Islam “has begotten a bloodthirsty ideology that is determined to destroy the principles of liberty and humanity and basic decency,” ex-Muslim and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali said June 3 at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Hirsi Ali knows what she’s talking about. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, she was raised Muslim. She spent her childhood and young adulthood in Africa and Saudi Arabia. She fled as a refugee to the Netherlands in 1992, where she earned a political science degree and was elected to the Dutch House of Representatives. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hirsi Ali renounced Islam.
Last week she accepted an award from the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which prides itself on “strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles and values that sustain and nurture it.”
Some in the conservative movement refer to the annual Bradley Prizes event, which was emceed this year by commentator George Will, as the “conservative Oscars.” The other recipients this year were James W. Ceaser, a political science professor at the University of Virginia; Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College; and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, chairman of the Institute for the Study of War.
The late Christopher Hitchens called Hirsi Ali, whose former religion forced female circumcision on her, someone “of arresting and hypnotizing beauty,” and “a charismatic figure” who writes “with quite astonishing humor and restraint.” In 2005, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
She famously said, “Islam is not a religion of peace. It’s a political theory of conquest that seeks domination by any means it can.”
Her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, was published in March by Harper. (It was reviewed by Katherine Ernst in City Journal.)
“My argument is that it is foolish to insist, as our leaders habitually do, that the violent acts of radical Islamists can be divorced from the religious ideals that inspire them,” she writes in Heretic. She continues:
Instead we must acknowledge that they are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in Islam itself, in the holy book of the Qur’an as well as the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad contained in the hadith.
Let me make my point in the simplest possible terms: Islam is not a religion of peace.
For expressing the idea that Islamic violence is rooted not in social, economic, or political conditions – or even in theological error – but rather in the foundational texts of Islam itself, I have been denounced as a bigot and an “Islamophobe.” I have been silenced, shunned, and shamed. In effect, I have been deemed to be a heretic, not just by Muslims – for whom I am already an apostate – but by some Western liberals as well, whose multicultural sensibilities are offended by such “insensitive” pronouncements … today, it seems, speaking the truth about Islam is a crime. “Hate speech” is the modern term for heresy. And in the present atmosphere, anything that makes Muslims feel uncomfortable is branded as “hate.”
In the book, Hirsi Ali writes that it is her goal “to make many people – not only Muslims but also Western apologists for Islam – uncomfortable” by “challenging centuries of religious orthodoxy with ideas and arguments that I am certain will be denounced as heretical.”
“My argument is for nothing less than a Muslim Reformation,” she writes. “Without fundamental alterations to some of Islam’s core concepts, I believe, we shall not solve the burning and increasingly global problem of political violence carried out in the name of religion.”
In her remarks at the Kennedy Center, Hirsi Ali summarized what brought her to this point and what needs to be done. With the exception of the opening pleasantries, here follows a transcript of this brave woman’s speech:
Ladies and gentlemen, the Bradley Foundation is committed to strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nurture it. It supports limited, competent government, a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity and a vigorous defense at home and abroad of American ideas and institutions.
It may same strange to you that I, an immigrant black woman from a Muslim family, should identify so strongly with those goals. Let me explain to you why I do. There are three reasons.
First, it’s because my life’s journey which has taken me from Somalia to Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia to Kenya to the Netherlands and finally here, could not have been better designed to make me appreciate American principles and American institutions.
Second, I think I can justly say that I was among the first in my age group of millions of Muslims to admit that our faith, no longer mine, has begotten a bloodthirsty ideology that is determined to destroy the principles of liberty and humanity and basic decency.
Even after 9/11 there are still those who naively believe that it’s a threat only in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The reality as our general [i.e. Jack Keane] just laid out, is that it is now a global threat. A recent report by the United Nations Security Council confirmed that more than 100 countries are now supplying recruits to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the United States is one of them.
This year alone the number of U.S.-based individuals in Islamic terror-related cases has risen to 40. What concerns me is not jihad, or it’s not only jihad. It’s also the nonviolent activities from preaching to fundraising that are its essential seedbed. Often those who engage in these activities are very skillful at representing themselves as moderates.
Let me quote you the words of Abdurahman Alamoudi, a founder of the American Muslim Council, who at one time was an Islamic advisor to President Clinton and a goodwill ambassador to the State Department, as well as being consulted by some eminent Republicans.
“We have a chance,” he declared to a Muslim audience, “to be the moral leadership of America. It will happen, it will happen praise Allah the Exalted. I have no doubt in my mind. It depends on me and you, either we do it now or we do it after a hundred years, but this country will become a Muslim country.”
That is the authentic voice of a plot against America today. I am glad to report that Alamoudi is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for financial and conspiracy offenses involving the Libyan government and the al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the then-crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
Third, and finally, I have come to see that there is a creative threat close to American institutions, the ones opposed by those within the West who appease the Islamic extremists.
Last September our president insisted the Islamic State is not Islamic. Later that month he told the U.N. General Assembly that Islam teaches peace. Phrases like “radical Islam” and “Islamic extremism” are no longer heard in the White House press conferences.
The approved term is “violent extremism.” Ladies and gentlemen, if we don’t define the problem, if we can’t bring ourselves to define the problem, then how on earth can we ever hope to solve it? [audience applauds]
The decision not to call violence committed in the name of Islam by its true name is a very strange one. Imagine if Western leaders during the Cold War had gone around calling Communism an ideology of peace or condemning the Baader-Meinhof Gang for not being true Marxists.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it is time to drop the euphemisms and verbal contortions. As I argue in my most recent book, Heretic, a battle for the future of Islam is taking place between reformers and reactionaries, between dissidents and jihadists, with the majority of Muslims caught in the middle unsure which side to take. The outcome matters, matters to Muslims but it matters to us and to global peace, and the United States needs to start helping the right side to win.
Sometimes people who want to smear me use the sham term, “Islamophobe,” which is designed to imply that those who scrutinize Islamic extremism are bigots. Well, I may have a phobia, but it’s not directed against Muslims. After all I used to be one. My phobia is towards any ideology, whether it is Communism, Fascism, or Islamism, that threatens individual freedom and the institutions that protect those freedoms.
That is why I am so grateful and so proud to accept this honor from you tonight.
Thank you, very, very much.