Hirsi Ali's courage

As a description of a personal journey from Islam to enlightenment and reason, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" is perhaps the most remarkable story that has been written. David Schafer and Michelle Koth (Australian Rationalist 27, April 2008) seem to recognise the enormity of her achievement but then they rather inexplicably condemn her for it. They rightly identify her critics as being at best cultural relativists who ignore human rights, but then engage in the same ill-founded criticism.

It is true that some of her more recent statements during interviews can be seem as being somewhat extravagant. Given that Hirsi Ali has permanent bodyguards and is in constant danger of being murdered, merely because of what she has said, one would think she could therefore be granted some licence to speak forcefully. But no, instead she is held, by her Humanist critics, of being ignorant of Islam, with potentially catastrophic consequences!

Schafer and Koth exhibit characteristics that are unfortunately quite common in academia particularly in the U.S. - the curious phenomenon of the anti-atheist Humanist. It is stated plainly that Hirsi Ali's "complete rejection of Islam and embrace of atheism" is seen as the heart of the problem. Far better, they say, that she should have stayed within Islam to allow its "beneficent features" to grow.

Despite being students of Islam, Schafer and Koth believe in promoting "moderate Islam". However, as many commentators, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have pointed out, moderating Islam is a basic impossibility. What is written in the Koran cannot be rejected. Islam means submission to what is written there. The first line of the Koran says: "This book is not to be doubted". Muslims do not have the option of submitting moderately, doubting moderately or believing moderately.

Granted, degrees of adherence to the doctrines do vary. In non-Mulslim countries the strictures can to some extent be ignored. In Muslim countries, Islamist excesses can be kept in check by repressive means or by a rigorously secular constitution as in Turkey. But Muslims cannot easily criticise the Koran and remain Muslim. All liberal Muslims can do is scour the Koran for quotes that might support their cause, a futile practice because each can be countered by numerous alternative quotations. Rationalism requires rejection of Islam, as Hirsi Ali has done.

After enduring indoctrination and coercive socialisation, it is extremely difficult for most believers to come to the realisation that there is no rational basis for the truth claims of any religion. Having recognised religion as a delusion, what is Hirsi Ali supposed to do? Lie, and pretend to believe?  Help to perpetuate the delusion rather than help others to overcome it? Deny the reason and rationality that she fought so hard to achieve?

Hirsi Ali has displayed enormous courage and leadership. Ex-Muslims in Britain and other countries have set up web sites, to name themselves as such, to give courage to others so that more can "come out" as ex-Muslims. Secular values and the following of the path of reason and rationality is the solution, not a "reformed" delusion, as Schafer and Koth would have us believe.

Dr John L Perkins is a Melbourne economist and is a founding member of the Secular Party of Australia.

This letter was published in The Australian Rationalist, No. 80, June 2008.
(C) Copyright 2008 John L Perkins