Ayaan Hirsi Ali Visits Wisconsin-Madison January 27, 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Visits Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a fantastic speaker coming to their school next week.

No, not injury lawyer Bill Marler.

Above him.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

An outspoken defender of women’s rights within Islamic societies, Ayaan Hirsi Ali uses her enthralling life experience to explain her passion for equality and reform for Muslim women around the world. In her honest memoir, Infidel, Hirsi Ali recounts her disturbing experiences of abuse and intellectual and spiritual deprivation that led to her acts of defiance against cultural norms.

The event is free and details can be found here.

Sponsors for the event include the UW Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics. Good for them. It doesn’t sound very surprising, but this association does take a lot of courage. There are a lot of extremists who have no love for Hirsi Ali or any of her associates. It’s not as simple as allowing your group’s name to be put on advertisements.

Not sponsoring this event?

The Muslim Students Association:

At the presentation, MSA President Rashid Dar showed the [Distinguished Lecture Series] committee a 15-minute video highlighting some of the issues that came along with giving Hirsi Ali a prominent stage, [DLS Director Reid] Tice said.

“If she would have her way, everyone will leave the theater thinking Islam is evil,” Dar said.

Hirsi Ali’s argument that Islam provides the means for Muslims to oppress women promotes hatred, Dar said.

Hrisi Ali isn’t saying anything except the truth of her experiences. There’s the added bonus that Hirsi Ali is right — Islam does treat women like second class citizens. If the truth hurts, so be it. That’s a weak argument from dar against her coming to campus, and thankfully, it failed.

Another non-sponsor is the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.

According to an (unverified) email, they felt she was not a positive voice for women:

“Her approach is so virulently hostile to Islam as a religion (she calls Islam “the new fascism”) that anything she says about women gets lost in this sweeping assault.”

Well, when adherents of some faith brutally kill a close friend and issue attacks on your life, you try treating them with unearned respect. They don’t deserve any.

Hirsi Ali is a woman who speaks her mind about a religion that rarely allows for dissent, even moreso when it comes from females. She’s a hero and a role model. What a shame that the Gender and Women’s Studies Department doesn’t feel the same.

If you’re in the area, go check her out and bring a friend. She tells a story about the problems with religion that everyone needs to hear.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ron in Houston

    Hey, hey, hey!

    Let’s not discount the lawyer’s talk.

    Food safety is an important issue.

  • Angie

    I’ve read Ali’s two books, THE CAGED VIRGIN and INFIDEL, and they’re both intense and thought-provoking. Highly recommended!

    As for Ali as a public speaker, I saw her give a talk at a university last year, and it was fascinating to watch the dynamic between Ali and Islam-defenders in the audience.

  • dersk

    She’s also someone who wants the rules to apply to everybody. Except her.

    She basically was an illegal immigrant here in Holland, and justifies it by saying she was essentially a refugee. But of course these days, she thinks the rules should be tightened for everyone and much less slack should be shown.

    She’s a jerk in the same way Gert Wilders and Theo van Gogh were jerks.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I’m not super familiar with her work, although I respect her for the risks she takes by speaking out. But I have always been a bit suspicious as well due to her alignment with the extreme right-wing both in the Netherlands and here in the USA too.

  • Rhiannon

    “Caged Virgin” rocked! I’d go see her, but that’s much too far of a drive. Hirsi Ali blends atheism and feminism and I love that. It should be done more often.

  • Siamang

    I suspect that the problem for the Gender and Women’s Studies Department is her involvement in right wing politics.

    Still, I’d love to hear her speak sometime.

  • Sam

    Hey Hemant,

    My Muslim parents were immigrants from India in the 1970’s. I’m ever thankful that their view of religion was grounded in moderation and cultural tradition, rather than dogma. I consider myself a Muslim because it is how I identify my heritage.

    That being said, as bar as beliefs go, I am an atheist. I read your blog daily for ammunition against the massive stupidity perpetuated by most believers. I hate the hijab. Without any irony, I can say that Chris Hitchens is among my favorite authors.

    Even as a the most moderate “Muslim” you will ever find, I’m deeply offended by Mrs. Ali’s comments as views as a Member of the Dutch Parliament. She happily provides legitimacy to the arguments of extreme right wing politicians in Europe and America that perpetuate blind hatred and prejudice against Muslims. The irony is that so many of her allies have some of the same extremist Christian beliefs that she ascribes to Islam. (See Geert Wilders, who proposes amending the present Article 1 of the Dutch constitution, guaranteeing equality under the law and replacing it with a clause stating the cultural dominance of the Christian and Jewish traditions. Or proposing that no foreign born be allowed to vote).

    Even more troubling is that as an elected member of Dutch parliament, she had the ability to make regular, moderate Mulims lives demonstrably worse.

    What is just so galling is the hypocrisy of what Mrs. Ali believes. All of her talk about tyranny of Muhammed, she has no issue aligning with Christian fascists. She is against immigration to Europe from dark skinned countries, but illegally immigrated herself.

    Again, I don’t mean to defend the virulent and violent strains of Islam. Believe me, I know the horror stories across the world, and I sympathize with Mrs. Ali, coming from what are more than likely, pretty shitty circumstances.

    But Mrs. Ali writes off the hatred of Islam by embracing the hatreds of other dogmas. She perpetuates backwards stereotypes, and legitimizes prejudice. She is NOT an atheist that we can be proud of.


  • Claudia

    I respect Hirsi Ali a great deal, and goodness knows I’m glad to see an outspoken, unapologetic woman out there, given atheism’s reputation for being too male-dominated.

    However I’m not convinced by her holy-war attitude. This idea that Islam is essentially, at it’s core, unavoidably different from all other religions and that it must be stamped out by whatever means necessary. She shares this vision with Hitchens and Harris. In fact, watching her speak you can clearly tell that she’s an atheist, sure, but she doesn’t much care about Christianity or Hinduism or particularly whether faith is a problem or not, her problem is pretty exclusively with Islam. I saw her once say unequivocally that the UK should ban Muslim schools but waffle when asked if other religious schools should also be banned.

    Mind you, I don’t think that Christianity in its current state is the same as Islam in its current state. However I’ve yet to see an argument that shows how it is noticeably different from, say, 12th Century Christianity. A civilized person (say, a Muslim) in that time would look at the Dark Ages barbarism of Christians and conclude that Christianity was at its core different, and more dangerous, than other religions.

    Sure it would be nice for the Muslim students association to endorse her as a symbolic show of rejection towards the many real threats she faces. But Rashid Dar is right, when you listen to her your impression is that Islam is, at its core, evil and dangerous, and no dialogue is really warranted. I’m guessing that this goes exactly contrary to their groups goals. I wouldn’t expect a Jewish Americans group to promote a virulent anti-Semite even if he had received death threats. They should unequivocal condemn and threats to her.

    The feminist organization however has no such mitigating circumstances. It pretty much reeks of cowardice. Its not the first time that I see feminist organizations not using the full level of fury they can show towards the Catholic Church against Islam. I’d like to think however than ordinary individual feminists have no such double standard.

  • I pretty much wrote off Ayaan Hirsi Ali when she tried to argue that the Swiss ban on minarets was a vote for tolerance and inclusion. I suppose that kind of up-is-downism is par for the course for someone working for the American Enterprise Institute.

  • It’ll be as interesting to hear her speak as it is to see our local street preachers try to decide whether to protest Islam or the atheist-gay-marriage-fornicating-liberal-obama-voting crowd that will be there. Protesting both might overload their argumentative skills. Thanks for the posting on Madison events!

  • muggle

    Well, this is disturbing. I read and was impressed with “Infidel” and all she went through. What some are saying here about intolerance and supporting Christian extremists is most disturbing.

    That said, Islam is a problem. There’s a small minority who are where Christianity is today, moderate and not sticking with the horrid original text of their holy book. But the vast majority of Islam seems to be the kind to take it literally and want to kill any so-called infidel, especially those who want to expose them for the dangerous, violent creed they are.

    I think it is important to remember that 9/11 was not caused by some wacked out minority cult but by mainstream Islam. It’s dangerous to forget it.

    However, it’s also dangerous to forget what Judaism or Christianity are at their roots. Personally, in this country, I fear their extremists more and am worried about their growing power.

    All in all, I wish I was there to go hear her speak. If there’s a question and answer period after, you could even confront her on what seems to be intolerance on her part.

  • PSP

    Of anything I have ever heard her say, she sounds reasonable and correct to me. I’ve read her book “Infidel” and it was very good. I don’t buy the “hatred towards Muslims” argument. I have heard her say that she opposes, specifically, political Islam and the doctrines in Islam that makes good people believe bad stuff (plenty of that). Sorry if she isn’t attacking other fundamentalists but she is sticking to the issues she cares about. I don’t know of her alliance to far right groups but nothing she says leads me to believe that she is way out there. Finally, I don’t think too many people get Islam. Speak to some devoted good-natured, over all intelligent practicing Muslims. Speak to them about specific issues. You will be blown away by what they say.

  • UW-student

    I for one am apalled that the University would bring such a speaker who is breeding hatred for Islam (something we certainly don’t need more of) in the hearts and minds of so many. Does she have no respect for a religion followed by a large population of the world?

    Her comments are general blanket statements about Islam that lack intellect. I can’t imagine why the University would invite her to speak.

  • Actually I was at her speech last night. She made it very clear that her problem with Islam is that as a political ideology and not with muslims’ individual beliefs. She also highlighted some of the issues facing women in countries with Islamic law. It was also interesting to hear the challenges, most of which were either questioning her values, and providing various excuses for why what she presented was not the entire truth. However, none of the opponents stood up and defended their position. It was actually scary to witness the rude behavior of Dar and some other muslim colleagues towards her, than anything she said about Islam!

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