Can Ayaan Hirsi Ali Liberate Islam from Islamism?

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD, Jul 20th, 2017

“Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the ‘long march through the institutions’ was to twentieth-century Marxists,” writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her latest monographThe Challenge of Dawa:  Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It.  In it the Somali-born political activist accurately analyzes the threat of, and necessary response to, Islam’s faith-based political ideology, yet the feasibility of her desire to reform this “Islamism” out of Islam is questionable.

Analyzing dawa’s call to Islam, Ali calls for a “paradigm shift that recognizes how violent jihad is intertwined with the ideological infrastructure of dawa,” the “subversive, indoctrinating precursor to jihad.”  Reflecting a commonplace myopic focus on jihadists, President George W. Bush “often referred to a ‘war on terror,’ but terror is a tactic that can be used for a variety of ideological objectives.”  Accordingly, “nonviolent and violent Islamists differ only on tactics; they share the same goal, which is to establish an unfree society ruled by strict sharia law.”

Officials like President Barack Obama, who often appeared “as if he worried more about ‘Islamophobia’ than about radical Islam,” blinded the government to Islamic doctrine, Ali notes.  Therefore “[s]ince 9/11, the United States has committed a series of blunders in partnering with ‘moderates’ who turned out to be either Islamists active in dawa or fully fledged terrorists.”  Additionally, “nonviolent Islamists have benefited from terror attacks committed by jihadists because such attacks make nonviolent Islamists appear moderate in the eyes of Western governments.”

Ali sees positive indications that President Donald Trump is taking a “more comprehensive approach” to “defeat political Islam (or Islamism)” and offers her own proposals for this strategy.  Among other measures, public diplomacy entities like Voice of America should “fight the war of ideas by disseminating a counter-dawa message.”  The United States also should also apply “ideological scrutiny” to immigrants, refugees, and military chaplains.

Ali carefully distinguishes between personally devout Muslims and those following a totalitarian ideology.  “‘Islam,’ ‘Islamism,’ and ‘Muslims’ are distinct concepts.  Not all Muslims are Islamists, let alone violent, though all Islamists—including those who use violence—are Muslims.”  Therefore the “religion of Islam itself is indeed capable of reformation.”

Ali’s distinction between Islam in general and its political elements in Islamism derives from the canonical biography of Islam’s prophet Muhammad in seventh century Arabia.  She contrasts his early prophetic career when he was merely a preacher in Mecca with the polity he and his followers later founded in Medina.  She differentiates between “Mecca Muslims, who prefer the religion originally promoted by Muhammad in Mecca” and “Medina Muslims, who embrace the militant political ideology adopted by Muhammad in Medina.”

Notwithstanding worldwide disturbing polling data, Ali questionably asserts that “Mecca Muslims” are the “clear majority throughout the Muslim world.”  They “are loyal to the core religious creed and worship devoutly but are not inclined to practice violence or even intolerance toward non-Muslims.”  Yet a “fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts.”

“Muslim reformers” or “modifying Muslims” form Ali’s third Muslim subgroup.  They “promote the separation of religion from politics and other reforms” and “realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of political violence.”  Thus the “future of Islam and the world’s relationship with Muslims will be decided by which of the two minority groups—the Medina Muslims or the reformers—wins the support of the Meccan majority.”

Ali’s own analysis of Europe’s Islamic immigration gives an ominous portent for the struggle between Medina and reform.  She observes that “emigration, called hijra, is central to Islam and—more importantly—to the mission of Islamization to this day,” as shown by the exile of Muhammad and his companions to Medina, the start of the Islamic calendar.  True to Muhammad’s Medina example:

Forty or fifty years ago, it was still widely believed that the migration of Muslims to Europe, whether as ‘guest workers,’ immigrants, or refugees, would lead to their secularization and assimilation.  Americans who assume that this will happen in the United States should take note that the opposite has happened.

European Muslims are not the only disappointment for Ali’s Muslim reformer allies like former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani, with whom Ali jointly testified before the Senate on June 14.  She has joined with like-minded Muslims worldwide such as Zuhdi Jasser, who makes in his longstanding “Battle for the Soul of Islam” precisely Ali’s same distinction between Islam and Islamism.  Yet their Muslim Reform Movement has suffered sobering setbacks in America.

Several logical reasons explain why the Muslim reform failures of Ali et al. are not surprising.  Whatever moral inclinations Muslims might have, her Mecca/Medina distinction demands that Muslims somehow eschew Muhammad’s political practice while still viewing him as a religious authority.  Yet as the example of Jews and Christians show, over time mainly orthodox are faithful to religions, not people who split differences over prophetic examples.

By contrast, the liberal spirit advocated by Ali could very well lead freethinkers like her not to orthodoxy, but rather to her atheism or another belief system like Christianity, particularly in light of Islam’s numerous legalisms.  She strives to separate Islamic politics and piety, yet certainly many remain within Islam’s fold not out of sincere conviction, but coercion.  Even in “moderate” Indonesia, Islamic repressionexists in the form of blasphemy laws.

Ali at her Senate testimony raised eyebrows when she ominously described the Netherlands’ second largest party as a “radical right wing group.”  As knowledgeable observers like this author in the hearing room instantly recognized, she was anonymously referencing the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.  While she has many sound policy proposals, time will tell who is more radical, Ali or Wilders, a strident critic of Islam who has personally explained to this author severe doubts concerning Islam’s reform.

To purchase her autobiography, click here.

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

Why Did the US Senate Ignore Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani?

Asra Nomani (L) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali testimy before the Senate. (Photo: Twitter)

Clarion Project, by Elliot Friedman, June 19, 2017:

Islamist ideology was discussed as a root cause driving extremist terrorism in a Senate hearing on Wednesday, but you wouldn’t know it from the questions asked by the committee.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing to discuss “Ideology and Terror: Understanding the Tools, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani, two brave female activists who have been at the forefront of the struggle against the dangerous ideology of Islamism, were invited to speak. Both women are from Muslim backgrounds and have extensive personal and academic experience with the intricacies of Islamism.

They told Congress that unless the political ideology of Islamism is called out, targeted and eliminated, terrorism will continue both in general and, more specifically, as a national security threat to the United States of America.

“We face an ideology of extremism from within the House of Islam,” Nomani stated. “Why, 15 years after the 9/11 attack, haven’t we found victory against terrorism? Why, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, haven’t we declared Islamic terror dead? It is because terrorism is fueled by Islamism, an ideology of political Islam, and we have wasted millions of dollars to design counter narratives without dealing with a very simple and fundamental truth. We must destroy and eliminate the narrative of Islamism.”

Hirsi Ali was just as blunt. “Political Islam is not just a religion as most Western citizens recognize the term ‘religion,’ a faith; it is also a political ideology, a legal order and, in many ways, also a military doctrine associated with the campaigns of the Prophet Mohammed,” she said.

Political Islam rejects any kind of distinction between religion and politics, mosque and state. Political Islam even rejects the modern state in favor of a caliphate. My central argument is that political Islamimplies a constitutional order fundamentally incompatible with the U.S. constitution and with the ‘constitution of liberty’ that is the foundation of the American way of life.”

She went on to make it even clearer, adding, “There is no point in denying that political Islam as an ideology has its foundation in Islamic doctrine.”

But Democratic senators on the committee didn’t want to hear it.

“Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule,” simpered Senator Claire McCaskill. “We should not focus on religion.”

Yet neither Nomani nor Asra made their testimony about religion. Both made it abundantly clear they were talking about the political ideology of theocracy, something that is by no means unique to Islam, although it is of course a particular problem “within the House of Islam” (as Nomani put it) at the moment.

Theocracy, self-evidently, has something to do with religion, since it seeks to impose religion as a system of government. But it is still a political ideology, the existence of which does not tar the non-theocratic members of the same faith (in this case Islam) with the same brush of involvement.

None of these plainly obvious facts impacted the hysteria which greeted the testimony.

Rather than ask Hirsi Ali and Nomani any questions, Democrats on the committee preferred to focus their discussion on questioning the former director of the U.S. Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter, who, coincidentally, had been invited by Democrats on the committee.

“Muslims honoring of sharia is not inherently in tangent with living in constitutional democracies anymore than it would be for Christians or Jews who also seek to honor their religious traditions while still complying with civil authority,” he said.

Clearly it isn’t. But it certainly is unconstitutional to seek to impose sharia as a system of government, which is what Islamists want.

In general, the continual denial of the existence of Islamist political ideology, which has something (but not everything) to do with religion is utterly baffling. If it were some harmless issue, like an obscure rule in golf which had incorrectly fallen into abeyance, or steadfastly insisting that “irregardless” is a word, then we could all laugh and then forget about the folly.

But this isn’t a harmless misunderstanding. It’s a very serious category error which misdiagnoses a huge and global problem. We saw the chilling effects yesterday in London. A man screaming, “I want to kill all the Muslims” rammed his van into a crowd outside a mosque, killing two.

Clearly people aren’t going to wait for the outcome of lengthy committee hearings to make a decision about what is responsible. If politicians can’t clearly delineate exactly what the ideology driving global terrorism is and explain how it is related to but distinct from Islam, fools and fanatics will assume it’s Islam in general and take the law into their own hands.

If you’re really interested in preventing that, then we have to be honest about the situation and start working to diffuse it, instead of trying to protect Islam’s reputation.

Ex-Muslim activist Yasmine Muhammed said it best on Twitter. Addressing Michael Leiter she said, “No disrespect, but you’ve been at the job a long time, and things are only worse. Maybe listen to @AsraNomani and@Ayaan.”

Indeed. As the poet and songwriter Bob Dylan said, “Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin’.”

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Asra Nomani talks with Tucker Carlson who was moved by the NYT article she wrote with Ayaan Hirsi Ali: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/22/opinion/kamala-harris-islamism-senate-hearing.html

Also see:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Congress: Political Islam ‘Incompatible with the U.S. Constitution’

Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, June 4, 2017:

WASHINGTON, DC — Political Islam, focused on establishing an unfree society ruled by strict sharia law, is “fundamentally incompatible” with the U.S. Constitution and the overall “foundation of the American way of life,” declared Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an expert at the Hoover Institution think tank, during a Senate panel hearing.

Meanwhile, Michael Leiter, the former director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, argued that sharia law is compatible with the American Constitution.

“Muslim’s honoring of Sharia is not inherently in tangent with living in constitutional democracies anymore than it would be for Christians or Jews who also seek to honor their religious traditions while still complying with civil authority,” testified Leiter.

The Somali-born Dutch-American Ali — an honor violence victim, a strong advocate against female genital mutilation (FGM), and author — strongly disagreed.

During a hearing on Islamic ideology and terror held by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Wednesday, Ali testified alongside the former U.S. official who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“My central argument is that political Islam implies a constitutional order fundamentally incompatible with the US Constitution and with the ‘constitution of liberty’ that is the foundation of the American way of life,” proclaimed Ali in her written testimony.

She later stressed, “Let it be said explicitly: the Islamists’ program is fundamentally incompatible with the US Constitution, religious tolerance, the equality of men and women, the tolerance of different sexual orientations, the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and other fundamental human rights.”

Ali explained that intimidation and advancing the goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society are fundamental tenets of political Islam.

She noted that “Islamism” is the ideology that drives political Islam and “dawa” provides the means by which it is spread, adding:

The term “dawa” refers to activities carried out by Islamists to win adherents and enlist them in a campaign to impose sharia law on all societies. Dawa is not the Islamic equivalent of religious proselytizing, although it is often disguised as such by blending humanitarian activities with subversive political activities… The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with strict sharia. Islamists rely on both violent and nonviolent means to achieve their objectives.

The strategy used by the United States to combat violent Islamic extremism has “failed” because it has solely focused on acts of violence while ignoring the ideology that drives jihadists and Islamists, argued Ali.

She told lawmakers, “The dominant strategy from 9/11 through the present, focusing only on Islamist violence, has failed. In focusing only on acts of violence, we have ignored the ideology that justifies, promotes, celebrates, and encourages violence, and the methods of dawa used to spread that ideology.”

In order to reverse its failure, the United States has to fight “a war of ideas against political Islam (or “Islamism”) as an ideology and against those who spread that ideology,” advised Ali.

President Donald Trump advocating for an ideological campaign against “radical Islam” is “refreshing and heartening,” testified Ali, adding, “This deserves to be called a paradigm shift.”

She noted that Trump’s position marks a departure from his predecessors.

Ali pointed out that Islam is on the rise across the world and jihadist groups have proliferated despite the U.S. spending at least $3.6 trillion on combat and reconstruction costs in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and sacrificing more than 5,000 American service members and the tens of thousands of wounded U.S. troops.

“According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists. Out of well over 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals,” mentioned Ali. “Based on survey data on attitudes toward sharia in Muslim countries, total support for Islamist activities in the world is likely significantly higher than that estimate.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Preaching of Islam and the Left’s Alliance with Islamists (Pt. 1)

Published on May 8, 2017 by The Rubin Report

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Human Rights Activist) joins Dave Rubin to discuss the challenge of Dawa (the preaching or proselytizing of Islam), the left’s alliance with Islamists, intersectionality, the indoctrination occurring on college campuses, and more. *This episode was filmed on location, not in The Rubin Report studio.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Sharia Law and Political Islam (Pt. 2)

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Female Genital Mutilation and “Islamophobia” (Pt. 3)

U.N. Survey: 3 Out of 4 Men and over Half of Women in Egypt Support FGM

Photo/Amr Nabil

Breitbart, by John Hayward, May 3, 2017:

A new United Nations surveyof male attitudes toward “gender equality” finds precious little appetite for it across the Middle East.

“Male attitudes towards the role of women in the workplace and at home, and of their participation in public life, were stereotypically sexist in the study of views in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine,” writes the UK Guardian in summarizing the report.

Egypt scored the lowest on the report’s “Gender Equitable Men” scale and is the source of the most striking headlines. For example, CNS News reports that “70 percent of Egyptian men approve of female genital mutilation.” For that matter, 56 percent of Egyptian women also voiced approval for the hideous procedure, which is illegal but not unheard-of, in much of the world.

Egyptian men also supplied 90 percent agreement with the statement that “a man should have the final word about decisions in the home,” and 58.5 percent of Egyptian women agreed. Only 31 percent of Egyptian men thought married women have the same rights to work outside their homes as men. 93 percent of men thought a husband should “know where his wife is at all times.” 96 percent thought a wife should agree to sex whenever her husband desires it.

53.4 percent said “there are times when a woman deserves to be beaten.” 90 percent agreed that “a woman should tolerate violence to keep the family together.” Roughly 45 percent of Egyptian men said they had been violent to their wives.

Only 25.7 percent of male Egyptian respondents said that women should “have the same freedom to access sites on the Internet as men.”

Egyptian women were significantly more supportive of women’s rights on most of these questions, although one point of agreement concerned women at work. While women were over twice as likely as men to say that women should have the right to work, they largely agreed that it was more important for men to work when jobs were scarce and that marriage was more important for women than a career.

Inability to find work was a major source of shame, anxiety, and depression for men.

The survey noted that younger men and women, especially younger women, were more likely to support gender equality. Of the regions surveyed, Egypt scored lowest on the Gender Equitable Men scale, while Lebanon scored the highest.

Morocco produced some alarming results about sexual harassment, with over half of men saying they have sexually harassed a woman, and over 60 percent of women reporting they have been harassed. A higher percentage of female Moroccans (78 percent) agreed that provocatively dressed women deserve harassment than men (72 percent).

The survey, which was conducted by UN Women and a non-profit organization called Promundo, involved 10,000 respondents in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and the Palestinian territories.

Mohammad Naciri, regional director of Arab States UN Women, looked for optimistic signs in the report. “Amidst the stories of men’s violence against women, we found stories of men’s caregiving in the home. For every story of a man who compelled his daughter to marry against her will, there were stories of men who empowered their daughters,” he said.

“The patriarchy works for the very small minority who are on the top of that pyramid,” lead researcher Shereen El Feki told the BBC. “For the rest down below, lots of women, but also from the results of the survey, many, many men, life is very tough.”

Promundo CEO Gary Barker told Reuters that “everywhere else we have done these research… young men typically have more progressive views that their fathers and the older generation. That was not so here.”

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Also see:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam’s Most Eloquent Apostate

ILLUSTRATION: ZINA SAUNDERS

WSJ, by Tunku Varadarajan, April 7, 2017:

The woman sitting opposite me, dressed in a charcoal pantsuit and a duck-egg-blue turtleneck, can’t go anywhere, at any time of day, without a bodyguard. She is soft-spoken and irrepressibly sane, but also—in the eyes of those who would rather cut her throat than listen to what she says—the most dangerous foe of Islamist extremism in the Western world. We are in a secure room at a sprawling university, but the queasiness in my chest takes a while to go away. I’m talking to a woman with multiple fatwas on her head, someone who has a greater chance of meeting a violent end than anyone I’ve met (Salman Rushdie included). And yet she’s wholly poised, spectacles pushed back to rest atop her head like a crown, dignified and smiling under siege.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, born in Somalia in 1969, is Islam’s most eloquent apostate. She has just published a slim book that seeks to add a new four-letter word—dawa—to the West’s vocabulary. It describes the ceaseless, world-wide ideological campaign waged by Islamists as a complement to jihad. It is, she says, the greatest threat facing the West and “could well bring about the end of the European Union as we know it.” America is far from immune, and her book, “The Challenge of Dawa,” is an explicit attempt to persuade the Trump administration to adopt “a comprehensive anti-dawa strategy before it is too late.”

Ms. Hirsi Ali has come a long way from the days when she—“then a bit of a hothead”—declared Islam to be incapable of reform, while also calling on Muslims to convert or abandon religion altogether. That was a contentious decade ago. Today she believes that Islam can indeed be reformed, that it must be reformed, and that it can be reformed only by Muslims themselves—by those whom she calls “Mecca Muslims.” These are the faithful who prefer the gentler version of Islam that she says was “originally promoted by Muhammad” before 622. That was the year he migrated to Medina and the religion took a militant and unlovely ideological turn.

At the same time, Ms. Hirsi Ali—now a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, where I also work—is urging the West to look at Islam with new eyes. She says it must be viewed “not just as a religion, but also as a political ideology.” To regard Islam merely as a faith, “as we would Christianity or Buddhism, is to run the risk of ignoring dawa, the activities carried out by Islamists to keep Muslims energized by a campaign to impose Shariah law on all societies—including countries of the West.”

Dawa, Ms. Hirsi Ali explains, is “conducted right under our noses in Europe, and in America. It aims to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and also to push existing Muslims in a more extreme direction.” The ultimate goal is “to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with Shariah.” It is a “never-ending process,” she says, and then checks herself: “It ends when an Islamic utopia is achieved. Shariah everywhere!”

Ms. Hirsi Ali contends that the West has made a colossal mistake by its obsession with “terror” in the years since 9/11. “In focusing only on acts of violence,” she says, “we’ve ignored the Islamist ideology underlying those acts. By not fighting a war of ideas against political Islam—or ‘Islamism’—and against those who spread that ideology in our midst, we’ve committed a blunder.”

There is a knock on the door. I hear hushed voices outside, presumably her bodyguard telling someone to come back later. To add to the mildly dramatic effect, a siren is audible somewhere in the distance, unusual for the serene Stanford campus. Ms. Hirsi Ali is unfazed. “What the Islamists call jihad,” she continues, “is what we call terrorism, and our preoccupation with it is, I think, a form of overconfidence. ‘Terrorism is the way of the weak,’ we tell ourselves, ‘and if we can just take out the leaders and bring down al Qaeda or ISIS, then surely the followers will stop their jihad.’ But we’re wrong. Every time Western leaders take down a particular organization, you see a different one emerge, or the same one take on a different shape. And that’s because we’ve been ignoring dawa.”

Ms. Hirsi Ali wants us to get away from this game of jihadi Whac-A-Mole and confront “the enemy that is in plain sight—the activists, the Islamists, who have access to all the Western institutions of socialization.” She chuckles here: “That’s a horrible phrase . . . ‘institutions of socialization’ . . . but they’re there, in families, in schools, in universities, prisons, in the military as chaplains. And we can’t allow them to pursue their aims unchecked.”

America needs to be on full alert against political Islam because “its program is fundamentally incompatible with the U.S. Constitution”—with religious pluralism, the equality of men and women, and other fundamental rights, including the toleration of different sexual orientations. “When we say the Islamists are homophobic,” she observes, “we don’t mean that they don’t like gay marriage. We mean that they want gays put to death.”

Islam the religion, in Ms. Hirsi Ali’s view, is a Trojan horse that conceals Islamism the political movement. Since dawa is, ostensibly, a religious missionary activity, its proponents “enjoy a much greater protection by the law in free societies than Marxists or fascists did in the past.” Ms. Hirsi Ali is not afraid to call these groups out. Her book names five including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which asserts—and in turn receives in the mainstream media—the status of a moderate Muslim organization. But groups like CAIR, Ms. Hirsi Ali says, “take advantage of the focus on ‘inclusiveness’ by progressive political bodies in democratic societies, and then force these societies to bow to Islamist demands in the name of peaceful coexistence.”

Her strategy to fight dawa evokes several parallels with the Western historical experience of radical Marxism and the Cold War. Islamism has the help of “useful idiots”—Lenin’s phrase—such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has denounced Ms. Hirsi Ali as an “extremist.” She sees that smear as a success for dawa: “They go to people like the SPLC and say, ‘Can we partner with you, because we also want to talk about what you guys talk about, which is civil rights. And Muslims are a minority, just like you.’ So, they play this victim card, and the SPLC swallows it. And it’s not just them, it’s also the ACLU. The Islamists are infiltrating all these institutions that were historic and fought for rights. It’s a liberal blind spot.”

Western liberals, she says, are also complicit in an Islamist cultural segregation. She recalls a multiculturalist catchphrase from her years as a Somali refugee in Amsterdam in the early 1990s: “ ‘Integrate with your own identity,’ they used to tell us—Integratie met eigen identiteit. Of course, that resulted in no integration at all.”

Ms. Hirsi Ali wants the Trump administration—and the West more broadly—to counter the dawa brigade “just as we countered both the Red Army and the ideology of communism in the Cold War.” She is alarmed by the ease with which, as she sees it, “the agents of dawa hide behind constitutional protections they themselves would dismantle were they in power.” She invokes Karl Popper, the great Austrian-British philosopher who wrote of “the paradox of tolerance.” Her book quotes Popper writing in 1945: “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

I ask Ms. Hirsi Ali what her solution might be, and she leans once more on Popper, who proposed a right not to tolerate the intolerant. “Congress must give the president—this year, because there’s no time to lose—the tools he needs to dismantle the infrastructure of dawa in the U.S.” Dawa has become an existential menace to the West, she adds, because its practitioners are “working overtime to prevent the assimilation of Muslims into Western societies. It is assimilation versus dawa. There is a notion of ‘cocooning,’ by which Islamists tell Muslim families to cocoon their children from Western society. This can’t be allowed to happen.”

Is Ms. Hirsi Ali proposing to give Washington enhanced powers to supervise parenting? “Yes,” she says. “We want these children to be exposed to critical thinking, freedom, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the rights of women.” She also suggests subjecting immigrants and refugees to ideological scrutiny, so as to deny entry, residence and naturalization to those “involved with, or supportive of, Islamism.”

In effect, Ms. Hirsi Ali would modernize the “communism test” that still applies to those seeking naturalization. “I had to answer questions when I applied for citizenship in 2013: ‘Are you, or have you ever been, a communist?’ And I remember thinking, ‘God, that was the war back then. We’re supposed to update this stuff!’ Potential immigrants from Pakistan or Bangladesh, for instance, should have to answer questions—‘Are you a member of the Jamat?’ and so on. If they’re from the Middle East you ask them about the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘or any other similar group,’ so there’s no loophole.”

Might critics deride this as 21st-century McCarthyism? “That’s just a display of intellectual laziness,” Ms. Hirsi Ali replies. “We’re dealing here with a lethal ideological movement and all we are using is surveillance and military means? We have to grasp the gravity of dawa. Jihad is an extension of dawa. For some, in fact, it is dawa by other means.”

The U.S., she believes, is in a “much weaker position to combat the various forms of nonviolent extremism known as dawa because of the way that the courts have interpreted the First Amendment”—a situation where American exceptionalism turns into what she calls an “exceptional handicap.” Convincing Americans of this may be the hardest part of Ms. Hirsi Ali’s campaign, and she knows it. Yet she asks whether the judicial attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s—themselves a reaction to the excesses of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s—might have left the U.S. ill-equipped to suppress threats from groups that act in the name of religion.

I ask Ms. Hirsi Ali if there’s any one thing she would wish for. “I would like to be present at a conversation between Popper and Muhammad,” she says. “Popper wrote about open society and its enemies, and subjected everyone from Plato to Marx to his critical scrutiny. I’d have liked him to subject Muhammad’s legacy to the same analysis.

“But he skipped Muhammad, alas. He skipped Muhammad.”

Mr. Varadarajan is a research fellow in journalism at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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Also see:

The Big Shut-Up

By Mark Steyn, Steyn on the WorldApril 3, 2017:

Over the weekend, I swung by Judge Jeanine’s show to talk about one of the most malign trends of our time: the ever more open refusal by one side to permit those on the other side to speak. As I always say, I don’t care what side you pick on the great questions of the age – climate change, gay marriage, Islam, transgendered bathrooms, whatever – but, if you’re on the side that says the other guy isn’t entitled to a side, you’re on the wrong side. Here’s how I put it to Judge Jeanine:

That Tweetaway takeaway is correct: They don’t want to participate in the debate, and win it. It’s easier to shut it down and save themselves the trouble. Case in point:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Tour Cancelled

Citing security issues, the Somalian-born activist calls off her scheduled Australian tour…

Let’s just expand that “Somali-born activist” précis a little. She’s not a dead white male like me or Charles Murray. As someone once said, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists profess to dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. But, because she does not toe the party line on Islam, her blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly anchorman – and so do her femaleness and godlessness and immigrant status. And in the end she is Charles Murray, or Geert Wilders – or even David Duke. A black Somali woman is, it turns out, a “white supremacist“.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is someone who fled genital mutilation and arranged marriage in a backward, barbarous society to come to the west and live in freedom. Her first stop was the Netherlands. But the director of the film she wrote, Theo van Gogh, was murdered in the street, and the man who shot him then drove two knives through what was left of his chest pinning to it a five-page death-threat promising to do the same to Ayaan. So she was forced to leave the Netherlands, and has lived with round-the-clock security ever since. Now she has to cross Australia off the list, too. Where’s next? Can she speak in Sweden? Or Canada? Ireland or Germany? She left Somalia to live as a western woman, only to watch the west turn itself into Somalia, incrementally but remorselessly, at least as far as free speech is concerned.

It began, as it always does, respectably enough. Four hundred Muslim women in Australia – academics, social workers, diversicrats, supposed “human-rights activists” – signed a petition objecting to her tour Down Under but all artfully crafted in the usual weaselly more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger shtick, concluding with:

Australia deserves better than this.

Aww, that’s so cute! Did you all tilt your heads in unison and group-furrow your brows into concerned expressions? The petition title’s a doozy too:

Ayaan Hirsi-Ali [sic] Does Not Speak For Us

Well, she never claimed to, did she? You’re all Muslim women, and she’s a non-Muslim woman. She’s left Islam. Which makes her an apostate, which is one more reason why she lives with round-the-clock death threats. Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks for herself. Why don’t you try that? Why don’t you try engaging in debate, in argument, in the free exchange of ideas? Or is it easier to insist that supposed freeborn citizens can only “speak for” the collective monolithic position of identity groups?

Next came something called the “Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia”. Hey, we’re all against Islamophobia, aren’t we? (At least at the House of Commons in Ottawa.) But how exactly are we supposed to “prevent” it? Enter the Council’s enforcer, Syed Murtaza Hussain, who isn’t quite as cuddly as all those Australia-deserves-better-that’s-not-who-we-are types:

Its insurers were contacted and warned there could be trouble, and venues where she was scheduled to speak had been contacted and warned that there would be protests where she was due to appear…

[Hussain] informed Festival Hall in Melbourne there would be 5000 protesters outside the venue if the engagement went ahead.

Nice little Festival Hall you’ve got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

As Brendan O’Neill observes:

Hirsi Ali’s troubles in Australia are striking because they point to a really worrying interplay between the polite intolerance of ‘Islamophobia’ and the more violent urge in certain sections of society to punish and maybe even kill critics of Islam.

As I say wearily for the umpteenth time, the defenders of Section 18 in Oz and the MPs who voted for M-103 in Canada and the jelly-spined non-entity of a university president who canceled Ayaan’s appearance at Brandeis, on the one hand, and, on the other, the men who slaughtered the Charlie Hebdo staff and shot up Lars Vilks’ event in Copenhagen and firebombed the Norwegian comedienne Shabana Rehman’s family restaurant are merely different points on the same continuum: they’re all in the shut-up business. And they’re all hustling us further along the same dark retreat into silence.

But as I wrote a few years ago:

After the threats against the Comedy Central show South Park the other week, Ms. Hirsi Ali turned up on CNN to say that the best defence against Islamic intimidation is for us all to stand together and thereby “share the risk.” But, around the world, every single translator of her books has insisted on total anonymity. When push comes to shove, very few are willing to share the risk. The British historian Andrew Roberts calls her “the bravest woman I know.”

I agree with Robert. The problem is that for Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s bravery to be effective depends on the tour promoters’ bravery. And the tour promoters’ bravery depends on whichever hotel group she’s booked with to be brave. And the hotel group’s bravery depends on whichever corporate entity owns the event venues to be brave. And the corporate entity’s bravery depends on the insurers’ bravery. And the insurers’ bravery depends on someone ponying up an extra gazillion dollars for security costs. And suddenly for the cost of a bare-bones speech by one brave woman you could mount The Phantom Of The Opera meets Avatar on ice and still come out ahead.

I have had the privilege of sharing stages with Ayaan Hirsi Ali at various places around the world from London to California. It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels already like the past – a previous era, just the day before yesterday but already the rules have changed. In 2015, I spoke in Copenhagen at an event to mark the tenth anniversary of the famous “Mohammed cartoons”. As on the fifth anniversary, it required the protection of PET, the Danish security police. But this time, as an additional precaution, it had to be moved inside the fortress-thick walls of the Danish Parliament in order to lessen further the likelihood of fellows who regard debate as a waste of time (and, indeed,an affront) busting in and shooting us all. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all the security, both the US State Department and the British Foreign Office issued formal warnings advising their nationals to steer clear of the Parliament building that day.

These things are always a little stressful: as recent incidents at Westminster and Ottawa illustrate, even national parliaments are not as “secure” as they appear. So we were looking forward to unwinding at dinner afterwards at what looked like a fine, convivial restaurant. Unfortunately, after the PET agents showed up for the advance-security check, the restaurateurs got cold feet and canceled on us. As my fellow speaker Douglas Murray commented:

Ten years ago, you could publish depictions of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. Ten years later, it is hard for anyone who has been connected with such an act to find a restaurant in Copenhagen that will serve them dinner.

And in another ten years? Douglas, Ayaan and I will still enjoy theoretical freedom of speech but, to exercise it, we’ll have to meet in an abandoned mine-shaft an hour south of Cloncurry, speaking to seven personally invited guests driven there blindfolded. The marketplace of ideas, from Canberra to Copenhagen, is shrinking fast. To quote Laura Rosen Cohen yet again: “Security” is the new “shut up”.

Why is restoring free speech to Australia by scrapping Section 18C so important? The most dismal moment of my own Aussie tour last year was a private dinner with a group of well-known conservative Members of Parliament – that’s to say, men and women reliably to the right of the current Prime Minister, a finger-in-the-windy jelly-spined squish on freedom of expression and so much else. Yet, even dining with supposed sturdier types, the most eminent among our number declared breezily that repealing 18C was “not a first-order priority”, not compared to what he regarded as the real first-order priority: Islamic terrorism in Australia and elsewhere.

I pointed out that one of the reasons why the former (free speech) most certainly is a first-order priority is because, without it, the latter (Islam and the west) cannot be honestly addressed. And so it has proved, yet again.

Malcolm Turnbull’s ministry ought to be ashamed that a woman like Ayaan Hirsi Ali cannot speak in the country they purport to govern. And, if they want to do something to change that, they could start by speaking up for free speech. Will they? Will Turnbull? The men and women who run the western world – in Oz, in Britain, in Canada, in Europe – have made a bet that they can banish a few loudmouths like Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the fringes but that otherwise life will go on. No, it won’t. As I said of that Copenhagen eatery:

The restaurant that chickened out is called Fiat, in King’s New Square. It looks rather convivial from this photograph, with everyone quaffing their bubbly without a care in the world. They don’t seem to grasp that such civilized pleasures require civilization, and, ultimately, people willing to defend it.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is learning the hard way that very few people are willing to “share the risk”.