Shifts away from Islamism require grassroots, ground-up approaches to change.
The top-down approach to combating Islamic extremism is not working. Organizations such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as Islamic State and Boko Haram, are enjoying a dangerous level of popularity. Cultural change cannot be forced upon a people; it must materialize from within. True and meaningful reform can only begin on the grassroots level. To defeat radical Islam, populism must succeed where war and espionage have failed.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of "Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now," argues that Mohammed was a creative genius who, upon his death, froze innovation in Islam forever.
"Islamic extremism is an assault on the ideas of liberalism, on the idea of innovation, on women, on gays, on tolerance, on civilization," says the author and social activist. She says if American cultural leaders like Ben Affleck can't see this, it's because they're not paying attention.
Political writer and social activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali responds to last year's spat between actor Ben Affleck and neuroscientist Sam Harris on Real Time with Bill Maher. Affleck, who became quite heated during the discussion, called Harris a bigot and racist when the latter criticized the Muslim world and Islamic doctrine. "Every criticism of the doctrine of Islam," said Harris, "gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people." In evaluating that conversation, Ayaan Hirsi Ali sides with Harris: "Islamic extremism is an assault on the ideas of liberalism, on the idea of innovation, on women, on gays, on tolerance, on civilization." In her new book Heretic, she argues that Islam is in need of a major reformation.
God doesn’t answer back. That’s the problem. Humans can.
The narrative I live by is the humanist narrative that if we are looking for morality, if we’re looking for vices and virtues, we can find them both in humanity—in human creations, human culture, humanity’s endeavor to develop our reason or our emotions and not only relationships between humans, but with the animal world and our environment.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch-American feminist filmmaker and political writer. She is author of several books, the latest of which is Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She is also founder of the AHA Foundation, a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Dutch parliament.
Ali is a vocal critic of Islam whose writings often focus on the religion's subjugation of women. Her work is controversial and has resulted in numerous death threats. In 2004 Ayaan gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, a film about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh's chest. This tragic event, and Ayaan’s life leading up to it, are all chronicled in her best-selling book, Infidel.