In lieu of reporting – the kind done by actual journalists – Newsweek opted for a personal essay to explicate the photo on last week’s Muslim Rage cover. Ayaan Hirsi Ali took the job. It was a rush job, and it showed.
Hirsi Ali’s is a short piece, starting with this premise:
The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group. On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam….In the age of globalization and mass immigration, such intolerance has crossed borders and become the defining characteristic of Islam.
And here is her sneering criticism of “the Western response”:
And the defining characteristic of the Western response? As Rushdie’s memoir makes clear, it is the utterly incoherent tendency to simultaneously defend free speech—and to condemn its results.
Hirsi Ali then spends most of the remaining space writing about her own experiences, and Salmon Rushdie’s life under fatwa. As a Somali born Dutch politician and writer, Hirsi Ali has lived under a death threat since 2004 for writing Submission, a short 2004 film that dramatized misogynistic interpretations of the Koran. The director Theo van Gogh was publicly murdered in a knife attack, the assailant using the knife to affix a note to his body calling for the death of Hirsi Ali.
Let’s put aside for a moment any snarkiness about Hirsi Ali that might arise from the fact that she is now a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a darling of the hard right. Whatever her current political affiliation (the Economist has taken note of Ali’s “talent for reinvention”), a note calling for your death knifed into the body of your colleague is scary as f*ck.
Knowing this about Hirsi Ali gives some much needed context, if not to Newsweek’s ridiculous “Muslim Rage” headline, at least to its subheading: “How I survived it. How we can end it.”
How to end it
So Hirsi Ali has something to say about the first person How-I-survived-it bit. What about the How-we-can-end-it part? Here, she runs into some trouble. A few years ago, in an interview in Reason magazine, Hirsi Ali’s solution was…total war. The interviewer asked whether Islam can bring about positive social changes. Hirsi Ali answered “Only if Islam is defeated.” The interviewer, trying to give her a way out, gently nudged her: “Don’t you mean radical Islam?” Hirsi Ali’s response is astounding in its candor. In her own words: