National Post, Monday August 15, 2005

Multiculturalismís Eloquent enemy

 

By Robert Fulford

 

Op Ed column [Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Canada] for Monday, August 15.05
It's not every day you see a film that cost the director his life, and it's
even more remarkable to watch it in the presence of the co-producer while a
dozen RCMP bodyguards protect her from Islamic terrorists. But there we
were, in the auditorium of the Earth Sciences Centre at the University of
Toronto, some 150 of us, watching Submission, Part I, the 11-minute film by
the late Theo Van Gogh, and listening to his collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
who is known around the world as an abrasive critic of Islam, an
astonishingly outspoken Dutch MP, and an ex-Muslim--"an apostate," as she
says.
   She was in Toronto to help fight the proposal to build Islamic

religious teaching, Sharia, into Ontario's legal system. She spoke
alongside Irshad Manji, the author of The Trouble with Islam, and Homa
Arjomad, who runs the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada.
    Hirsi Ali was born 37 years ago in Somalia and raised as a devout
hijab-wearing Muslim while her exiled family shuffled from Saudi Arabia to
Ethiopia to Kenya. She bolted from family and religion when her father
arranged her marriage to a cousin she didn't know in Canada. She moved to
the Netherlands as a refugee.
 Today she comes across as articulate, passionate, and elegant, as
well as clearly secular. She wore a chic red pantsuit, blue shirt, earrings

and a gold chain. She has a kind of vertical beauty, a long face perfectly
shaped. Apparently a profound strength of spirit makes her appear serene,
even after nearly three years of living under police protection. She makes
her points with exceptional clarity in a subtle, Africa-accented English,
one of her six languages. It would be hard to imagine a more persuasive
advocate for Muslim women.
    Her film is no less impressive. When Submission was shown on Dutch
TV many Muslims called it blasphemy. In revenge, a Dutch-born,
Dutch-educated Muslim, Mohammed Bouyeri, murdered Van Gogh.  He proudly
admitted the killing and received a life sentence. He also said Hirsi Ali
could be next.
    Submission shows quotations from the Koran painted on a woman's
body. The symbolism is clear: Muslims impose scripture on women and
religion functions as an instrument of coercion.
   Still, you can call Submission a religious film. The narrator, a
woman, is no apostate. She addresses Allah, in whom she clearly believes,
reporting atrocities (which the film shows) against women. They are flayed

for losing their virginity, forced to marry men they hate, expected to
accept male brutality as routine. "I feel, at least once a week, the
strength of my husband's fist on my face," a woman cries. How can Allah let
this happen? The film embodies faith in its most frustrated, baffled form.

    The film connects with Sharia because Hirsi Ali and many others
believe that women will be intimidated in Sharia arbitration. Experience
says they will not be properly represented and may be forced into accepting
violations of their rights. That seems reasonable, since Muslim women are
often far less educated than their fathers and brothers.
   Hirsi Ali paid special attention to the ugly face of
multiculturalism. It favors cultural groups over the individuals within
them and teaches that all cultures are equal. That creates a belief that
minorities can make their own rules.
   "If you take multiculturalism to its logical end," she said, "it
becomes racist because you are discriminating against women in one group,
allowing them to be mistreated as you would not allow others to be
mistreated." [ITAL]Multiculturalism is racist![UNITAL] That left her
audience with something to think about.
    She emphasized that genital mutilation is not in Koranic law, but

many who practice it claim that religion demands it. Others insist they are

following Allah's will when they deny women ordinary rights. A government
that sanctions Sharia in family law may find itself trapped into endorsing
this nonsense.
  Hirsi Ali believes democracies should avoid dealing with their
citizens as communities. "Go back to the roots of liberalism," she argued.
"It is not about groups." She took an MA in political science at Leiden
University
because she wanted to understand her new country. As she said
recently, "I wanted to understand why we asylum seekers were all coming
here [to Holland], and why everything worked in this country, and why you
could walk undisturbed through the streets at night, and why there was no
corruption, and why on the other side of the world there was so much
corruption and so much conflict."
   Her views cause discomfort among many who consider themselves
seekers of social justice. It's as if Islam were intellectually forbidden

territory, a place where outsiders aren't allowed to express their
well-reasoned views. Hirsi Ali calls this "the paradox of the left." Many
on the left take pride in supporting equality of women, but in the case of
Islam they step back nervously and sometimes even help to encourage
oppression. Sharia courts look like the perfect example.
    People of liberal views desperately fear being called racists, a
point that came up often during the evening. Someone asked Manji, a
lesbian, why the gay community seldom expresses itself on questions related
to women in Islam. She replied that many gays say privately that they are
horrified by Muslim practices but "feel they have no permission to say
anything for fear of being labelled racist, which is the most devastating
charge you can make against anyone." Manji said Muslims sometimes use the
sensitivity attached to religion as a way to choke off normal and necessary
questions about Islamic practice.
   As the Friday evening meeting ended, Hirsi Ali was asked how Van
Gogh's murder affected her. She was disturbed by that terrible event, no
doubt about it, but on the other hand she was planning to produce another
film, the sequel she and Van Gogh had discussed. Otherwise, she would be
allowing violence to direct her life. She won't do that. "I am not

persuaded by violence. So I'll just go on."