As I’ve been pointing out, Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets misread by people who are convinced she’s a far-right racist, or people who want to convince others that she is. There’s “Loonwatch” for instance. Loonwatch gives a very warped version of the talk in which she mentioned Anders Breivik. The article is titled Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Sympathizes with Terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and it repeats the accusation in the text.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was invited to Germany to receive the Axel Springer Award, to recount her “escape” from Islam.
Sympathy for the Devil
In her acceptance speech, Ali expressed her sympathy for terrorist murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Her writings were included in Breivik’s manifesto and she took the opportunity of the speech to try and distance herself from his actions while squarely putting the blame for Breivik’s massacre on his targets.
That’s a lie. She didn’t express any sympathy for Anders Breivik. Here is her talk (thanks to Anthony K for the link), which is titled The Advocates of Silence.
“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.” I wrote those words in 2005. I was alluding to the plight of Muslim women who live in Europe, whose suffering inspired me to make the film Submission with Theo van Gogh. He was shot and stabbed to death by a radical Muslim.
Today, the problem of how to integrate Muslim immigrants into European society is, if anything, even more complex and challenging than it was then. There are, of course, still the advocates of silence. They say that an honest discussion of the challenges posed by some Muslim immigrants to European society will lead to a build-up of hatred against those immigrants: A hatred so vile and so strong as to translate into violence. A violence carried out by lone renegades like the Norwegian Anders Breivik, now on trial for his horrific spree in Oslo last year, or a more organized violence by neo-Nazi groups.
The advocates of silence also warn that honest discussion will encourage the emergence and rise of populist parties whose only political issue is immigration and Islam. They fear the election through non-violent means of politicians with a violent agenda that they will apply to Muslims as soon as they get into office. Advocates of silence conjure up terrifying visions of fascistic regimes that will implement mass deportations of Muslims, mass imprisonment of Muslims, the closing of their mosques, the shutting down of their businesses, the exclusion of Muslims from education and employment, and other types of discrimination.
I recommend reading the whole piece. She gives a careful and fair account of what the advocates of silence argue, so fair that she presents a convincing case.
The advocates of silence warn us that publishing these facts or debating them in the media and in parliament will transform the existing resentment towards Muslims into violent behavior. The sentiment of xenophobia, they argue, is irrational and cannot – or will not – tell the difference between a good Muslim and a bad Muslim. The xenophobes will persecute Muslims regardless of their guilt or innocence and hurt them.
Censorship and silence, we are told, are the best preventive remedies against hatred and violence.
I believe that the advocates of silence are wrong, profoundly and dangerously wrong.
I do not dispute that some Europeans are xenophobic, and that the tendency to scapegoat others is prevalent in many places. I understand that this tendency is more pronounced in times of economic hardship, such as much of Europe outside Germany is experiencing. I can see, too, that a major part of the difficulty if integration Muslims into European society has a social and economic explanation. Most immigrants of Muslim countries into Europe these days come from segments of society in their country of origin with little education and little or no job skills.
That’s a sample. You can see what I mean, I think – she doesn’t give a weak version of the argument she disputes, and she concedes many of its claims. Then she presents her arguments.
Secondly, silence empowers rather than weakens the populists and the extremists. When the political mainstream censors itself, the populists and extremists can represent themselves as the only people capable of addressing one of the major issues of our time. By breaking the taboo, they win trust and respect on that issue even as the parties of the establishment lose trust. Some newspapers – I will not mention them by name – may choose not to publish critical voices, but those in society for whom the presence of Islam is a problem can now simply click on their favorite blogs.
Thirdly, and perhaps most seriously, silence empowers the Islamists, the radical agents of hatred. The young Muslim dropout, who is morally confused, is approached by a confident Islamist with a not so hidden agenda. The Islamist’s potential rivals in the struggle of hearts and minds – the Christians and the humanists – have been silenced by the kind of inhibitions I have already described. Muslim ghettoes in Europe today are exposed without censorship to the siren song of jihad, of martyrdom, of Sharia law, of hatred and self-exclusion. Here is an extreme ideology just as abhorrent as the neo-fascism of a Breivik. Yet to speak out against radical Islamism is to be condemned as an Islamophobe.
Fourthly and finally, that one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.
That last paragraph is the one brandished by people who loathe her as evidence that she was sympathizing with Breivik. She was doing no such thing.
Decades of informal censorship in Europe have led not to the promised integration of Muslim immigrants but to a culture of evasion and avoidance which has allowed extremism – both Jihadism and neo-Nazism – to flourish amid a general impotence of the established parties.
She does not like or want either of those.