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Diagnosis of a malaise and a prescription for healing
on June 27, 2008
In this perceptive work, Ayaan Hirsi Ali examines a major issue of our times with admirable fluency and erudition. In the preface she points out the similarities in attitude towards Islamic culture now by the Western adherents of multiculturalism and towards communist regimes by leftists then. Besides an abiding hatred for the West in some circles, it is because of the victim culture and moral relativism that oppressive practices are ignored. Muslims are perceived to be victims of the West. For the same reason, Israel is fiercely condemned while the Palestinians get a free pass. She considers this patronizing and exemplary of racism in its purest form; the idea of the "other" that can do no wrong and must be shielded from criticism. Ibn Warraq exposes all aspects of this harmful fallacy in his classic study Defending the West.
Hirsi Ali asks the advocates of the multicultural society to acquaint themselves with the suffering of women who are treated as chattels. The notion of "group rights" are detrimental to Muslim women, and without emancipation, the socially disadvantageous position of Muslims will persist. She laments the fact that Muslim women are not listened to and calls for self-examination in intellectual discourse. Hirsi Ali also deals with the clash of cultures in Europe as revealed by amongst others Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept, and examines the triangles of power in the Muslim world itself: the triangle of the strong leader, the clergy and the army, and the triangle of apathy, fundamentalism and refugees/emigration. On this subject, I also recommend Now They Call Me Infidel by Nonie Darwish.
The author provides a brief history of her early childhood in Somalia and her personal emancipation after emigrating to the Netherlands, explaining why she had to leave Holland for the USA. This is engagingly related in her brilliant work Infidel. There is an interview with prominent Canadian Muslim reformer Irshad Manji, a chapter on female genital mutilation and 10 tips for Muslim women who wish to escape their oppressive circumstances. A full transcript of the documentary film Submission is included, the film that led to the death of Theo van Gogh. Hirsi Ali claims that instead of empowering Muslim students through research and training, European universities have become activist centers to further Arab political aims.
She considers Muslims in Europe and around the world to comprise three broad categories: terrorists and the radicals that assist them, the tiny group of reformers that embraces the open society and the large number of undecideds who are caught in a mental vise, the painful contradiction between the harsh tenets of an intolerant religion and the values of the open society. She believes that the first victims of Muhammad are the minds of Muslims themselves as they exist in a situation of cognitive dissonance. Western cultural relativists flinch from criticism of Muhammad for fear of offence, thereby making it more difficult for western Muslims to review their own moral values.
This thought-provoking work provides first-hand experience and knowledge of a particular worldview and serves as an appeal for clear thinking, empowerment and individual liberation. Hirsi Ali nails it when she shows how various evils result from beliefs based on fear. Her insights have universal application as of course they are valid for any religion or cult. Although not flawless, The Caged Virgin is a bright light of courage and reason in the darkness of oppression and brainwashing. The book concludes with bibliographic notes and an index. Because They Hate by Brigitte Gabriel provides further valuable information on the development and results of religious radicalism whilst in The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century, French philosopher Chantal Delsol explains the civilizational fatigue of contemporary Europe of which one effect is the existence of enclaves where medieval brutality goes unchallenged.