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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[…]

Are you willing to die for your own ideas of freedom as much as the fanatics are willing to die for their own?

I think we should make a distinction between Islam and Muslims. What I’m trying to do is to say all over the world, we can identify with each other as human beings. That is the basic glue – the fact that you’re an individual human being and I’m an individual human being, that’s what’s . . . that’s where our commonality or common strength lies in, and common interests. Islam, if we view it as one of the philosophies of political theories or ideas produced by human beings throughout history, or just one of them . . . and view it, scrutinize it, criticize it as we have done with all other doctrines – religious or secular – then we may be able from the west – now I’m using “we” as someone who is westernized – to convince Muslims to make a different choice and to reform their faith first by acknowledging that there are things wrong with their faith. So our goal should not be to preserve Islam. Our goal should be the common human, you know . . . We are humans. So Muslims are humans. They are not _________ born just as a baby in Pakistan, or in Saudi Arabia, or in Yemen, or in a Muslim community here. If we emphasize that, then I think we can make a change. And that involves two things. That involves learning to distinguish between who is an enemy and who is a friend. But before you decide who is an enemy and who is a friend, you yourself have to decide what do you stand for. What are your own set of ideas that you feel are superior to that of Islam? And are you willing to defend and die for your own ideas of freedom, and humanity, and humanism as much as the fanatics are willing to die for their own? I think that’s such a good question because it puts . . . it just shows how experimental it all was – a process of trial and error, and it’s still the case. For instance – and this is a point of criticism – there’s no consensus in the United States on who the enemy is, or whether to freely say it’s Islam, or it’s a perversion of a form of Islam. Is it Wahhabism? Is it Salafism? Or is it basic Islam? Who should we ally with strategically? In other words, the approach has been very much strategic. There are people in the United States, including this administration, who are waking up to the fact that there is a battle of ideas going on, but they’re too shy to voice what the ideas are. Another point of criticism – and that’s not only towards this administration – but I’ve seen, heard it all over the place is just this desire to avoid Saudi Arabia as a culprit; the state that’s not only financing terrorism, but also financing the ideology behind the terror acts. I think it was a mistake to declare it a “war on terror”. Terror is just a tactic, and it shows how much . . . how strategic the whole approach is towards what’s going on. Another mistake on both sides of the Atlantic is that if we just appease them – if we just understand what they want from us and we give it to them, they might not be so bad to us. Or they might forgive. Or they might . . . I think those are mistakes that were made. But again I’ll come back to the distinction between Europe and America. And it seems as if America is learning much faster than Europe. And by learning, I mean waking up to the fact that it is Islam . . . not necessarily all Muslims, but Islam as a set of ideas; and that, that can mean military . . . I mean very disastrous military action. Which for every politician, it is a terrible decision to take to say, “We are going to war" or “We are going to do something destructive" or “We’re going to take an unpopular action.” And Americans seem to be much more courageous in making that decision. They did ________ in the Second World War and later than the Europeans who have . . . I think the Europeans leadership at this point is really self-restrained, and I say this because of the approach to Iran. Recorded on: 8/15/07