Now that my work and a number of side jobs have slowed down in the last week or so I have been able to work my way through the backlog of books that I have been itching to read. My latest book was Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel.
Wow, wow, wow. I am utterly blown away about this book. I read it in two evenings and obviously couldn’t put it down. I was so engrossed in this other world. And let’s be honest she came from an entirely different world that Westerners like myself could hardly dare imagine.
There are a zillion reviews of the book so I’m not going to bore anyway with the same review, here’s the NY Times review. I actually don’t want to talk about the usual things that a reviewer might such as genital mutilation, refugees, immigration politics, islamic fundamentalism or honor killings.
I do want to talk about something that stuck out to me, the almost total lack of coverage in the U.S. of what was happening in the Netherlands over the last 5-7 years. We have been wall-to-wall coverage of WMDs and Iraq and Iran and Iraq and Britney Spears and Iraq and Eliot Spitzer and Britney Spears and Iraq and the 2008 elections. During all of this there was this major shift in Dutch politics, political upheaval surrounding Islam and a significant and growing muslim population in the Netherlands.
For years, the Dutch supported (and continue to support) a large refugee population, many from muslim populations. The Dutch went out of there way to accomodate the muslim faith of these refugees, but in that accomodation and tolerance they also facilitated the same isolation and lack of integration that inevitably plagues a large immigrant population. Even worse this immigrant population harbored a cultural hatred for the very country and Western culture that was signing their welfare checks. Here’s a rather lengthy quote from the book,
In those days, especially in Labor Party circles, people were always positive about Islam. If Muslims wanted mosques and separate graveyards and ritual slaughterhouses, such things were built. Community centers were provided. Islamic fundamentalist ideas were swelling in such centers, but Labor Party people usually dismissed this as a natural reaction. These immigrants had been uprooted, they said; they were clinging temporarily, to traditional ideas, which would gradually fade away. They forgot how long it had taken Europe to shake off obscurantism and intolerance, and how difficult that struggle was.
When Somalis told me they didn’t want to live in gaalo neighborhoods, I knew they wanted to avoid contact with the ungodliness of Holland. But Dutch officials always saw it as a natural desire to form a community. When Muslims wanted their own school, I saw it as forcing children to obey ideas unquestioningly; the Dutch saw no harm in funding them. When satellite dishes began bristling from every apartment in municipal housing projects, tuned to Moroccan and Turkish TV, my Labor Party colleagues saw this as a natural desire to maintain contact with home.
But with the dishes came preaching, indoctrination. There were door-to-door preachers passing out cassettes in most Dutch cities… Most migrant neighborhoods had shops selling traditional clothes and carpets and tapes, DVDs, and books on how to be a good Muslim in infidel territory. When the number of women wearing headscarves on the street became impossible to ignore, my Labor Party colleagues thoght it was only recent immigrants, who would soon abandon the practice. They failed to realize that it was the second generation, who were rediscovering their “roots,” brainwashed by jargon I recognized: tawheed, kufr, the evil Jews.
Unfortunately at the same time that the U.S. was bombing Iraq back into the Stone Ages, the Dutch people were being confronted with a culture seemingly still stuck in the Stone Ages right in their backyards. And Ayaan Hirsi Ali played a significant role in bringing this other culture into the light, and to borrow the metaphor, evil cowers from the light.
I won’t go into the details but Ayaan tried to convince the Labor Party that there were things happening in this muslim population that were completely and utterly outside of the moral values of the Dutch culture that harbored them. Ayaan eventually got herself elected to the Dutch parliament where she was able to bring these issues into the public square.
One issue that Ayaan wanted to bring to the light were the honor killings that were taking place in Holland every year. And here’s the important lesson, instead of posturing, politicking or going on an endless “trust me it’s happening” campaign she did what any good scientist or skeptic would do. She was able to get 2 of the 25 Dutch police precincts to simply document how many murders were considered “honor killings”. This was significant because previously the police weren’t allowed to document that information for fear of “stigmatizing” a population. After a mere 6 months or so, 11 girls, many teenagers, were documented as having been killed as a result of an honor killing. 11 girls in 6 months from only 2 of 25 precincts. This horrified the Dutch people.
The Dutch people were being confronted with the reality that their religious tolerance which had worked so successfully with the native Catholic, Protestant and Secular populations was utterly failing them. In one respect they were maintaining the value of religious tolerance while unwittingly withholding the value of individual liberty and freedom from women and children.
Ayaan Hirsi realized that the only way to bring freedom to half this immigrant population was for the Dutch to actually pursue integration. Not necessarily forced integration but at least stop funding so many of the self-segregationist policies that the Muslim community was creating, such as separate Muslim schools. She also later on convinced the Liberal Party (which could be loosely compared to Republicans here in the States but that would be unfair to the Liberal Party) to provide separate residence papers to women brought to Holland by legal immigrants, it wasn’t easy but she sold it by,
“…talking about the women themselves brought to Holland by men they barely know, after arranged marriages, beaten until they ended up in the hospital, but who cannot file for divorce because if they did, they would have to leave Holland and return to their families, where they would be punished. The motion was passed by a majority of the parties in Parliament, although we had to do without the Christian Democrat’s vote. (So much for brotherly love.)”
Ok so that last part might have been a cheap shot but they so deserved it. I admire her restraint.
And perhaps most disturbing of all is that there was little if any coverage of any of this here in the States. I remember Pim Fortuyn being shot and killed but he was portrayed as some kind of xenophobic, right-wing, neo-fascist. That guy was more liberal than Hillary Clinton. I am sorry I didn’t know any of this was going on. I am the typical Ameri-centric citizen after all.
I could go on and on (and it looks like I already have) but I did want to leave you with some more information.
Here’s Christopher Hitchens thoughts on the Dutch treatment of Ayaan (her citizenship was revoked while still serving in Parliament, seriously, I couldn’t possibly make it up)
Interview with Ayaan at ReasonOnline.com
Lengthy article over at the Washington Post
and, of course, her personal website.
Filed under: Atheism, Politics, Religion, ayaan hirsi ali, christopher hitchens, immigration, infidel, islam, netherlands, pim fortuyn