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February 28, 2007

Getting Muslims Totally Wrong
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Anne Applebaum is a sensible writer who seems to know more about Muslims than most of her opinion-wielding counterparts (which is sort of like saying that Jessica Simpson is a more substantial "artist" than Britney Spears). That's why her latest column is so worrying. If even Applebaum get things this wrong, then there's pretty much no hope that we'll ever begin to understand the Muslim world. The topic of her column is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian who some have hailed as a "brave" and "courageous" voice for standing up to Muslim extremism. More than a few people seem intent on treating her as some kind of anointed spokeswoman for oppressed Muslim women, a reformer from within the faith or, worse, a kind of pseudo-Muslim Martin Luther. There is, of course, the complication that she isn't even Muslim (she renounced her faith long ago). There is also the small matter that Muslims themselves don't like her much. In fact, I have yet to meet even one Muslim on the planet, secular or conservative, liberal or illiberal, who actually thinks that Hirsi Ali is helping the cause of internal Muslim reform. Largely, because she isn't. Applebaum, however, sees things differently:

Along the way, [Hirsi Ali] also made an intellectual journey -- beautifully described in her new book, "Infidel"-- from tribal Somalia, through fundamentalism, and into Western liberalism. After Sept. 11, 2001, horrified by some of the things Osama bin Laden was saying, she reached for the Koran to confirm a hunch: "I hated to do it," she wrote, "because I knew that I would find bin Laden's quotations in there."

So the message is: if you want to make the "intellectual journey" from Islamic fundamentalism to Western liberalism, you might want to consider giving up your faith and renouncing your belief in the Koran. Hirsi Ali's "complaint" that she found Bin Laden's quotations in the Koran is just about the stupidest thing I've heard in at least two weeks. Of course you can find Bin Laden's quotations in the Quran. Because, well, Bin Laden quotes from the Quran. Big surprise there. Applebaum continues:

Partly as a result she lost her faith, concluding that the Koran spreads a culture that is "brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war," and that should not be tolerated by European liberals.

Hmm....I bet that calling the Koran - which 1.4 billion Muslims consider to the be the unaltered word of God - the source of a culture which is "brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women," is precisely the way to win Muslim hearts and minds in the war on terror.

Curiously, what seems to rankle Europeans most is the enthusiasm with which Hirsi Ali has adopted their own secularism and the fervor with which she has embraced their own Western values.

Here, Applebaum, for some bizarre reason, chooses to conflate rejection of religion with "Western values." "Secularism" (unlike its French cousin "laicite") does not, in fact, have anything to do with being anti-religion. In its standard definition, it refers to the "separation of church/mosque and state." This tendency to create a false dichotomy between Islamic tradition and Western post-enlightenment values is precisely why so many European Muslims feel both disoriented and alienated. They are being made to choose between false opposites. It is one thing to be intolerant of intolerance. It is quite another to be intolerant of anyone who believes in Islam and tries to live according to its precepts. In this sense, Hirsi Ali cannot even rightly be called a liberal. Her message to Muslims, which can be paraphrased as "if you don't like Western values, get the hell out," is, in fact, one that is animated by a disquieting authoritarian impulse profoundly at odds with the classical liberal tradition.

To top it all off, Applebaum then offers a conclusion so simplistic and cringe-inducing that it made me want to shut off my computer, hide in a library, and go read the print version of the New York Review of Books.

Maybe once Europeans get used to the idea -- a Muslim immigrant who embraces Western culture with the excitement of the convert! -- they'll like Hirsi Ali better. And if they're lucky, others will follow in her footsteps.


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Excellent takedown of the Applebaum article. You really get to the heart of why Ayaan Hirsi Ali is such a problematic figure. I've read a fair amount about her, but I haven't previously seen anything that gets to the point quite so incisively.

Shadid Hamid, above, offers nothing but:

Turnspeak, lies, deflection and taqiyya:

When trying to debate with Muhammedans you will end up frustrated and exasperated: Muhammedans are masters of a technique called ‘turnspeak’-

They use Tu Quoque (’you do it too-arguments) ‘accuse the accuser’- they employ kitman & taqiyya (lies & deception and dissimulation) they deflect away from the subject matter to avoid getting nailed on the unpleasant things like the atrocities, the rape, the plunder, slavery and child-molesting of the ‘profit’ Mohammed and his companions. Inevitably, if you know your stuff-, they will threaten to kill you and tell you that you will go to hell for questioning their belief-system.

Expect this and prepare yourself accordingly:

Criticizing Islam? Get ready for this:
by Infidel

Whenever you criticize anything related to Islam, Allah, Muhammad, Sharia laws or muslim community, you will find a refutation immediately. To refute something is OK but the way muslims refute is funny. Here are some most common ways of a muslim-refute, the order may change depending upon your and muslim’s caliber:

1. First of all, muslims will say, “This is false information”, “This is a lie”.
Whatever you say is wrong and whatever they say is only right.

2. Next step is Taqqiya. i.e. “Islam means peace”, “Islam was not spread by sword but love”, “No compulsion in religion”,

3. If you quote from Koran or hadith, you will be accused of quoting verses in bits and pieces.

4. And be prepared for accusation that the verses you quoted are twisted and out of context.

5. If you provide reference to your quote, then muslims will say “All your references are false and lies”, which implies only their references are true and correct.

6. You will be advised to “Read the koran first and you will see the light”

7. If you say you have already read it then they will doubt you as if you are a liar.

8. If you quote full verses (not bits & pieces) from koran and hadith, your translation is incorrect / misleading. Then you will be advised to learn Arabic and read the the original version.

9. If you say, I read the same Koran with most authentic translations, which muslims are referring to, then you will be asked “Did you read only the cover?”, “Read it with open mind”

(Read with closed mind, like a muslim reads by keeping their brains aside)

10. Besides your reading of the translated Koran or even though you know Arabic, if you quote from the Koran, they quote hadith, tafseer etc, but if you quote hadith, then they will say “Only Koran is authentic”.

11. Deflection: After all this, if you are still willing to continue, they will distract you and other readers from the original issue/topic and feed you with plenty of irrelevant issues.

12. If you are still sticking to the original issue, Muslims will refer to other religions’ scriptures like Bible, Torah, Vedas, Geeta etc and other events and personnels like Bush, Blair, Indira Gandhi, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine etc.

13. Be prepared for one or more muslims to showing their way of convincing, such as Copy & paste stuff or reference from crap Islamic sites. This includes verses from Koran & hadith, twisted facts from non islamic holy scriptures like mohammad is prophesized in all of them.

14. In this context, one or more muslims will write about Miracles in the Koran. Remember that whatever is discovered in recent time, Muslims will attribute it to Koran, but they will keep quite till it is discovered. They will never talk about the fallacies in the Koran like the “Sky is a dome on imaginary pillars”, “ the Sun sets in a muddy pond”, “the sun is revolving around the earth” etc. If you draw their attention to these fallacies, they will copy and paste crap again which is totally illogical and irrational. You will be again advised to read Koran.

15. You are about to loose your patience but still continuing, then comes personal attack. You will be abused as fool, stupid, idiot, pig, dog etc

16. If that does not work, then there will be accusation of taking money for your criticism of islam. You may get this also “Western media is biased, its propaganda to defame islam, Islam is wronged by all non muslims” etc.

17. If you don’t stop there, then muslims will run for your mother and sister.

18. If you are stubborn and still want to continue, you will be cursed like “Burn in hell, you will repent on last day, still time to seek the truth” etc

19. Towards the end, when all of the above has failed, you will be threatened directly like, “beware, watch it, keep cool, my sincere advice” or indirectly like “Give me your email id, don’t hide behind a false name, you are a coward (since you have a false id on the net), Then you might get an invitation to go to debate one to one or visit mosques or Islamic centers like Islamic Research Foundation in person” etc.

20. And finally- its drum beating, for all Muslioms, as if they won a debate, even when they lose miserably, because Koran is the word of allah.

Since the Koran is allah’s word and is clear to understand and is for all man kind, for all time and for all places, why there are hadiths, tafseers and commentaries?

Why various sects of islam and clerics are understanding it differently,

While Koran is very clear and for all to understand?

Why some verses are for a particular place and time, i.e. 1400 years ago and for the Arabic peninsula only, while the Koran is for all time, for all places and for all mankind?

Why there is Abrogation, later verses of the Koran supersede earlier ones? Was allah not able to reveal it at first time or did he change his mind time to time to suite muhammad’s needs?

Why is islam, being the only true religion, not able to be in majority, leave alone the only religion (as they claim) on the face of this earth, even after more than 1400 years since ‘revealed’ to muhammad?


Based on the crazy troll (and unspellchecked) you've just picked up, at some point you may wish to consider making the most in-offensive post imaginable. Perhaps you could come out in favor of puppies and kittens.

I'd bet a dollar that someone in either the canine or feline camp would make an angry response within the day.

My sympathies as superpowers go attracting vicious critics is not among the more helpful.

"brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war..."

My goodness. A woman is born Somali, escapes from an arranged marriage, has her filmmaking partner murdered and her life threatened, and has to flee to America. What on earth could make her believe such a thing of Islam?

Only her profoundly illiberal attitudes, I suppose. Or maybe the corrupt Dutch government that the United States has "propped up" since 1945. Anyway, it's a good thing Democracy Arsenal is around to speak up courageously for, for....what is this site supposed to be for, again?

You used the term "Muslim extremism." Would you please tell us what you mean by that?

I just met Hirsi Ali this evening for the first time when she visited and spoke in Toronto. I congratulated her for her jihad against theological totalitarianism, the mani-infestation of the Ku Klux Koran armed with weapons of Hamas destruction.

I don't have the impression that this site is "supposed to be for" anything except "opinion and commentary on US foreign policy and global affairs". The fact that I am (we are) still allowed to post is proof positive of its openness, right? I mean, that the "corrupt Dutch government" has been propped up by the US since 1945 was certainly news to me and perhaps to a lot of Dutch, particularly the ones who own big pieces of America. I guess there's a relationship there somewhere to Islamophobia but I don't know what it is.

Zathras, you say: "brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war..." My goodness. A woman is born Somali, escapes from an arranged marriage, has her filmmaking partner murdered and her life threatened, and has to flee to America. What on earth could make her believe such a thing of Islam?

Good question. I do not see any evident correlation between escaping from an arranged marriage, having her life threatened, "fleeing" to the American Enterprise Institute, and thinking Islam is "brutal" and "bigoted." Please clarify your causal links for us, because it is certainly far from apparent in your remark.

You ask, "what is this site supposed to be for, gain?" Again, I would refer you to the top of the page which says rather clearly: "opinion and commentary on US foreign policy." As for what I'm personally for, I think that should be clear from my past 11 months of posting on this site.

Don, by "Muslim extremism," I'm referring to extremist acts or ideologies propogated by Muslims in the purported name of Islam. I am speaking of extremism of a distinctly religious nature.

Wally, you refer to "theological totalitarianism, the mani-infestation of the Ku Klux Koran armed with weapons of Hamas destruction." I'm not sure what this means.

Re: "Muslim extremism"

I wish you'd expand on your thoughts on this. It's important to define "Muslim extremism" because it seems to be driving the obscene US foreign policy, particularly its military spending and aggression. It seem that, like sin, everyone is against it but since it's so poorly defined it ends up as simple Islamophobia, and the wrongful persecution of Arab-Americans for example.

Specifically: Are there other kinds of "extremism" in the world, or are only Muslims capable of "extremism?" Christians? Jews? Capitalists? Expansionists? American hegemonics? Was the invasion and brutal occupation of Iraq "extremism?"

What do you mean by "purported name of Islam?" Do "Muslim extremists" really have another agenda? And is so, why do we still call them "Muslim extremists?"

If "extremism" is only used for Muslims isn't that discriminatory and wrong?

The "war on terror" against "Muslim extremism"--words to die by. Cluster bombs as the answer. I think we can do better and I think that it is thoughtful, bi-cultural people like you that can help us do better.

Having just recently watched this woman on the Bill Maher show, I was struck by her out look on contemporary issues. Her main goal is; I have to defend my beliefs at any cost, even if it means embellishing. Unfortunately, she will find a very big following among people who are used to having world news and events summarized into 60 second sound bites. She is clearly very intolerant and has determined that nothing good can come out of Islam, so you very much can not have a meaningful discourse with her. For instance she suggests that the way fwd with Muslims is to let them know that their religion is one of violence, etc… In other words insult them first, then let them know that what they stand for is wrong. After that, let them know what Western values are, and if they wont accept, the doors are open. The last part, she doesn’t actually say that they are to be kicked out, but this is strongly implied.

She is just as guilty as those she levels some of her criticisms against. She claims that she had a change of heart after 9/11; she was struck by the horror and so on and decided to go all out against Islam and Muslims

How is that different from a kid on the West bank who witnesses atrocities committed against his people and decides that he’s forever enemies with the Israel and all of it s allies, especially those that invest heavily in defense equipment?
On the issue of detainees in Guantananmo, she just breezes it off as part of the consequences of the War on terror, not caring about the possibility that most of the detainees might be innocent. So long as it seems to ensure the safety of the American people, then their innocence is inconsequential.

She further states that America should have attacked Saudi right after 9/11 because 14 (or so) of the Hijackers were from Saudi. Conveniently ignoring the fact that they trained in Afghanistan. Never mind that the Saudi government has had deal with various attacks of its own. Her statement seems to suggest that the Saudi government may have trained or aided these people. She then (again) suggests that this is a war if civilizations (East vs West).

I have listened to people with reservations about Islam, and I have to say that she is the most dishonest that I have come across. She speaks with a trace of deep seated anger. More that intellectual (I think that’s very self serving on her part), she is rather very emotive.

She is not even of the same ilk as Rushdie. For those hoping to be engaged in some enlightened discourse with this lady, you would be very disappointed. I am very sure that those that heap praise songs on her know this fact very well and are only just using her as a viable mouth piece for now.

Now that she has taken up role at the American Enterprise Institure, "Ms. Hirsi Ali will be researching the relationship between the West and Islam; women’s rights in Islam; violence against women propagated by religious and cultural arguments; and Islam in Europe."

If Fox News had a think tank....what better way to show your true colors than to join AEI.

That about says it all for me. TOOL!

Hirsi Ali is a high-strung zealot. Her mania applies to her worship of things about which I believe she is absolutely right, but the manner in which she comports herself is deeply unhelpful to her cause. There is nothing Hirsi Ali can do to help the cause of internal Muslim reform. Reject Islam, and you will not be taken seriously as a reformer of it- because Muslims will feel certain that you are aiming to sway them from their faith and totally reject everything you believe in so fervently. This is actually what Hirsi Ali seems to want; that's why she's doomed to fail.

The trouble is, she's right about Islam. The Qur'an is "the source of a culture which is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women". It is used to aid, abet and justify Islamic supremacism and all kinds of mistreatment of every kind of non-Muslim, everywhere. In almost every case, this mistreatment is also consonant with normative Islamic theology, and Muslims who reject this (sensibly) are rejecting Qur'anic imperatives, or pretending they don't exist in the text (which amounts to infidelity of belief, because it is not permissible to ignore huge swaths of God's unaltered word. This is why non-Muslims in the West have the right to be alarmed by, even angry at, Islam-- because much of what is contained in the Qur'an and Sunnah is extraordinarily hostile to Western liberalism. What they do need to do is work with those Muslims-- numerous Muslims-- who are willing to re-interpret the Qur'an and Hadith to permit the Muslim believers' active and happy contribution to Western society. Giving credence to Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the exact opposite of the productive decision to make in this matter, even though she's perfectly correct.

When you shoot down a Holy Book, the unaltered Word of God, it might be cool of you, "Dr. Lateef," to give one or more examples of your ample and thorough knowledge.

Tools come in all flavors.

Which one are you?

Dawud :: Book 40 : Hadith 4664
Narrated AbuUmamah:

The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If anyone loves for Allah's sake, hates for Allah's sake, gives for Allah's sake and withholds for Allah's sake, he will have perfect faith.

Bukhari :: Book 4 :: Volume 52 :: Hadith 269
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:

The Prophet said, "War is deceit."

Hate and lie! this is islam! fools!

Not a word from the Quran. Precisely.
You quote people who supposedly quote the Prophet, but the proof is weak.

The Qur'an is plenty controversial but there is no reason to believe God is not perfect in understanding all. It is our understanding that is weak.

And then there are the islamophobistas. What a weak-minded breed of haters, blinded by their dark minds.

I pity them.

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The Qur'an is plenty controversial but there is no reason to believe God is not perfect in understanding all. It is our understanding that is weak.

And then there are the islamophobistas. What a weak-minded breed of haters, blinded by their dark minds.

I pity them.

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