Ayaan Hirsi Ali described her journey from faith the reason at the recent AAI Convention. The video (see below) of her talk is well worth watching. Hirsi Ali is a Somalian who claimed political asylum in The Netherlands to avoid an arranged marriage. Her work with refugees and public comments on the violence against of women in the Dutch Muslim community (as well as the eventual rejection of her religion) led to death threats. With film-maker Theo Van Gogh she produced a short film Submission describing the plight of women under Islam. In November 2004 van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri, an Islamic extremist. A note, attached to van Gogh’s body with a knife, contained a further threat to Hirsi Ali’s life. The Dutch government took her in to hiding, moved her to the US and provided body guards for her protection. Early this month Ayaan Hirsi Ali returned to the Netherlands, where she remains in hiding, because the Dutch government is no longer prepared to finance her protection in a foreign country.
Religious justification of death threats
In the US Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Johnstown Islamic Center justified the threats against Hirsi Ali:
“She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death,” said ElBayly, who went to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976. He went on to say: “If it is found that a person is mentally unstable, or a child or disabled, there should be no punishment,” he said. “It’s a very merciful religion if you try to understand it.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie are perhaps the best-known examples of victims of religious extremist retaliation for their rejection of their religion or critical comments about that religion. Ehsan Jami, Mina Ahadi and Maryam Namazie, members of the Council of Ex-Muslims in The Netherlands, Germany and Britain, have similarly been threatened. But they are by no means unique. These threats illustrate one of the problems arising from the “clash of cultures” inherent in immigration.
Problems with New Zealand’s religious diversity.
I think that Hirsi Ali’s story has relevance to New Zealand. One of the justifications for the preparation of the National Statement on Religious Diversity was to defuse this “clash of cultures.” It aims to develop an understanding, by New Zealanders, of the religions of immigrants and an understanding, by immigrants, of the religious freedoms within New Zealand. However, limitation of the statement to “faith communities” excludes understanding and protection of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Specifically Clause 3 (THE RIGHT TO SAFETY. Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security) ignores the rights of people who have no faith, or who reject their faith.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali AAI speech – Part 1 (19 min)
Part 2 AAI speech, questions & answers (34 min)
Hirsi Ali’s excellent biography Infidel
The film Submission produced by Hirsi Ali and van Gogh
Reason Magazine – ‘The Trouble Is the West’
Abandoned to Fanatics: by Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie
What Happens to Ayaan Matters to us all
Protect Ayaan Hirsi Ali petition
Sources of evil?
Religion and violence
Atheism and religious diversity
The Trouble with Islam
Faith and terrorism
International Atheist Convention
Limits to respect and toleration
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”