«When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn’t so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so.»
– Ayaan Hirsi Ali from her book Infidel
I don’t know why her size surprised me so. I suppose I was expecting Ayaan Hirsi Ali to be a giant.
But the 41-year-old author of two New York Times bestsellers – Infidel and Nomad – is petite and her high, high cheekbones and flawless skin not only make her look noble, but also almost fragile.
We met Tuesday afternoon in a room at the Palliser Hotel where later that night she spoke to more than 280 people attending a dinner hosted by the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education.
But when she starts speaking perfect English in her soft voice she speaks of things few people in the world dare to utter – about the danger that Islam poses to the world, the urgent necessity of western democracies to understand that danger and to demand immigrants adapt to our «superior» values – not the other way around.
Sitting inside the room just next to the door is a burly, plainclothes police officer from the United States, where she now lives, who accompanies Hirsi Ali in all her travels.
He is proof, she says, of the intolerance of Islam to free thought and choice.
«I’m perceived to have betrayed Islam. I have become an infidel. There are individuals within that religion who feel that they have to carry out that prescribed punishment. I don’t fear every Muslim, I just fear those individuals who feel that it’s their duty to kill an apostate,» she says.
To those familiar with Hirsi Ali’s story, they will know the Somali-born daughter of a revolutionary leader, has been forced to live under protection ever since November 2004 when Theo van Gogh was shot on a street in Amsterdam by Muhammad Bouyeri, an Islamist fanatic who then nearly decapitated the still-living van Gogh before plunging one of the two butcher knives he carried onto the filmmaker’s chest, attaching a five-page letter addressed to Hirsi Ali. The letter vowed to kill her next.
Two months earlier, she and van Gogh had made a short film, called Submission, about the atrocities done to women under Islam.
And Hirsi Ali understands very well what life is like under Islam. After growing up for a time in Somalia, her family fled to Saudi Arabia and then eventually Kenya. After her father arranged her marriage to a cousin, Hirsi Ali managed to flee to the Netherlands, where she eventually became a member of Parliament.
We start off talking about the Kingston, Ont. trial of Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 21-year-old son, Hamed, who are charged with the first degree murders of Shafia’s first wife, Rona Mohammad Amir, and the couple’s daughters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti, 13.
Many Canadian Muslims object to their murders being described as honour killings, arguing these are just examples of domestic violence. Hirsi Ali is blunt: «That is a plain lie.»
«If you look at what the perpetrators of honour killings say, they invariably believe their honour is more important than the lives of their loved ones,» she says.
Transcripts of a phone conversation recorded by the Kingston police indicated that Shafia said: «Even if they hoist me up to the gallows, nothing is more dear to me than my honour.
There is nothing more valuable than our honour.»
Another recording from a hidden microphone in Shafia’s minivan recorded him saying about his daughters who were embracing western values: «May the devil s-it on their graves.»
Hirsi Ali points out, when a person is killed by domestic violence, the community condemns that.
«What makes the difference with the honour killings we see now, be they in Canada, Australia, Holland or Afghanistan, is they are not condemned by the rest of the Muslim community.
«What’s amazing is ethnic Afghans, ethnic Pakistanis and Muslims and Muslim organizations are not out in the streets protesting this.
The people who are asking the questions of the agencies that failed these girls are, for the most part, non Muslim Canadians,» she points out.
«The Muslim Canadians have closed their ranks saying that this has nothing to do with Islam, so they are much more concerned about keeping the image of Islam clean than they are concerned about the lives of these girls and future victims.»
But it was multiculturalism and citizenship that Hirsi Ali spoke about mostly Tuesday night.
«Canadians need to stand up and say: ‘We are prepared to defend our rights and freedoms unambiguously. Canadians need to get the courage to say to people who want to come to Canada: ‘If you don’t want to live by our values, you don’t have to move here.’
«And that has implications for immigration law, citizenship and it has implications about who you allow into your country and who do you reject. That . . . is being superficially addressed by most western democracies, but not as deeply as it should.»
Of Holland she wrote in Infidel: «This was an infidel country, whose way of life we Muslims were supposed to oppose and reject. Why was it then, so much better run, better led, and made for such better lives than the places we came from?» she wrote. «Shouldn’t the places where Allah was worshipped and His laws obeyed have been at peace and wealthy, and the unbelievers’ countries ignorant, poor, and at war?»
When asked if her life were not in danger, would she prefer to move back to Holland and leave the U.S., she is emphatic.
«No. America is way more free. It’s way more free. In America, the people are much more committed to American values than the Dutch are committed to Dutch values.
«Take the First Amendment,» she says, her face lighting up with the biggest smile of the interview. «No other country has that. You can offend anyone you want and that’s so important.»
When told about Canada’s human rights commissions persecuting and prosecuting a publisher of the Mohammad cartoons and others who offended homosexuals, she is incredulous.
«A human rights body that wants to silence people – that’s a contradiction. It’s absurd. A total absurdity.
You must fight that. Canadians must fight that.»
She stands up to indicate the interview is over. She feels so small when we embrace. She is, of course, a giant of courage.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor. firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Corbella+Controversial+author+urges+Muslim+Canadians+defend+their+rights/5614020/story.html#ixzz1cAP8PSwp