Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Infidel

The Dallas Morning News recently published an excerpt from Ayann Hirsi Ali's new best-seller, Infidel. Ali's story is becoming increasingly well-known. This strikingly beautiful and fearless 37-year old is an internationally renowned spokeswoman against the oppression of Muslim women. She escaped from Somalia in 1992 and sought asylum in the Netherlands. Ms. Hirsi Ali went on to repudiate Islam and gain a seat in the Dutch Parliament. In 2003, she collaborated with Dutch director Theo van Gough in the filming of Submission, Part 1. This, in turn, led directly to his brutal murder by a young Moroccan immigrant. The assassination rocked Europe, and did more than anything to shake the continent from it's contented and delusional lethargy. Ms. Hirsi Ali has been under a death threat since that time. She left Parliament in 2006 and moved to the US, where she is a fellow for the American Enterprise Institute. She remains heavily guarded at all times, yet continues to speak out. Infidel is her story.

Ayann Hirsi Ali pulls no punches. Three excerpts follow:

In Islam, unlike in Christianity and Judaism, the relationship of the individual to God is one of total submission, slave to master. As Islam is conceived, any kind of disagreement with Allah is insolence because it assumes equality with Him. I felt that liberation of Muslim women must be preceded by liberation of the mind from this rigid, dogmatic obedience to Allah's dictates. Allah is constantly referred to in the Quran as "the most compassionate, the most merciful"; He also says several times that he has given us a will of our own. In that case, I wonder, why would He mind a little debate?

I called the film Submission, Part 1, because I saw this as the first in a series that would tackle the master-slave relationship of God and the individual. My message was that the Quran is an act of man, not of God. We should be free to interpret it; we should be permitted to apply it to the modern era in a different way, instead of performing painful contortions to try to re-create the circumstances of a horrible distant past.

People ask me if I have some kind of death wish, to keep saying the things I do. The answer is no: I would like to keep living. However, some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.

The full article can be found here.

But as admirable as she is, I find myself uncomfortable with Ms. Hirsi Ali's struggle. For she has replaced her faith with, well, no faith at all. Ali's response to a destructive faith is a life devoid of faith. She writes, I said goodbye to Theo. He himself didn't believe in a Hereafter. I no longer believe in a Hereafter. And so this was it, I thought: This is the end. No, but it is sad.

Rod Dreher speaks to this concern in an excellent article, here. He notes that she is a tragic hero, three times over. (And please pardon the lengthy quotes.)

Though she is more staunchly European in her beliefs than many Europeans, her countrymen want her to shut up. She reminds them of their own cowardice in the face of aggressive domestic Islamism and of the utter failure of Europe's multiculturalist ideals....that is Ms. Hirsi Ali's first tragedy.

Her second tragedy is even more dispiriting: She has probably arrived too late. Ms. Hirsi Ali forces Europeans to confront their own helplessness in the face of a civilizational threat entirely of their own making.

Ms. Hirsi Ali's final tragedy is that what she preaches is leading to the triumph of what she most fears. Having escaped a cruel culture dominated by religion, she understandably despises faith. But religion per se was not what oppressed Ms. Hirsi Ali; it was a particular religion, Islam. The militant secularism Ms. Hirsi Ali advocates has already created a spiritual vacuum in Europe that Islam is filling.

Dreher concludes:

An exhausted Europe is dying from its lack of spiritual dynamism. Europe has set its prosperous face against the religious foundation upon which its post-classical civilization was built. As European Christianity breathes its last, the hedonism, moral relativism and consumerism that have replaced it cannot muster the wherewithal even to have babies, much less resist a confrontational Islam....As post-Christian Europe shuffles toward senescence, Islam's vital energy waxes. No one who cherishes the achievements of the West – including free speech, democracy, minority rights and equality for women – can see their crushing lack in the Islamic world and view the rise of Euro-Islam with must be conceded that Muslims today have a firm spiritual foundation for their individual and collective lives. No one can see that crushing lack among Europeans and view Euro-secularism with indifference.

There is something deeply admirable about this passionate African woman's stirring defense of Western liberties. But the question remains: What is freedom for? It cannot be an end in itself. There must be purpose beyond self-gratification. Europe is proving that materialism – the philosophical basis for the secularism and libertinism that is modern Europe's creed – is not sufficient to sustain civilization.

With their terrifying confidence, Islamic believers understand something about human nature that the West has forgotten – but will soon relearn, the hard way. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, if Europe will not have the God of the Bible, it should pay its respects to Allah.

There's nothing new here, really. Dreher and countless others have been sounding the alarm for years now. But it still needs to said, and often. The situation put me in remembrance of a passage I've just read from The Brothers Karamazov. This from Father Paissy's address to Alyosha:

Remember...that the science of this world, having united itself into a great force, has...examined everything heavenly that has been bequeathed to us in sacred books, and, after hard analysis, the learned ones of this world have absolutely nothing left of what was once holy. But they have examined parts and missed the whole, and their blindness is even worthy of wonder. Meanwhile the whole stands before their eyes as immovably as ever, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it...For those who renounce Christianity and rebel against it are in their essence of the same image of the same Christ, and such they remain, for until now neither their wisdom nor the ardor of their hearts have been able to create another, higher image of man and his dignity than the image shown of old by Christ. And whatever their attempts, the results have been only monstrosities.

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