to which Tony Blair refers when he says: “The vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding people.” They live in Edgware Road and Bradford, and in Amsterdam and St Denis; they are not fervent observers of every ritual of Islam, but they count themselves as believers. They are immigrants and second-generation youths who have come to the West to enjoy the benefits of the open society, in which they have a vested interest. But they do not question the infallibility of Muhammad and the soundness of his moral example. They know that Muhammad calls for slaughter of infidels; they know that the open society rightly condemns the slaughter of innocents. They are caught in a mental cramp of cognitive dissonance, and it is up to the West to support the reformists in trying to ease them out of that painful contradiction. The established Muslim organisations, which operate on government subsidy, offer no more than a cosmetic approach to eradicating terrorism inspired by the Prophet Muhammad — “peace be upon Him”, naturally.

The first victims of Muhammad are the minds of Muslims themselves. They are imprisoned in the fear of Hell and so also fear the very natural pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. There is as yet no consensus in the West on whether to support the side of the radical reformers. The present-day attitude of Western cultural relativists, who flinch from criticising Muhammad for fear of offending Muslims, allows Western Muslims to hide from reviewing their own moral values. This attitude also betrays the tiny majority of Muslim reformers who desperately require the support — and even the physical protection — of their natural allies in the West.

Muslims must review and reform their approach to Muhammad’s teachings if those who love freedom and the open society are to co-exist peacefully with them. The terrorists and their allies the fundamentalists should not dictate to us Westerners the rules of the game. We must maintain and proclaim our core values of free and open debate, of rational thinking, and the rule of law not religion. In this, the resolve of the British people to preserve civil rights is brave, and should be an example to all of us. The use of torture and the denial of legal rights to suspects of terrorism will serve only to corrupt Western systems and views of the West as a model of openness. Such actions also provide the terrorists with facts that serve as ammunition to prove their specious argument that the West is hypocritical and morally confused.

© Ayaan Hirsi Ali 2006


Awakening

In the preface to The Caged Virgin Ayaan Hirsi Ali describes how she came to question her upbringing

My parents in Somalia brought me up to be a Muslim — a good Muslim. Muslims, as we were taught the meaning of the name, are people who submit themselves to Allah’s will, which is found in the Koran and the Hadith, a collection of sayings ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad. I was taught that Islam sets us apart from the rest of the world, the world of non-Muslims. We Muslims are chosen by God. They, the others, the Kaffirs, the unbelievers, are antisocial, impure, barbaric, not circumcised, immoral, unscrupulous, and above all, obscene; they have no respect for women; their girls and women are whores; many of the men are homosexual; men and women have sex without being married. The unfaithful are cursed, and God will punish them most atrociously in the hereafter.

But, through my personal experiences, through reading a great deal and speaking to others, I have come to realise that the existence of Allah, of angels, demons, and a life after death, is at the very least disputable. If Allah exists at all, we must not regard His word as absolute, but challenge it.

From KUTV.com Salt Lake City A brief excerpt from a Dutch lawmaker's new book on Islam.
An excerpt from ``The Caged Virgin An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam,''
By Ayaan Hirsi Ali, published in the U.S. by Free Press:

I know my father loves me, but I have made a choice that radically opposes everything he stands for. ... I told him that I was making a stand for the rights of women in Islam. His reaction was: ``Make a stand for what you feel is right, but make sure you do it in God's name.'' The fact that I have now publicly denounced God is a terrible disappointment to him, one he can barely accept. By smearing Islam I have smeared his reputation and his honor. That is why he has turned away from me. I feel for him, but at the same time I am furious ... Every time he has had to make a choice between the community and his children, he has chosen the former. This hurts.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Blogger paul said...

Contents

Preface: Breaking Through the Islamic Curtain

1 Stand Up for Your Rights!: Women in Islam

2 Why Can't We Take a Critical Look at Ourselves?

3 The Virgins' Cage

4 Let Us Have a Voltaire

5 What Went Wrong?: A Modern Clash of Cultures

6 A Brief Personal History of My Emancipation

7 Being a Politician Is Not My Ideal

8 Bin Laden's Nightmare: Interview with Irshad Manji

9 Freedom Requires Constant Vigilance

10 Four Women's Lives

11 How to Deal with Domestic Violence More Effectively

12 Genital Mutilation Must Not Be Tolerated

13 Ten Tips for Muslim Women Who Want to Leave

14 Submission: Part I

15 The Need for Self-Reflection Within Islam

16 Portrait of a Heroine as a Young Woman

17 A Call for Clear Thinking

Notes

Index

4:35 AM  

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