„Islam is not just a belief, it is a way of life, a violent way of life.“, and „I believe that the subjection of women within Islam is the biggest obstacle to the integration and progress of Muslim communities in the West.“ These are the two key messages of the probably best known critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is aimed not so much to the Muslims themselves, rather than to Western politicians and citizens. First, they have to understand the meaning of the gift of democracy and political freedom. And secondly, that it is Islam that threatens exactly this.
The oppression of women is genuinely Islamic
Three themes – sex, money and violence – are the crucial misunderstandings that would not be understood by Western multiculturalists, according to the author. Of course, the oppression of Muslim women is the biggest topic in the book, whether it be acting for honor killings, circumcision, forced marriage or general sexual availability and violence. „The code of honor and shame may be tribal and pre-Islamic in its origins, but it is now an integral part of the Islamic religion and culture.“
Muslims and the Welfare State
The second major issue, Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about is the alimentation of migrants and refugees by the Western welfare states. As in Muslim cultures little nothing is taught about savings or economic households and women in Islamic countries does not have money at their disposal, Western social benefits and generous loans granted to hopeless debt. And while the migrants often support their families at home with the money received from the welfare states, one misses any responsibility to the sponsoring host society. „They were not questioned about their values, customs, practices, or their knowledge of Dutch customs and laws. […] But none of us had been citizens before, in the modern sense of citizenship. We had never felt a participatory loyalty to any government. We remained loyal to our bloodline.“
This excessive burden of the welfare of migrants from Islamic countries and their subsequent generations due to low participation in employment and high crime rates is proofed by recent studies. „But the multiculturalists belief that Somali clan culture should somehow be preserved, even when its products move to Western societies – is a recipe for social failure.“
Islam means submission
The third major issue on violence and the isolation of Muslim thinking leads to the actual accusation of the author of the Western do-gooders. The fundamental violence of Islam and the enormous impact of the religion on even seemingly moderate Muslims would still be underestimated. The principle of submission – the literal meaning of Islam – makes people dependent on authorities and prone to fundamentalism. Ayaan Hirsi Ali so damn the putative reformers of Islam, who tried in adapted versions of the Koran to mitigate the very violent passages: „What is striking about this tortuous struggle to reinterpret Muslim scripture is that none of these intelligent and well-meaning men and women reformers can live with the idea of rejecting altogether the troublesome parts of scripture. Thus, in their hands, Allah becomes a god of ambiguity rather than of clarity. From an articulate transmitter of Allah’s word, Muhammad is turned into someone who left behind an incoherent muddle of rules.“
Also, that most Muslims are seemingly moderate and don’t follow the precepts of the Koran every day, should not be misunderstood, says the author: „A moderate Muslim may not practice Islam in a way that a fundamentalist Muslim does – veiling for example, or refusing to shake a woman’s hand – but both the fundamentalists and the so-called moderates agree on the authenticity and the truthfulness and the value of Muslim Scripture.“ Ultimately, Westerners have to make clear differences between cultures and have to appreciate them: „All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not. […] It is part of Muslim culture to oppress women and part of all tribal cultures to institutionalize patronage, nepotism, and corruption. The culture of the Western Enlightenment is better.“
There is a perspective
But Ayaan Hirsi Ali does not stop with this criticism, as do many other authors. „In this clash of civilizations the West needs to criticize the cultures of men of color too. We need to drop the ethos of relativist respect for non-Western religions and cultures if respect is simply a euphemism for appeasement. But we need to do more than criticize. We need – urgently – to offer an alternative message that is superior to the message of submission.“ Some of these solutions she provides herself, most are about education and enlightenment of Muslim migrants. Only the call to the Christian counter-missionary work – because Christianity is now a peaceful religion – is not convincing at all. Here, the former representative of the strong and secular state drifts suddenly from previously publicized convictions.
From personal experience to the criticism of the system Islam
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not only popular worldwide because the Muslim fundamentalist Mohammed Bouyeri killed the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the street and pinned a death threat to her on the breast of the corpse. She also wrote the world’s autobiographical bestseller „Infidel“. There she described her way from Somalia into the free West, from Islam to the enlightened citizen. Her new book „Nomad“ also carries strong autobiographical elements, but while the reading turns out as an argumentative and powerful essay against Islam. Hence, the subtitle of the English translation fits very well: „A Personal Journey Through the clash of Civilizations.“
Critics accuse the critic of Islam as usual, that one cannot conclude from one’s own live on the public. But Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to provoke own thought and to motivate to own actions. Therefore, emotions are simply the best. Studies that show what the author claims, however, are published already enough.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Nomade. A Personal Journey Through the clash of Civilizations. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010, 304 pages.
This is a translation of the German review at BuchTest.