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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 11 page 18


Muslim readers will probably find Heretic, and even this review of Heretic, tough going. No one enjoys having their religion picked apart by outsiders or apostates or book reviewers. Hirsi Ali’s fundamental charge against Islam is that the call to violence is embedded in its holy scriptures. A sub-theme is her condemnation of “Western liberals” who reflexively emphasize the socially soothing notion that Islam is a religion of peace that just happens to have some bad apples like any other system of belief. What Islam needs, she says, is a major Reformation — she has in mind the Protestant Reformation that shook Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries — and in this book Hirsi Ali lists a number of to-do items to help the Muslim Reformation along.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: an atheistic Westerner now

She mentions often enough that most Muslims are ordinary folks like you and me, just trying to get along in life. They are what she calls “Mecca Muslims,” taking their cue from the early years of Mohammed’s mission in his hometown, Mecca, which was then as now a pilgrimage centre except that the theme back then was polytheism. The prestige and income of Mecca’s ruling class depended on its control of the famous rock/shrine Ka’ba which was surrounded by scores, some say hundreds, of divine idols. Mohammed, however, preached monotheism. Despite being persecuted by the city’s polytheistic leaders, he swore off vengeance and earned his handful of converts by peaceful persuasion.

Regrettably, it’s not the “Mecca Muslims” but rather the “Medina Muslims” who have the world’s attention nowadays. These are the Muslims who emulate Mohammed’s militancy after his famous hijra, his getaway to Medina where he became, in effect, a war chief leading raids against the infidels (which in context meant the Meccan polytheists). His small forces defeated larger forces because, it seemed, Allah blessed his battles as holy war. Mohammed eventually gathered into his now-militant Islam virtually all the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, and a series of lightning conquests by Mohammed’s successors (caliphs) extended Islamic rule in the 7th and 8th centuries till it stretched from Spain to Java.

Hirsi Ali guesses that perhaps 3% of Muslims are Medina Muslims who understand Islam as a call to war and conquest. That amounts to 48 million people — enough to alarm anybody. Of course, she’s only making a guess. This would be the base from which emerge the raving imams, the suicide bombers, and such foul outfits as Boko Haram, deriving sustenance from such quranic verses as: “When ye meet the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them.”