Hirsi Ali’s Anti-Islamic Propaganda
says Hirsi Ali's book is as hateful as the "hate" she comdemns
these three countries, the Islam I experienced is never militant. For us
tolerance and peaceful coexistence with our neighbors who may be of other faiths
is the norm. Having had the foregoing experience, I find offensive Ali’s wild
allegations about Islam being backward and uncivilized.
Book Review By Nvasekie N. Konneh
[On Spiritual Matters]
At the time when Islam is under scrutiny everywhere in the world, with Islamic
militants and extremists everywhere in the news, any criticism of Islam,
especially by those who happen to have come from Islamic background, is a
celebrated cause, particularly in the West.
Their criticism of Islam is considered more authentic because they belong to the
faith or at some point they belonged to it.
This seemingly lifts the burden of being accused of prejudice from the shoulders
of Western critics. Many a time western critics of Islam have demanded to hear
the voices of moderation so as to counter the loud voices of the militants and
extremists who continue to damage the reputation of the religion by their
That’s where Ayaan Hirsi Ali comes in with her book, Infidel. The book is as
provocative as its title suggests. As an African Moslem, I have my own
reservation about the misinterpretation of Islam by these extremists, but I
won’t go as far as calling the religion a “backward religion’ like Hirsi is
saying in her propaganda.
For calling Islam a backward religion she is being hailed as a forthright
thinker and activist. She was placed on the list of Time magazine’s “100 Most
Influential People”; one of the Glamour magazine’s “Heroes of 2005,” and Reader
Digest’s “European of the Year.”
All these flattering honors simply for bad-mouthing Islam and giving a narrow
interpretation to it?
If her story was just limited to the fact that she is a refugee from Somalia who
rises to prominence and power as a Dutch parliamentarian, she would be worthy of
being celebrated as an immigrant success story. But again, the question is,
could her rise to prominence and power in the Netherlands be possible if she had
not become a poster child for provocative anti-Islamic rhetoric?
Reading through her experiences in Infidel, one senses that her view of Islam is
very narrow. Yes, she lived in Saudi Arabia, and Somalia which are predominantly
Moslem, and if her view of Islam is only influenced by what she experienced in
those two countries, she has done a disservice to scholarship.
This is so because her understanding does not show the diversity of Islam as may
be found from one place of the world to another. I grew up as a Moslem; my
entire background is Islamic; and I have experienced life in Liberia, Guinea,
Ivory Coast, and now the US. The Islam I have experienced in those areas is not
the same as Ali portrays in her book.
Of the three countries in Africa that I have lived in, Guinea is the only
predominantly Islamic country. Ivory Coast is 50-50 with Islamic dominated north
and Christian and African faiths dominated south. Liberia has 25% to 30% Moslem
population. In all these three countries, the Islam I experienced is never
For us tolerance and peaceful coexistence with our neighbors who may be of other
faiths is the norm. Having had the foregoing experience, I find offensive Ali’s
wild allegations about Islam being backward and uncivilized. And Ayaan Hirsi Ali
has offended lot of Moslems with her narrow analyses of the religion. What she
has experienced in Saudi Arabia and Somalia do not in any way speak for all
Moslems around the world.
Reading through her story, one may be tempted to say she hyped up wild stories
to support her asylum case in Holland. I won’t be surprised about this because
it is very common for asylum-seekers to make up stories in order to obtain
immigration benefits. As we all know now, there was a big controversy over the
fact that she lied to obtain her immigration status.
This led to her departure from the Dutch parliament. She was even stripped of
her citizenship as a result of falsification on her asylum documents. With this
book, Infidel, one may say she is continuing to hype up wild stories to gain
more sympathy from her Western supporters. She has to reject her culture,
demonize Islam, in her quest to become more Dutch than the Dutch themselves.
I would have agreed with her if she had made it clear that Islam is being
misinterpreted by these militants and extremists. I would have agreed with her
more if she had just criticized the misinterpretation of Islam by the militants
and the extremists.
In some of my own writings, I have made that clear. In one of my recent opinion
pieces published on my community website, I said that nothing is wrong with us
having different points of view as Moslems but “when we begin to pass judgment
on each other, going to the extent of assigning or sentencing others to hell
because we do not agree with them, that’s where we go wrong.”
I went on further to say that “for me, it boils down to tolerance. It will serve
us better if our scholars and imams were to exercise moderation in their
teaching and preaching so that we, their followers can better understand and
serve our God the right way.”
What I had expressed was social commentary, and not religious preaching. Some
fellow Moslems in my community have different views of my commentary. While some
in my community agreed with my comments, others expressed contrarian views
because they thought that I was “not an Islamic scholar to write any opinion on
Islam.” In any case, our relationship has not stopped because of it. We are
still good friends living in the same neighborhood. I am not expecting to wake
up one day to see someone wanting to harm me in any way. At least not here in
the United States or in Liberia.
What is so disappointing about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and her other
pronouncements whether in newspapers, radio, or television is that she refuses
to talk about the diversity of views in Islam. According to her, her father’s
Islam is a “non-violent religion” (179). According to her father’s version of
Islam, “There is no coercion in Islam and no human being has the right to punish
another for not observing his religious duties, only Allah can do that” (ibid).
At one point during her childhood when they lived in Saudi Arabia, she heard her
father saying of a certain practice: “This is not Islam, this is Saudi
perverting Islam” (51).
Her father is not alone in making the distinction between what is real Islam and
the misinterpretation of the militants and the extremists. So if Ayaan was aware
of this view from childhood, why would she make it look like Islam is a religion
that oppresses women when all along in the book she makes it clear that her
father was a loving husband who treated his wife, her mother, very well?
All and all reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book, Infidel has made me question her
sincerity, and her sense of intelligence. I feel like she wrote the book to
appeal to western interpretation, which confuses Islam with Arab extremism and
Truth be told, there is a struggle in Islam today between these extremists that
kill and maim people and the moderates who want peace just like any other group
of people. Ali’s career and her book put the moderate Moslems in a very
If you read her book and never read any other book by other Moslems, you come
out with the view that Islam and Moslems are so backward and incompatible with
the modern world. Contrary to that narrow-minded view, there are a lot of
thinkers and writers in the Islamic world that have addressed the same issues
with more clarity than she has done. It is ignorant of her to propagate that
Islam is “brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women.”
Islam like any organization based on ideology is susceptible to
misinterpretation by people with selfish motives. In this regard, it will be
fair to say that there are lots of people who have given their own
interpretation to the religion based on limited understanding. Such people of
limited thinking should be labeled as “backward.”
Conversely, there are many sound thinkers whose interpretation of Islam is
consistent with the norms of civilization. One sophisticated thinker and
intellectual that comes to mind is Naguib Mahfouz, the Nobel winning Egyptian
writer. On Islamic fundamentalism, here is what he says: “This poison has
nothing to do with Islam, but it is no less deadly for all of us” (Naguib
Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber, 110).
On women liberation, he has this to say: “Women liberation movements are
essential components of any renaissance in a people’s history. Society cannot
renew itself unless this is accompanied by a movement to liberate women” (127).
These two quotes from the renowned Egyptian writer should negate all the
falsehood Ayaan Ali is spreading in the world.
The story of women’s oppression is not new and certainly not limited to women in
Islamic countries. There is no culture that has never had a past or present that
oppresses women. There have been countless papers and books written on this
subject by women themselves as well as by men. For this article, I will present
two passages from a web article on the subject:
Since early times women have been uniquely viewed as a creative source of human
life. Historically, however, they have been considered not only intellectually
inferior to men but also a major source of temptation and evil. In Greek
mythology, for example, it was a woman, Pandora, who opened the forbidden box
and brought plagues and unhappiness to mankind. Early Roman law described women
as children, forever inferior to men.
Early Christian theology perpetuated these views. St. Jerome, a 4th-century
Latin father of the Christian church, said: "Woman is the gate of the devil, the
path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object.”
Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Christian theologian, said that woman was
"created to be man's helpmate, but her unique role is in conception . . . since
for other purposes men would be better assisted by other men.”
Should the foregoing paragraphs make one conclude that Christianity and other
cultures are uncivilized as Ayaan Ali would say of Islam? The fact is that
societies throughout the ages have been male-dominated. Through the continuous
struggle of feminist advocates, the conditions of women have improved over the
years. Some societies have surpassed others in terms of equal freedom for both
sexes. Even this diversity in terms of how women are treated is evident from one
Islamic country to another. Despite all the talk of the rising tide of Islamic
militancy in Pakistan, one thing that country can boast of is the fact that it
had at some point in its history elected a female prime minister, something that
is of rare occurrence even in the so called Western democratic nations.
All that one can say to Moslems and non-Moslems around the world is, don’t
believe the hype being pumped by the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She does not
speak for all the Moslems in the world. As I stated above, she must not confuse
Arab militancy and fanaticism with true Islam. While we may speak of Islamic
militants, it is also true that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become an anti-Islamic and
About the author: Black Star News columnist Nvasekie Konneh is a nine-year
veteran of the US Navy and the author of the book of poetry, “Going to War for
America.” He’s a community activist and chairman of the Liberian Writers Network
(LWN) and Editor in Chief of the Limany website. Besides writing, Nvasekie
Konneh is a music producer, promoter and CEO of the KonnLove Entertainment and
Production, based in Philadelphia, USA. Contact: KonnLove@aol.com or 215 869
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