There’s a pretty dreadful article on Ayaan Hirsi Ali in today’sObserver by Jason Burke, who you’d have thought would know better, and a no less one-sided comment piece by Isabella Thompson. Hirsi Ali is described as a “radical liberal” (!) in the headline to Burke’s article and neither he nor Thompson bothers to address the appalling role she has played in stoking up anti-Muslim hysteria in the Netherlands.
Last year Roger Cohen wrote an article for the International Herald Tribune about the alleged threat Europe faced from “the immigrant tide from its Muslim fringes”. In connection with the killings of Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh (the former of whom was of course killed by a white European animal rights activist) Cohen interviewed Hirsi Ali, who in characteristic fashion explained that “immigrants from rural areas, most of them, are at a certain phase of civilization that is far behind that of the host countries, like the Netherlands, and because of that, these terrible events can occur”. She added that violence is inherent in Islam: “All of Europe is in a state of denial. It thinks these killings will go away, but they will not. The Holy Book says infidels must be destroyed.”
Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within, has claimed that Hirsi Ali’s role in Dutch politics was “to speak truth to power”. In reality, as Tariq Ali wrote recently, “Hirsi Ali and people like her in the United States and in Europe make a profession out of attacking Islam…. In the way that they attack Islam, they go along with existing prejudices.” In response to an adulatory Guardian article by Timothy Garton Ash – “Ayaan Hirsi Ali is much more than just a voice for the voiceless oppressed. In person, she is a thoughtful, calm, clear, almost pedantic spokeswoman for the fundamental liberal values of the Enlightenment” – Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations pointed out that “for ordinary Muslim women, who face daily abuse for wearing the hijab … Ayaan Hirsi Ali is more provocateur than liberator”. This is underlined by Miriyam Aouragh, a Muslim woman activist in the Netherlands, who has stated: “She’s nothing but an Uncle Tom. She has never fought for the oppressed. In fact, she’s done the opposite.”
In other words, far from telling truth to power, Hirsi Ali built her career by telling the most xenophobic elements of the Dutch political establishment exactly what they wanted to hear: that European culture is under threat from Muslim migrants, that Islam is inherently violent, that the central problem is not racism on the part of the white majority but Muslims’ failure to integrate, etc. The fact that she is a black former Muslim herself was of particular service to her party, the VVD, who were able to use her statements to give credibility to their right-wing anti-immigrant policies while at the same time deflecting the accusation that such views are racist.
Unsurprisingly, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has described Hirsi Ali as “a heroic figure who tried to stem Europe’s headlong rush to suicide”. He hailed her predictable stand in defence of the right of European newspapers to publish racist anti-Muslim caricatures in the following words: “More heroism from the great Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who in a sane world would be Prime Minister of the Netherlands.”
Melanie Phillips is another right-wing Islamophobe who has declared her support for Hirsi Ali. Phillips writes that: “Large-scale Muslim immigration in Britain and Europe is simply playing havoc with societies whose moral compass has been all but destroyed by the doctrines of multiculturalism and minority rights that have taken hold throughout the Western world.” Her support for Hirsi Ali stems from the fact that this is the message Hirsi Ali herself has promoted.
Phillips goes on to downplay the fact that Hirsi Ali made false claims to gain asylum in the Netherlands and asserts that “Hirsi Ali is being used as a scapegoat”. It is, of course, the case that many migrants are forced into such subterfuges due to the racist and increasingly restrictive immigration polices adopted by the Netherlands along with other European countries. The disgusting hypocrisy of the situation is that, have achieved Dutch citizenship herself by fraudulent means, Hirsi Ali then allied herself with the racist right in campaigning for the country’s borders to be closed to further migrants from Muslim countries. It was the exposure of this hypocrisy that made her position as a VVD MP untenable.
As for Phillips, if Hirsi Ali had spent her time campaigning in favour of asylum rights rather than against them, it isn’t difficult to imagine what Phillips’ response would be when it was shown that Hirsi Ali had falsified her asylum application. Phillips would have enthusiastically supported the withdrawal of her citizenship and held her up as an example of the need for Europe to toughen its immigration policies to prevent further “abuse” of the system.
Phillips has always been prepared to applaud “decent, sensible Muslims” – defined as those who endorse the bigotry of the Islamophobic right. As examples of the support she has recently received in response to her new book Londonistan, Phillips quotes the following emails from two “decent Muslim gentlemen” who wrote: “… why don’t Muslims migrating to the west in great numbers adopt to western ideas? If they don’t agree with the life style or it bothers them, they must be forced to leave, period”; and “I am appalled by these Pakistanis destroying great British society. It is even more disturbing that instead of accepting responsibility of their failure to integrate, they are blaming British society for their backwardness.”
It can be seen that Ayaan Hirsi Ali fits very well into Phillips’s definition of a “decent, sensible Muslim”.