This outstanding article from Crisis Magazine about one of the most perceptive analysts of Islam—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution—is a must read.
I have all of Ali’s books and I suggest you also consider adding her work to your library.
An excerpt from the Crisis Magazine article.
Many Catholics look upon Islam as an ally in the struggle against militant secularism. Since Muslims are opposed to permissiveness, pornography, same-sex “marriage,” and other aspects of the secularist agenda, many Catholics assume that they must share similar values about marriage and sexuality.
But this is not the case. The Islamic emphasis on modesty and chastity shouldn’t be confused with the Christian standard. Christian sexual ethics are based on respect for women, whereas Islamic sexual ethics are motivated in large part by a disparagement of women.
Islamic family values are not about honoring women, but about protecting a man’s honor. And, in Islam, a man’s honor is bound up with his ability to control the women in his life. If a wife, daughter, or sister does anything to jeopardize the honor of her husband, father, or brother, she risks severe punishments and even death. In the West, a disobedient Muslim daughter may have her head shaved; in the Muslim world she may be killed.
The Muslim male’s control over women and girls is manifested in many ways, but one of the most disturbing is the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the Population Reference Bureau, approximately half a million women and girls in the United States have undergone the procedure or are at risk of the procedure. In a recent interview with Tucker Carlson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali pushed for laws that would ban the procedure, which she said is designed to “kill the sexual libido … and ensure virginity” before marriage.
Who is Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Born and raised in Somalia, where genital mutilation and forced marriages are common, Ali eventually left her tribe and family and escaped to Holland. There she began a public campaign to bring attention to the mistreatment of Muslim women. In the course of time, Ali was elected to the Dutch Parliament and—partly as a result of her bad experience with Islam, and partly from her study of the Enlightenment—she became an atheist. She also became a target of radical Islamists, and, under increasing pressure from the Dutch government (which considered her to be too provocative), she left Holland for America.
The author of several books, Ali is currently a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. In addition, she heads a foundation which defends the rights of Muslim women. The AHA Foundation is dedicated to protecting girls and women from forced marriages, honor violence, genital mutilation, and from oppressive sharia laws.
What might Catholics learn from Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Two important lessons come to mind. The first is that Islamic values are quite different from Catholic values. Many Catholics, including those in leadership positions, have been content to get by with a multicultural lite view of Islam. In other words, they believe that while Muslims may have different foods and customs, they’re just like us when it comes to basics.
But as Ali and other former Muslims have pointed out, there is a world of difference. The central family value in Islam is not mutual love, but family honor. This is not to say that Muslim families are devoid of love for one another; it’s to recognize that they are under enormous cultural and religious pressure to put other things first. Nonie Darwish, a Muslim convert to Christianity, makes the case that Muhammad viewed a normal family—one in which a man’s first love and loyalty is to his family—as an impediment to jihad. “It is not uncommon,” she observes, “for a man who is loyal to one wife and treats her with love and respect to suffer ridicule for not being man enough.”
Catholics seem largely unaware of the extent to which the code of honor suffuses Muslim life. Practices such as genital mutilation, forced marriage, child marriage, polygamy, wife-beating, and easy divorce (for men) are not cultural outliers, they are part of the warp and woof of Islamic societies. But the Catholic leadership has been so focused on proclaiming its respect for Islam that it has largely ignored these matters.
However intended, these proclamations of respect and even esteem for Islam are likely to be interpreted by Muslims as an endorsement of the status quo and also of Islam’s all-male leadership. When Catholics declare their solidarity with Islam, what they usually mean is solidarity against “Islamophobia,” or against restrictions on Muslim immigration, or similar fashionable causes. But, too often, these solidarity statements come across as blanket endorsements.
Muslim leaders can elicit these endorsements by the simple expedient of playing the victim card. They understand Catholic psychology far better than Catholics understand the psyche of Muslims, and they know that Catholic leaders reflexively side with those who claim victim status. By constantly portraying Islam as a victim of bias, bigotry, and “Islamophobia,” Muslim leaders know that they can win the support of Catholics for whatever agenda they wish to pursue.
Yet Islam is much more victimizer than victim. And among its chief victims are Muslim women and children. Who speaks for them? Well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali does and so does Nonie Darwish. But I don’t recall any prominent Church leaders speaking out about the oppression of Muslim women. Indeed, the Church’s current policy of avoiding any criticism of Islam can easily be mistaken for an endorsement of Islam’s misogynistic practices. Church authorities speak often about their concern for the most helpless and vulnerable in society, but that concern does not seem to extend to Muslim women and children, who are among the most vulnerable people in the world.
Ali refers to the method by which the Islamist ideology is spread as “dawa.” In its narrow sense, “dawa” means proselytizing, but in the sense that Ali uses it, it is roughly equivalent to the term “cultural jihad.” It is similar to what twentieth-century communists called the “long march through the institutions.” Islamic cultural jihad is an attempt to infiltrate and influence institutions such as media, schools, courts, and government bureaucracies with the aim of advancing sharia law.