The Irrelevance of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A Response by Tariq Ramadan

Posted on December 26, 2007


OXFORD — In a recent article, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch legislator and author of “Infidel,” accused the so-called “moderate” Muslims of remaining silent instead of condemning acts done in the name of Islam by individuals or governments.

Surprisingly, I was mentioned among the “moderate” Muslim scholars who did not condemn what happened in Saudi Arabia (the lashing sentence of a female rape victim) or Sudan (the indictment of a grade school teacher for allowing her students to name their teddy bear after the Prophet). All the while, I have been paying the price of my regular criticisms of such kinds of actions these past few years by being banned from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and . . . the United States.

Let us start first with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s quotation of the Koran. The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)

What kind of message does she exactly want to convey by quoting a verse referring to corporal punishment? That Islam, per se, is advocating violence? That violent Muslims or the so-called Islamic governments acting undemocratically are in fact genuinely implementing the Islamic message? Through her text, the message becomes clear: Islam is an archaic religion, the Koran is a violent text and the only way to reform Islam is simply to “de-Islamize” the Muslims.

Would it not be possible to quote here tens of passages from the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, the Gospels and the Epistles that are violent without reaching the conclusion that Hinduism, Judaism or Christianity are violent per se? Is it difficult to understand that this is a question of interpretation and that to condemn in such a way a religion, by its very essence, is not only unjust but deeply counterproductive? It does not help the inner dynamic of reforms.

Contrary to what Ayaan Hiri Ali said — that no “moderate” Muslims, and in particular myself, had spoken out in protest over these incidents — I wrote a piece during the Sudanese story (11/28/07) about the situation in Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia as well as in Sudan. I started by rejecting any kind of victim mentality on the part of Muslims, for it would have easily been possible to claim that the media were once again covering only damaging stories about Muslims and the Islamic majority countries. For Muslims to simply blame this “ongoing campaign against Islam, its Book, its Prophet and its values and practices” is no longer enough. […]

Though it should remain neutral and protect justice and people’s rights, in the Islamic majority countries the judiciary system is often used for political reasons or so-called “religious concerns.” The problem is much more serious and deep than the series of stories we have been getting in the media. These countries need profound reform, an imperative reassessment. Let’s face it. A rape is a rape. While all the evidence has not been shown, it remains unacceptable to start by blaming the woman. To use and instrumentalize the story of an innocent British teacher to show how much “we care about Islam” is pure nonsense and should be utterly rejected! […]

 The reason why voices such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s are not heard in the Islamic majority countries is not because she raises irrelevant questions (some of her arguments are indeed very relevant) but because her criticisms appear to be obsessive, excessive and unilateral. It is as if she wants to please the West and, yes, the West is pleased. But the Muslims are deaf to her voice.


Published today in The International Herald Tribune.  Please click here to read the remainder of the article.

Please also read my article entitled “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Gaining Undeserved Credibility On The Back of Muslims.” After reading my article, determine for yourself whether Ms. Ali has any credibility at all in the current discourse regarding Islam and Muslims.