Wednesday, June 06, 2007

COMMENT: Janet Albrechtsen on Hirsi Ali & the politics of enlightenment ...

The Oz's resident cultural warrior and John Howard's favourite columnist Janet Albrechtsen wrote a column today gushing with praise for former Dutch MP and self-declared migration fraud Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She invited comment on her article.

The Oz's website clicks over to the next day's edition at around 1am. I happened to be reading it at around 1:30am. I submitted a comment to her blog around that time. To give her the benefit of the doubt, the comment may have been lost in her system. Further some of the points I made were in fact made by others (interestingly most from the Netherlands) and were posted.

Here is my post ...

I interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali yesterday afternoon for I found her someone committed to the values of the European enlightenment and to the separation of church and state. She is independently-minded and impressive.

I wonder, however, how long she will last in the lap of your friends in the lunar-Right who are currently buttering her bread. After all, she is pro-Choice (when it comes to abortion) and is firmly opposed to the teaching of Creation science in schools.

However, sadly Hirsi Ali displayed a lack of understanding of even the basics of a range of Muslim cultures she claimed were dominated by bin-Ladin's understanding of Islam. Sadly, this undermines some very important aspects of her message.

One thing that baffles me about her lunar-Right supporters is that they are silent on the fact that (by her own admission), she engaged in immigration fraud. In this respect, readers might refer to an article by a sometime contributor to The Oz's opinion page. The
article appears here.

Perhaps, Janet, you could explain why you are so forgiving (or at least silent) toward Hirsi Ali's immigration fraud whilst being scathing toward the asylum cases of victims of domestic violence from Pakistan. No doubt your sentiments toward asylum seekers who choose not to abandon their ancestral faiths mirrors the attitudes of Jamila Hussein toward Hirsi Ali, that they should better stay where they came from.

While you are at it, can you advise readers whether you support and endorse the anti-semitic, homophobic and misogynistic sentiments of her late colleague Theo Van Gogh. In what sense was he a champion of free speech and enlightenment values? Do you think making jokes describing Holocaust victims as being akin to cooking caramel as acceptable discourse? Or is this what we must come to expect from supporters of the Dutch right?

Other responses include ...

Thea of Amsterdam (06 June at 01:02 AM)

What makes Hirsi Ali so unpopular in the Netherlands, is her anti-religious attitude. She tries to ‘liberate’ Muslim women by calling them, and their religion, primitive. She leaves no room for a liberal Islam, and she will therefore never reach the women she wants to help.

Her ideas sound good at first, but in the end always come down to intolerance towards religion, and Islam in particular. She doesn’t believe in enlightment for Muslims; she believes they should abandon their religion. She never once acknowledges the fact that for example genital mutilation was common in Somalia and elsewhere even before there was Islam. It’s like the christmas tree in Christianity: a relic from the ancient religions.

I admire her strength and courage, but I detest her lack of intelligence. She was a terrible politician, causing uproar even among people who realise there are issues with conservative groups within Islam. I was glad to see her go, even though the circumstances were sad. What we need is someone with the same courage to speak the truth, but less likely to enrage people left and right.

Even in the US, I believe she will soon get into conflict with her employer, since it is a religious conservative institute. I’m quite curious to see what happens.

... and another ...

andrew kerven of amsterdam (06 June at 06:36 AM)
Before Western fundamentalists in Australia, and other Western countries for that matter, so willingly jump on the Ayaan Hirsi Ali bandwagon her full story should be known, or at least heard. Of course no-one knows her true story as it is actually in dispute here in her adoptive country The Netherlands. Members of her family in Africa disputed the claims she has made about her own life. She also lied about her name to claim refugee status, and as may not be widely known in the rest of the world, the resulting furore was a contributing factor in the fall of the previous Dutch government. She never returned to The Netherlands to answer the questions, instead claiming after the fact that she had come clean years before about the lie that she had told. Rather she chose to remain in the US sniping at certain members of the Dutch government, the same government she had lent her support to, because if she had returned the status of her nationality would have been in jeopardy thus depriving her of a lucrative position with a Washington based right-wing think tank.

Whilst her bravery, in some ways, can not be questioned, nor the fact that she used her entry into politics to begin a debate within The Netherlands regarding Islam which some believe was necessary, I would suggest that a cloud remains over her. She was one of the lucky aylum seekers who lied and got away with it, and she says that she would lie again if in the same position.

The downside is that through her efforts here in The Netherlands she has contributed to the further alienation from general society of her muslim Dutch compatriots.

All of the above never seems to be raised when one reads reports of Hirsi Ali in the foreign press. Here in The Netherlands doubt lingers about her crusade, a crusade that through her own actions she has drawn into question.

... and this ...

Ross of Brisbane (06 June at 09:06 AM)
Your article is typical of the Western attempts to appear genuine, yet still remain culturally superior. As usual, westerners condemn Islam for all its brutality. Thankfully some respondents have actually pointed out the flaws in Western religions, but many still have not. They just criticise the “violent” religion and turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy in the West.

Your article fails to consider the fact that in the name of “religion” - Jews and Christians have often mutilated male genitalia through routine circumcision. In the process of doing so, they rely on “culture” as a justification. Where boys still undergo without religion, the doctors claim “medical” advancements - such as prevention of HIV etc. Around 200 years ago, it was claimed the same procedure stopped boys going blind in order to stop masturbation or “self gratification” - similar arguments which are used to ensure a girl keeps her honour. Prior to the more recent HIV claims, it was suggested males should be cut for the sake of “looking like their father” - in other words, there was a cosmetic reason behind it.

Many Western, and non-Western lawyers and human rights activists, are trying to stop this barbaric practice. But dig a little deeper into your “culture” and you will see these same things go unnoticed in a most hypocritical way. In doing such research, you will see that FGM does have varying degrees of severity - although this article implies the infibulation as the only version. Why, because people are culturally blind to look for details. You will also notice the fact that in areas where FGM is practised, so to is male circumcision.

... and a post from someone who appears to be Indonesian ...

Tito of Melbourne (06 June at 09:38 AM)
Good article, Janet. As someone who grew up as a muslim in Indonesia, I applaud, yet carefully, to what Hirsi Ali is doing. There are many muslims, in Indonesia and other places, who are progressives without necessarily knowing it, if by progressives we could mean an open-minded, forward-looking views of the reality of everyday live. My family and close friends, for example, did not have any problem with visiting churches to celebrate christmas with neighbors, and have a lot of problem with female genital mutilation, which we acknowledge with anger happens in our own country. Sometimes, people call us ‘sitting on the fence’, but in many cases fences were built by the extremists from both sides, and do not exist in the complexity of everyday live. The danger with a such a vociferous sound as Hirsi Ali’s is that these ‘everyday progressives’ can be forced to take side, which is often not a good thing. They become, to borrow a title of a recent book, ‘reluctant fundamentalists’, and I’ve seen this happened. We need to start a real dialogue, and we always need brave people like Hirsi Ali to start a real dialogue, but what’s important is we need ‘translators’, hopefully academics, to translate and elucidate, as it were, the wood from the tree, for people who do not have the experience and education. We must remember that education in places like Indonesia have not taught most Indonesians to be critical.
Interestingly, Janet does moderate certain comments from a certain "Omar the Razor of Hereandnow" who clearly is someone pretending to be Muslim ...

Omar the Razor of Hereandnow (06 June at 08:58 AM)
This article is rubbish and this pig Ali will meet her fate for denouncing the only true religion in the world. It’s our right to do what we like to our women as they are our property and we conquer you in a decade or two. Then your women will be our property as we will put all the men who refuse to convert to the sword. So you can talk,talk,talk. Meanwhile we will conquer you suburb by suburb. Yes allah is great you bunch of howling infidels.
... and ...

Omar the Razor of Hereandnow (06 June at 09:56 AM)
So Tito went to church. Tito, you are not a true Muslim!
... with these convenient responses ...

Charles Martel of Poitiers (06 June at 09:58 AM)

Thank you for confirming that Islam is nothing more than a violent Arab supremacist political and social ideology, committed to World conquest and domination, dress up as a religion. And thank you for also confirming that Muslim men are voracious yet sexually repressed animals that lust after non-Muslim women.

Cynic of Cooma (06 June at 09:59 AM)
Omar the Knife, I would like to congratulate you for your intelligent and insitefull comments to this blog, The way that you put forward your case for your religion and people can only help in the battle for the acceptance of the aforementioned by the rest of the community.Thank you

Notice how the last two are hardly a few minutes apart from ORH's second comment.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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