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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 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.
I see the world after the 11th of September . . . It was probably that way before, but I became aware of it after the 11th of September that there is a major conflict between the Islamic world and the western world. That conflict a number of times has been referred to as a war; and I do acknowledge that there is a war, and the war is declared in the name of Islam on the west. I believe that the set of ideas, the western civilization has been responsible for many atrocities and inhumane things in the world; but it has also been responsible for a great deal of progress not only in the west, but also outside of the west. For instance, the emphasis on individual freedom – freedom of conscience, of equality of men and woman, the separation . . . understanding conflict in a way that you separate the divine from the secular and that sort of thing. I think that those ideas, once put to a practice, will bring . . . or can bring and have proved that they can bring prosperity and peace – especially peace – to humans. And that if we were born into Islam, learn from the west without copying the atrocities; without having to go through our own genocides, and inquisitions, and crusades, and anti-Semitism, and the persecution of women that we can learn a great deal from the west. Just like the Japanese have retained their culture but have learned a great deal from the west, we can do that if we . . . For a long time in the Arab-Islamic world, we have been emphasizing everything that the west had done wrong – the colonization, the slave trades, the apartheids and so on. I think it’s also a part of the responsibility of the west also to, you know, to put forward the things that the west has done good. We were colonized by the west; but those people who are most opposed to colonization were westerners. And it was that conflict in the west which eventually led to all the independence and the Declaration of Independence. It’s true that slave trade was practiced universally everywhere, including the west; but there were western minds that opposed slave trade and ended it. It’s true that witches were burned and hunted down within the west, but these sporadic practices were put to an end. And I think it’s time that the west markets itself that way, and that we also stop blaming the west for everything that went wrong with us and learn to take responsibility for our own actions. If we do that, then humanity can get closer. And that conflict, that war between the western system and western way of doing things and the value system of Islam cannot be reconciled, but that Muslims can, by partaking of the good things of the west, establish their own peaceful, prosperous society so that we don’t have to immigrate in large masses to the west, or that we don’t have to attack the west for past grievances. Recorded on: 8/15/07
Hirsi Ali, on how the Muslim world can learn from the West.
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