Liberal Misery in Santa Monica

June 11, 2010 at 10:06 (Funny, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society)

I imagine heads were exploding. I mean how can you demonize a black woman who is an ex-Muslim turned atheist, and actually lived in and around extremists and knows first hand what she’s talking about? You can’t. They can’t think of one of their stock replies to justify their opinions. I bet they all went home in shock.

One very confused and shaken white-haired gentleman could barely form a question, stammering that he had “great respect” for her but disagreed with almost everything she said. As he rambled on, many of his colleagues began to call at him “What’s your question?” and “No speeches, ask a question!” He finally concluded with a semi-coherent plea along the lines of, “Well, how do we deal with these extremists?”

Ali replied that once you have decided to “deal” with the jihadists, you have legitimized their demands of submission, and that you cannot “deal” with fanatics who wish to destroy your nice free society with bike paths and reusable shopping bags and replace it with a totalitarian theocracy. She went on to object to the vague use of the term “extremists,” asking “Extremists of what?” If we were talking about white supremacists, or radical Marxists or Communists or any other “-ists” that used terrorism and violence to bring about their goals, we would not hesitate to identify the ideas behind their philosophy that drove them to such ends. Why should we hesitate to confront the fact that these particular killers are driven by their fanatical religious beliefs?

She deftly fielded a question about the “perversion” of Islam by fanatics by proclaiming that she was more concerned about the perversion of the word “liberalism,” because of the willingness of many Western liberals to accept and excuse some of the most heinous criminal acts committed by practitioners of the Muslim faith, like arranged marriages, spousal abuse, subjugation of women by force, denial of education to females, and female genital mutilation in the name of multiculturalism and a so-called “respect” for other civilizations. American liberals, she said, appear to be more uncomfortable condemning the ill treatment of women under Islam than most conservatives are. This led her into a repudiation of multiculturalism, and how, despite some honorable intentions in its origins, it had mutated into a belief system that actually denies access to the freedom and justice guaranteed by the American Constitution by allowing injustice to continue within protected minority communities by not encouraging them to assimilate and become full Americans.

In response to a question about how long America should stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said it was her hope that the Americans would stay for 50 or 100 years, if that is how long it took to modernize those societies, even while acknowledging that there did not seem to be the political will for such an effort to be sustained.

The best question of the evening came from a young man who simply asked what would be the best way to bring about an “Enlightenment” in the Muslim world. She replied that the best way would be to ask them questions about their religion and cause “cognitive dissonance” among those who blindly follow the violent exhortations of their imams. I actually laughed out loud when she used those words, as the cognitive dissonance occurring at that moment in the Track 16 gallery was practically audible. I could swear I heard the word “What?!?” thudding over and over again in the formerly comfortable brains of those around me.

The only applause of the night (!) signaled the end of the evening, and as I lined up to have my book signed by Ms. Ali, I was struck by how short the line was. Out of the 150 to 200 people I guessed were in attendance, only about 25 or so lined up to greet this remarkable individual. As I made my way down the line, I passed pockets of fervent discussion, and caught fragments here and there. I overheard one rather agitated gentleman say, “I just think there are problems in this country that she just doesn’t understand! I mean, what’s the difference between a fanatical mass-murdering Taliban regime and a mass-murdering evangelical Christian in the White House, which this country voted in for eight years?!?”

In Nomad, Hirsi Ali states unequivocally that Christianity and Islam are definitely not equivalent, if for no other reason than Christianity’s willingness to tolerate questioning and even blasphemy without issuing death sentences, and actually calls for a “strategic alliance” between secular people –atheists like herself, Richard Dawkins, and others –and Christians in order to combat the oppression inherent in an unenlightened, unreconstructed Islam (Nomad, pp. 240-241). If this man had asked Ms. Ali his ridiculous question, she could have answered it handily. So why didn’t he? Why was he huddled in the farthest corner of the room spewing his nonsense to his nodding compatriots? What about Ayaan Hirsi Ali had flummoxed him and his fellow travellers into circles of insular outrage?

Well, she was black, so they could not dismiss her as a racist; she had lived in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands and the United States, so they could not call her an ignorant provincial hick; she was an avowed atheist, so they could not call her a Christian bigot on a crusade against peaceful Islam; and she was multi-lingual, articulate, and brilliant, so they couldn’t just call her stupid. All the pejoratives they usually apply to people who disagree with them wouldn’t work, and so they were left to confront her ideas, and those ideas stripped them naked, rent their garments of superiority and condescension into tatters at their feet, and left them angry and confused, whining to each other in the corners of the room, unable to say anything to her face. Their favorite weapons, ad hominem name-calling and sneering condescension, were disarmed.

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