The bipolar extremes of American politics—red states, blue states; with us or against us; cut and run or victory; capitalism or socialism—have now divided Islam into two separate categories. There is an evolving Islam that has the ability, even the desire to coexist with Western secularism, and there is the violent, misogynist, Sharia law Islam. At each extreme is an articulate, charismatic orator. On the left, we have Tariq Ramadan. On the right, Ayann Hirsi Ali.
Ramadan, who is good friends with Patrick O’Christmas and Ruben Chanukah, was recently allowed back into the U.S. after a six-year ban for donating money to organizations that support Hamas. Born in Switzerland and now occupying a teaching post at Oxford University, Ramadan talks a progressive, evolving Islam that is already integrating with the West. It seems his detractors hold him guilty by association since his grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization that preaches strict adherence to the Quran.
But Ramadan was born into Islam and into Switzerland, that fantastic neutral country that knows only pacifism.
Ayann Hirsi Ali, however, has suffered a much different experience of Islam, the kind of experience that gets her interviewed on Glenn Beck and Fox News. She was given a female circumcision in her native Somalia and was allegedly on her way to Canada for an arranged marriage when she sought asylum in Holland at the age of 22. There she benefited from the welfare state she now criticizes (she currently lives in the U.S.) and became a Dutch Member of Parliament.
She sees Islam through her experiences, as Ramadan does through his. Hirsi Ali sees in Islam intolerance and violent fidelity to an antiquated text. It’s no wonder. After collaborating on a short film named Submission with Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, she received a death threat. The threat was attached to a knife stabbed through the heart of her collaborator, Van Gogh. This extremism has clearly informed her thinking, as Ramadan’s academic upbringing has informed his.
So the next time you see either of them on a television interview, consider where they’ve come from before you get frightened by where they say Islam is going.