The Latest in the Debate on Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Halleh Ghorashi in signandsight:

I first saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali in 2002, when she appeared in a discussion on Dutch television. At that time I saw a strong woman who fought for her ideas: someone who dared to distance herself from her traditional Islamic background and in so doing, positioned herself against the traditional Islamic community in the Netherlands. Her arguments on the incompatibility of Islamic belief and women’s emancipation were sharp.

I found Hirsi Ali’s approach to the emancipation of Islamic women attractive and identified with her for different reasons. Firstly because 18 years ago I left my homeland Iran as a refugee from an Islamic regime, whose suppression in the name of Islam I had experienced both because of my political background (as a leftist) and because of my gender. Secondly, I was also greatly concerned with the emancipation of women, particularly of women who share my own background: women from Islamic countries.

However, my identification with Ayaan did not last long. Someone I initially considered a pioneer for the emancipation of Islamic women turned out to hold dogmatic views that left little room for nuances. I soon realized that Ayaan had become part of the dominant “rightist” discourse on Islam in the Netherlands that pictures Islamic migrants as problems and enemies of the nation. Then I realized that our roads had diverged. But before pursuing my discussion, let me put it in context.