Friday, May 12, 2006

ON AYAAN HIRSI ALI

It's been an interesting week for Ayaan Hirsi Ali. No doubt to promote her book "The Caged Virgin", earlier this week she spoke at Harvard where, by all accounts, she caused a bit of a stir.

On the one hand, she must be incredibly frustrated by the number of closed minds she's encountered, but on the second she ought to have been encouraged by the support she's received from others across the political spectrum.

Here's Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
Before being elected to parliament, she worked as a translator and social worker among immigrant women who are treated as sexual chattel—or as the object of "honor killings"—by their menfolk, and she has case histories that will freeze your blood. These, however, are in some ways less depressing than the excuses made by qualified liberals for their continuation. At all costs, it seems, others must be allowed "their culture" and—what is more—must be allowed the freedom not to be offended by the smallest criticism of it. If they do feel offended, their very first resort is to violence and intimidation, sometimes with the support of the embassies of foreign states. (How interesting it is that the two European states most recently attacked in this way—Holland and Denmark—should be the ones that have made the greatest effort to be welcoming to immigrants.) Considering that this book is written by a woman who was circumcised against her will at a young age and then very nearly handed over as a bargain with a stranger, it is written with quite astonishing humor and restraint.

But here is the grave and sad news. After being forced into hiding by fascist killers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali found that the Dutch government and people were slightly embarrassed to have such a prominent "Third World" spokeswoman in their midst. She was first kept as a virtual prisoner, which made it almost impossible for her to do her job as an elected representative. When she complained in the press, she was eventually found an apartment in a protected building. Then the other residents of the block filed suit and complained that her presence exposed them to risk. In spite of testimony from the Dutch police, who assured the court that the building was now one of the safest in all Holland, a court has upheld the demand from her neighbors and fellow citizens that she be evicted from her home. [Ed. Clearly NIMBYism isn't restricted to Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells]In these circumstances, she is considering resigning from parliament and perhaps leaving her adopted country altogether. This is not the only example that I know of a supposedly liberal society collaborating in its own destruction, but I hope at least that it will shame us all into making The Caged Virgin a best seller.
You can listen to her on WNYC, NPR and at the PEN Festival and watch her being interviewed on Swedish and Norweigan TV here.

You've got to admire her courage and determination, regardless of whether you agree with everything she says. She certainly doesn't go out of her way to give herself a quiet life.

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