September 17 2012
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Free Speech, the Middle East, and Courage
The Obama administration's repeated efforts to convince us that the riots in the Middle East have nothing to do with our foreign policy and that the folks there really, really like us is beginning to remind me of Sally Field's speech when she won the Oscar.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the most courageous women on the face of the earth, takes a different view of what's going on in the Middle East in a terrific piece on The Daily Beast.
As you probably recall, Ayaan lives under threat of death because of her critique of Islam. She is the Somali-born, former member of the Dutch parliament who was making a film about Islam with Theo van Gogh, when van Gogh was murdered.
Her piece is entitled “The Last Gasp of Muslim Hate.” We don’t deal with religious issues on Inkwell, but we are interested in how our nation responds to—and understands, before reacting to—the crisis in the Middle East. That is why I urge you to read Ayaan’s piece.
Ayaan notes that the current crisis--said by the Obama administration to be solely the reaction to a 13-minute, anti-Islam video on Youtube--coincides with the publication of a memoir by novelist Salman Rushdie. Like Ayaan, Rushdie knows what it is to live under a fatwa.
Ayaan is not buying the administration’s rather desperate assertions that the riots were spontaneous:
The riots in Muslim countries—and the so-called demonstrations by some Muslims in Western countries—that invariably accompany such provocations have the appearance of spontaneity. But they are often carefully planned in advance. In the aftermath of last week’s conflagration, the State Department and Pentagon were investigating if it was just such a coordinated, planned assault.
The response by the U.S. to such Muslim protests is traditionally ambivalent:
And the defining characteristic of the Western response? As Rushdie’s memoir makes clear, it is the utterly incoherent tendency to simultaneously defend free speech—and to condemn its results….
Ayaan, who as a youth woman participated in a rally against Rushdie, ends on a note of optimism (but that optimism hinges on the West’s having the courage to respond):
… America needs to empower those individuals and groups who are already disenchanted with political Islam by helping find and develop an alternative. At the heart of that alternative are the ideals of the rule of law and freedom of thought, worship, and expression. For these values there can and should be no apologies, no groveling, no hesitation.
It was Voltaire who once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As Salman Rushdie discovered, as we are reminded again as the Arab street burns, that sentiment is seldom heard in our time. Once I was ready to burn The Satanic Verses. Now I know that his right to publish it was a more sacred thing than any religion.
The Daily Beast, usually a hive of politically correct thinkers, has another off-the-reservation piece right now--it'sby Niall Ferguson. You’ll remember Beast editrix Tina Brown, who loves stirring things up, previously published a piece critical of President Obama by Ferguson. This one portrays the administration’s policies in the Middle East as being in "meltdown."