An Absolutist Position

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Earlier this week, while researching material for a post on secularism in America, and in need of a good quote from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I found myself trolling through several reviews of her book Infidel (2007), and was astonished to find that numerous reviewers, while standing on their “liberal” credentials (not to mention their individual, finely-honed, pseudo-liberal outrage), took umbrage with Ms. Ali’s views on how women are treated under Islam. One critic, Lorraine Ali (no relation, thankfully; who reviewed Infidel for Newsweek) claimed that Ms. Ali has an “absolutist” opinion of Islam, and thus that opinion is to be discounted.

This got me thinking, and I spent the next couple of days re-reading Infidel to see if I had somehow missed something the first time around.

As it turns out, I hadn’t missed a thing. Ms. Ali does, in fact, have an absolutist position on how Islam treats women.

A seven-year-old girl should absolutely never be held down on the floor by four adults and told that her pain is the will of Allah as a man cuts away her outer labia and clitoris with a pair of scissors.

That same seven-year-old girl should absolutely never be forced to endure further agony as the man, working without anesthetic, sews the remains of her bleeding womanhood shut with button thread, leaving open only a tiny aperture through which her urine trickles like drips from a leaky faucet.

That same seven-year-old girl should absolutely never have to spend two weeks healing—on her back with her legs tied together, so that her movements will not inhibit the formation of scar tissue.

Years later, that same girl, now a young woman on her wedding night, should absolutely never be forced to suffer the pain and humiliation of having her husband rip open that scar with his penis, or if his penis isn’t up (bwah-hahahaha…) to the task, rendering his bride mountable by opening the scar with a kitchen knife.

A woman should absolutely never be required to cover herself in bulky, stifling fabric to mask any hint of her femininity, lest she inflame the passions of a bunch of sexually repressed cretins and thereby run the risk of being stoned or beaten.

A woman should absolutely never be forced to marry someone chosen for her by her male relatives, and should absolutely never fear being killed to avenge the “honor” of those same relatives if she refuses the arrangement.

A woman should absolutely never have to endure death threats and the necessity for body guards simply for telling the truth about a religion that is even more cruel and backward than most.

In short, a woman should absolutely never live in constant fear—of beatings, of torture, of death—because the central tenets of the religion that governs her life grant her the same societal status as a goat.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s critics were absolutely delusional when they reviewed her memoir in such a simple-minded way and, if they have not changed their minds, remain absolutely delusional. Religious correctness will get us nowhere. Unexamined tolerance is nothing more than fence-sitting masquerading as analysis. And in the case of Islam’s treatment of women, such misguided lenience borders on malice.

Infidel is one of the most important and profoundly moving books of this young century. As the late, great Christopher Hitchens said:

“The three most beautiful words in the emerging language of secular resistance to tyranny are Ayaan Hirsi Ali.”


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