Sunday, August 17, 2008

COMMENT/VIDEO: On faith and dishonesty ...

I watched this video on the Dutch-Somali neo-Conservative activist Ayaan Hirsi Magaan/Ali. The video provides a thought-provoking discussion on the background to her memoir Infidel. The main issue of the review is whether Hirsi Magaan/Ali should be the subject of negative judgments because she was not truthful to Dutch immigration authorities.

I can't help but wonder whether Hirsi Magaan/Ali would agree with the reviewer's assessment if he were talking about another asylum seeker. Hirsi Magaan/Ali's term in the Dutch Parliament was characterised by what could only be described as extreme disdain for asylum seekers. She supported the expulsion of a Bosnian asylum seeker who had been less than truthful in her application.

But there's more to this story than meets the eye. There are many more incredible stories of Muslim women who faced horrific cultural experiences and who overcame amazing odds to secure freedom. However, these women chose not to attack their religious beliefs or the religious beliefs of others. However, their books haven't been promoted so heavily by rightwing thinktanks with religious scores to settle.

Hirsi Magaan/Ali's lies about her migration status may be forgiveable. But when she lies about the beliefs of 1.3 billion Muslims, pretending that her experience is necessarily reflective of the experiences of others, and when she uses those lies to incite hatred against ordinary people with some link to Islam, her lies become unforgiveable.

People should ask themselves this simple question: If Hirsi Ali/Magaan had chosen to expose the evils of the cultural practices she grew up in WITHOUT inciting virulent hatred against other Muslims, would she have been taken so seriously?

We don't see far-Right thinktanks promoting Shirin Ebadi or Irene Khan or Mukhtar Mai. We don't even see them promoting Waris Dirie, a Somali woman with a similar story. I certainly won't be holding my breath waiting for the Centre for Independent Studies inviting Shirin Ebadi or Waris Dirie to speak about Islam or the enlightenment or women's rights.

Why is this so? Think about it.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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