How dare we

I’m seeing lots of consternation and alarm at the fact that some of us disagree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Dear Muslima or Fallacy of Relative Deprivation or Not serve you cake or Who does the dishes question. How dare we disagree with Ayaan HA on anything, don’t we understand how much worse it is in Somalia or Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia than it is here?

Well, that’s a fatuous question, for a start. Of course we do. I for one write and post about it all the time. But I also write and post about other things. That’s all there is to it, really – we can pay attention to more than one thing, and it’s really not up to Ayaan HA to decide what we’re allowed to pay attention to.

I wouldn’t object if she just said pay more attention to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Daesh. There’s always room to pay more attention. What I object to is her saying pay less or no attention to more local issues. Last week I objected to Dawkins’s explanation that he tells us that FGM is worse than sexual harassment, as if we didn’t know that until he told us. I objected to it because of the obvious implication that we should stop paying so much attention to sexual harassment (the implication that he made explicit-through-sarcasm in the actual Dear Muslima). This week I object to Ayaan HA’s explanation that issues of domestic division of labor are less important than not being allowed to leave the house, for the same reasons. One, we all know that, and two, I reject the implication.

PZ did a post on the subject on Friday. Today he posted about some of the pushback he’s getting, which included a claim that “Ayaan is deserving of SUPPORT in her efforts, regardless of any perceived gaffes.”

Well that’s quite a generous arrangement. Regardless of any perceived gaffes? So if she advocated genocide for instance we should still SUPPORT her, because she’s deserving of SUPPORT?

Also, it’s always so particular, isn’t it. Ignore the “gaffes” of the famous important conspicuous people, but of course not those of the smelly peasants who dare to criticize them.

Sorry, but no. I think Ayaan HA is right about many things, but she is also a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and she seems to be talking only to her colleagues there.


  1. johnthedrunkard says

    There are TWO parallel issues:
    1. Ali, or anyone else, ‘ranking’ abuses in a way which diminishes the importance of calling out evil at a real life level.
    2. Ali, and others, calling out the privileged Westerners who justify and relativise the suffering of non-white people…so long as their oppressors claim to be victims.

    We don’t shift the blame from the Klan onto Sherman’s March or ‘uppity negroes.’ But it seems entirely acceptable to ‘brown wash’ the Taliban and ISIS.

    So, of course, I want to cringe at the notion of Ali working for AEI. I wanted to throw ‘Nomad’ when I saw her soft-soaping about how liberal Xtianity might be an improvement for Muslims. But STILL…

  2. Deepak Shetty says

    I think Myers calling her out has resulted in many of the usual suspects reflexively leaping to her defense too.
    I think I have said it before , but the “movement” as such is shifting from the various ways in religion is bad and harms others , for e.g. a family rejecting their children for being gay/atheist or screwing with science TO
    “We atheists are so important and have such a global perspective – only violence in other countries matters (or should be focused on first, We are the only ones who recognize the greatest evil ever!”
    The former we could do something about , we could have made a difference (My stupid younger self saw Dawkins and Harris and imagined these were the role models who cared for everyone)
    The latter – shrug – other than voting for the less evil person(and I cant even do that!) – I don’t know what I can do. Even donating to a charity , in a lot of these countries you don’t know where your money will go.

  3. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Based on her own ‘reasoning’, her followers should really stop whining about any pushback until they’ve solved all the other world’s Really Big Problems (TM). So it’s pretty clear neither AHA, nor her flunkies and sycophants (dare I say…the AHA echo chamber) really think her stance is correct, and/or they don’t actually understand it. It’s another case of what’s good for the plebes and not for the ‘Thought Leaders’.

    Consistency is clearly not their strong suit.

  4. stevebowen says

    I think Ali made the best of a bad deal by accepting the help she got from conservative America. I’m sure it made sense to her at the time and she felt, with some justification, that the liberal left had abandoned her. But she’s now an established figure in the west and she can afford to loosen her ties with the AEI so she should unless she really embraces their ideology. Her personal story is powerful and she deserves respect but not a free pass.

  5. says

    Good grief, you’d think criticizing AHA was a brand new thing that FTBullies and A+ thought up like, yesterday. She was never that big a blip on my own radar, and quite some time ago, she’d already said enough silly things to demotivate me from paying more attention to her. There’s only so much time in the day….

  6. says

    I was particularly embarrassed by Hemant Mehta’s response to PZ at the Friendly Atheist which amounted to insisting that if you bothered to listen to the whole speech then the elements of her talk that PZ took issue with… I guess they just disappear? He doesn’t really address them except to dismiss them without much comment. He also links to Micheal Nugent who is happy to give Ali the “Free Jazz” critique of giving her credit for words she didn’t say.

  7. says

    All this ridiculous carry-on – as if Ayaan Hirsi Ali were the ONLY ex-Muslim or liberal Muslim woman in the world. There are many of both; we are not so desperate for ex-Muslim and liberal Muslim allies that we have to make a magic circle around Ayaan Hirsi Ali to protect her from all criticism.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lou “Weegee” Doench @ # 8: He doesn’t really address them except to dismiss them without much comment.

    What kind of “rationalist” would disregard the plain factual wrongness of Hirsi Ali’s Marie Antoinette moment?

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