Sunday, May 21, 2006
OF COAL MINES AND CANARIES
've been meaning to write something on the recent trials and tribulations of one of our planet's most courageous women, the Somalia-born, now former member of the Dutch parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Virtually unknown outside Holland before the shocking murder of her friend, film maker Theo van Gogh, on an Amsterdam street by a crazed Islamist punk, her profile rose sharply as the next stated target. Ali and van Gogh had produced the first part of a film project called "Submission," which focused on the oppression of women under Islamic law. Ayaan remained fearlessly outspoken despite the danger to herself, a reality that faces anyone daring to ask for collective introspection within Islam.
A couple of weeks ago, a Dutch court upheld Ayaan Hirsi Ali's eviction from her own home, hounded out by her own neighbours. While on a short speaking tour in the United States, her home government was publicly threatening to strip her of citizenship, owing to a lie she made on her asylum petition (which had been acknowledged by her and understood by the voters before her election).
More than a few observers have likened her struggle to exist within a "progressive" European society, to that of a coal mine canary wavering on the perch -- a sign that there isn't enough air to live on. Christopher Hitchens remarked, "[t]his is not the only example that I know of a supposedly liberal society collaborating in its own destruction..." Yeah, like that's a tough one to find! (Great background on Hirsi Ali in that piece.)
Will Europe keep leaning toward tolerating the intolerant, "understanding their cultural issues" in a non-judgmental way? Mark Steyn had a great review in the Canadian newsweekly Macleans, of Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and The Pride, offering an opening vignette of unabashed incitement to hatred and violence against Jews -- issuing from a Swedish mosque -- being regarded as "permissible" by the Swedish government, due to the Israeli - Palestinian issue. Because such things are normal in a conflict.
In other words, if you threaten to kill people often enough, it will be seen as part of your vibrant cultural tradition -- and, by definition, we're all cool with that. Celebrate diversity, etc. Our tolerant multicultural society is so tolerant and multicultural we'll tolerate your intolerant uniculturalism. Your antipathy to diversity is just another form of diversity for us to celebrateIt's a very good piece (nice to see him getting published in Macleans). After a very interesting journey with Signora Fallaci, he winds up with the idea of resurgent Islamism, under the well funded Saudi Wahhabist theology, as a better example of globalisation than MacDonalds -- running the weaker "mom 'n' pop" streams of Islam, in their astonishing variety of forms, out of town. Or off the planet, as it were. What we see is the rapid expansion of franchises for the Saudi's Burqa King conglomerate.
Wai to Blue Crab Boulevard for noticing that Macleans article, which I thought I'd offered here already, but was hiding in a draft. Thus the "again" last time I waied Gaius here last week, who also had some kind words for this little remote part of the 'sphere. Thanks Gaius!
While Ayaan Hirsi Ali was in the US, she had a speaking engagement at Harvard. Miss Kelly was there, and offers an account, while Peaktalk is continuing to report on Ali's latest situation. She has resigned from parliament, and is set to take a position at the American Enterprise Institute. Although there has been some shame, and backtracking on the threat to revoke her Dutch citizenship, she will most likely continue to find safe harbour in the United States, and I expect she'll become a US citizen before too long. Out of the coal mine and into some fresh, free air.
Ms. Ali was also given an award by the American Jewish Committee, in recognition of her moral courage. Listen to a short audio clip, wherein she faces a room full of people she'd never met, and tells them, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make, if you are Jewish.... I used to hate you." It's an incredibly moving testimony, listen to the whole thing (separately available from the same page). A mind is a very difficult thing to change (see neo-neocon's excellent series on that, if you haven't already), and Ali is proof that it can be done.
Another very good opinion piece on the Netherlands' "paradise lost" is here, and once again wai to
Blue Crab Boulevard for picking it up.