The Corner

Is It All A Big Misunderstanding?

Reuters has a remarkable piece about reaction among Dutch Muslim women to the emigration of former legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the United States and a post at the American Enterprise Institute. Those quoted are relieved that Ali has departed, because the “tone has softened” and the “tensions have eased.” Some also contend that her views about Islam’s misogyny and backwardness are informed more by her Somali cultural background than by the religion as practiced more broadly. The bottom line:

After resigning as a Dutch parliamentarian in May 2006, Hirsi Ali stated: “I am going away, but the questions remain. The questions about the future of Islam in our country, the suppression of women in Islamic culture and the integration of the many Muslims in the West.”

[Suzan] Yucel, who with other young Muslims runs a website called “We are staying here” (www.wijblijvenhier.nl), says she and her cohorts are examining the same issues but, unlike Hirsi Ali, with a view to diffusing tension and staying.

The former politician has been the subject of lively debates on the site, with some bloggers saying she deserves respect for exposing phoney tolerance in the Netherlands, and daring to speak her mind despite the death threats.

But the dominant sentiment is relief that she has left the Dutch public arena.

There’s always room for debate among political activists and reformers about tone and strategy, and Islamic practice does vary widely. It’s doubtful that Islamists in the Netherlands would see most Indonesians, for instance, as truly Muslim. But it sounds like much of the “relief” expressed in the Reuters piece has to do with fear of what Ali provoked from Dutch Muslims rather than a fundamental misunderstanding of Islam on her part. It’s essentially another example of Mark Steyn’s quod erat demonstrandum: Don’t say we’re violent, or we’ll kill you.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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