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Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Heretic is fascinating but frightening reading. Hirsi Ali calls it an optimistic book but I found it one of the biggest downers I’ve ever experienced. It’s not until maybe the last 10% of the book that you get a foretaste of a possible happy outcome, but by then you may be disinclined to believe in it.
As you read Heretic, unless you are exceptionally good at reserving your judgment, you will begin to fear, despite all your liberal-mindedness, that a significant portion of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are primed to wage jihad against the world’s 7 billion infidels till at last the black flag of Islam flaps over all the world’s capitals and sharia law blankets the planet, and you will think it’s impossible to prevent that from happening because how can you defeat a bunch of jihadists who think violent martyrdom is the ticket to Paradise?
Islamophobia! That's what Hirsi Ali is promoting! Or at least so cried the protestors who convinced Brandeis University to back down on a plan to award her an honorary degree in 2014. Hirsi Ali naturally plays up that wrenching incident as an example of political correctness trumping free speech in the increasingly intimidated Western world, but you have to concede the protestors had a point.
But Hirsi Ali has a point too. Remember when film director Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam in 2004? Van Gogh had directed Submission, a documentary by Hirsi Ali premised on the oppression of women in Islam. The killer, a fanatical young Muslim from Morocco, pinned a note to van Gogh’s body promising that Hirsi Ali was next on his list. So she has security guards to pay. She's a target.
She was born in 1969 in Somalia and was in her youth a dutiful Muslim. Her about-face came in 1992 when against her wishes she was sent off to marry a cousin in Canada. Instead of going all the way, she deplaned in Frankfort and eventually won asylum in the Netherlands. She toiled in low-wage jobs and studied so fervently that she eventually earned an MA in poli sci. She cohabited with an infidel boyfriend, drank wine, and became, for better or worse, a Westerner. She avoided other Muslims because of their tendency to admonish her over her lifestyle. It was several years before she woke to the fact that she had turned atheist.