Sunday, June 06, 2010

COMMENT: Ayaan Hirsi Magaan and the Enlightenment

Ayaan Hirsi Magaan, the Dutch-Somali evangelical athiest and neo-conservative, has just published a second instalment of her memoirs entitled Nomad. She has some interesting things to say about her ancestral culture and faith. She also has some interesting things to say about her new faith which she calls the "Enlightenment".

Pankaj Mishra, writing in the New Yorker, has some interesting things to say about all this.

The book opens with an account of her visit to her father’s deathbed, in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, in 2008. Her father, a highly respected political opponent of Somalia’s Soviet-backed military dictator, became more religious during exile and old age. Father and daughter hadn’t spoken since 2004, when Hirsi Ali and van Gogh made the film “Submission,” about the oppression of Muslim women, and she learned that he was fatally ill only a few weeks before his death. She didn’t want to visit him at his home, since it was in “a mostly immigrant area and overwhelmingly Muslim,” ...

Yep, migrants are such a blight on society. If only her late father could have been more white for his daughter's sake.

The Muslims in Whitechapel “had brought their web of values with them,” values of a culture that she has left behind. She deplores her “conflicted” half sister Sahra, who is interested in studying psychology in London while remaining a devout Muslim, and who has an annoying habit of saying “Inshallah” after every phrase. “How long will Western societies . . . continue to tolerate the spread of Sahra’s way of life?” Hirsi Ali asks.

Clearly, the only real option for the West is intolerance.

“The only difference between my relatives and me is that I opened my mind,” Hirsi Ali writes.

Opened her mind to what? Well, obviously to Voltaire and the Enlightenment.

In denouncing Islam unreservedly, she has claimed a precedent in Voltaire—though the eighteenth-century scourge of the Catholic Church might have been perplexed by her proposal that Muslims embrace the “Christianity of love and tolerance.” In another respect, however, the invocation of Voltaire is more apt than Hirsi Ali seems to realize.

Voltaire despised the faith and identity of Europe’s religious minority: the Jews, who, he declared, “are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts,” who had “surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct and in barbarism,” and who “deserve to be punished.” Voltaire’s denunciations remind us that the Enlightenment was a much more complex and multifaceted phenomenon than the dawn of reason and freedom that Hirsi Ali evokes. Many followed Voltaire in viewing the Jews as backward, an Oriental abscess in the heart of Europe. Hirsi Ali, recording her horror of ghettoized Muslim life in Whitechapel, seems unaware of the similarly contemptuous accounts of Jewish refugees who made the East End of London their home after fleeing the pogroms.

The rhetoric is the same. The hatred is the same. Will the outcome be the same? Do Hirsi Magaan and her supporters want to see forced conversions of European Muslims to Catholicism as Jews were once foribly converted? Is their "enlightenment" incapable of accepting religious and cultural minorities? Does the European Right want a chance to shoot and gas 6 million European Muslims before they accept minorities as part of their community?

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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1 comment:

DD said...

I can't believe she's actually kept her name. You'd think with all her hatred of her own heritage she would of changed it ages ago. She can change it to "John Smith" as she so obviously wants to be a white fulla and be a member of the 'more civilised' white race.
I reckon she's just an attention-seeker. People know these days that to gain popularity you only need be an Islamophobe.