Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s plan to reform Islam

I have been a fan of Ayaan Hirsi Ali since reading and discussing her book Infidel on this blog several years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her being interviewed on Real Time with Bill Maher last night to promote her new book Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reform Now. During the interview, she explained exactly how she believes Muslims need to change their religious views.

  1. Change the attitude towards the Koran and Muhammad. The book is not a driver’s manual, and the man is not infallible.
  2. Stop investing in life after death, but concentrate on life before death.
  3. Give up Sharia law completely.
  4. Individual citizens should not be able to police and punish their counterparts.
  5. Eliminate jihad. Replace “holy” wars with holy peace.

Her goals are lofty and unrealistic to be sure, but they shine an important light on the most egregious elements of religious extremism.

Bill Maher, who often gets criticized by liberals for his brazen views on Islam, asked Ali why she believes liberals need to stand up to the intolerant aspects of Islam instead of constantly worrying about being politically correct.

The cancer of Islamic extremism is an assault on liberalism, on liberal ideas… Protect the life of the human being, the freedom of the human being, equality of human beings. That’s what it is an assault on. Islamic extremists divide the world into “us” and “them.” And the ones they deem to be “them,” even if they are pious Muslims, they kill them, they subjugate them, they sell them into slavery, they rape the women, and they destroy arts and civilization. And we see it on a daily basis.

If you are a liberal, and you really truly believe in the principles of liberalism, you have got to stand up to the challenge of the day, and that is Islamic extremism.

Imagine no religion

I am not a deeply religious person. I was reared in a home that attempted to be very Christ-centered, but I left the majority of those beliefs behind as I grew into adulthood.

Even though I have been attending church regularly for a few years now, I do not consider myself a person of faith. I don’t even identify as Christian, since I consider the meaning of that word to be Christ-like. I do my best, but I’m far from being anywhere close to the seemingly unattainable character of Jesus as portrayed in the New Testament.

Whenever something comes up the news pertaining to religion – whether it be something as horrifying as Muslims killing one another over cartoons or movies, or something as inane as Chick-fil-A’s donations to organizations fighting against same-sex marriage – I find it embarrassing to even consider myself part of an organized religion.

Although my church is a member of a very progressive denomination, that fact isn’t always evident to outsiders looking in. Someone driving by our church would have no reason to believe it to be any different from the multitude of ultra-conservative churches in the area. Why would a woman or a gay person have any reason to believe that our congregation supports equal rights for both?

During times like these, I wholeheartedly believe that religion is at the root of the world’s problems. Sure, poverty and class warfare play some role, but religion almost always seems to be the catalyst for violent uprisings, terrorist attacks, and various other forms of human rage. Let’s not forget the corruption and sexual perversions that are running rampant through the world’s biggest Christian denomination.

Although certain religions seem more prone to violence than others, the phenomenon certainly isn’t exclusive to any one religion. Christianity still has its fair share of extremists running around calling for the deaths of those considered to be sinful, so to say being a Christian is more peaceful or God-like than any other religion is fruitless.

So, basically, I am embarrassed to be associated with any organized religion. I love my church and many of those in attendance, but it causes me great discomfort to realize that most of the world assumes our congregation is no different than all the others. How can I ridicule other churches for their archaic views when my church is part of the same machine?

Religion isn’t all bad. It helps fill a desperate need that mankind has to be a part of something larger, and provides peace to people in times of suffering. It just seems that far too often, religion is the cause of the suffering.

Many years ago, John Lennon asked us to imagine a world with no religion. I don’t think he was asking people to become athiests; I think he was referring to the way we use religion to divide people and create untold agony. Perhaps he was onto something.

Does God despise women or does religion have it wrong?

Reading Infidel and discussing the treatment of women by the three main monotheistic religions has brought about a flurry of activity in my brain. The subjugation of women is something I haven’t really concerned myself with too much, mainly because I had bigger issues with organized religion that I needed to deal with. As painful as it’s been to embrace Christianity as a homosexual male, I can’t imagine the state of my faith if I were female.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all treat women as less than men – some more so than others, but all are guilty. The more fundamental interpretations of Islam treat women as little more than property – something to be traded about for social or political gain. The Old Testament images of Judaism show much of the same kind of disdain for the female sex. Modern Christianity often prevents women from serving as ministers or deacons in church, while teaching that man in the head of the household and women should keep their mouths shut.

I mentioned in an earlier post about the dress codes that my mother and sister were (and still are) required to follow by their Pentecostal faith. The hem of their skirts often end somewhere between the lower calf and ankle, their hair has never been cut, and they can’t wear makeup or jewelry. While most of these codes stem from specific verses in the Bible, their male counterparts don’t bear the same reproach as they do when out among the public.

Since I refuse to believe that women are somehow inferior to men, all of this has led me to two possible reasons for this atrocious treatment of females – either God has something against women or all of these faiths have it wrong.

Does God Despise Women?

If we are to take the Bible literally, then this is a valid question. God made man because He was lonely. Apparently that wasn’t enough for Adam, because he also became lonely and God decided to make woman so he’d have some companionship. Maybe God didn’t like the fact that Adam preferred woman to Him or that the woman had more control over Adam than He did. Whatever the situation, God cursed them both and I think we can agree that Eve got the raw end of that deal.

While some believe that Eve brought punishment upon all of womankind because of her enticement of Adam, this is just another example of removing male responsibility and blaming the female for a choice that he made. It reminds me of the way the Muslim women in Infidel were held accountable for the sexual advances of men, as if men are mindless, blathering fools who can’t control their urges.

There are countless verses in the Bible that point to and endorse male dominance of women. All of the modern-day bias against women by Christianity can be explained with scripture, and I’m sure the same is true of Islam and Judaism. If all of this scripture was inspired by God, then the mind boggles.

I can’t come to terms with this line of thinking, because why would God despise something that He created? Also, for all the verses that one could point to that discriminate against women, there are abundant stories of strong-willed and illustrious females who did great things for God.

Does Christianity, Judaism, And Islam Have It Wrong?

Considering that all of these religions were started centuries ago when males had control of everything, it seems plausible that none of those men would have wanted to relinquish any power they levied over the opposite sex. Perhaps they saw the benefit of ingraining those selfish needs into scripture, sealing their dominance for generations to come.

This makes much more sense to me. It seems very plausible that bias towards women could have crept into scripture that was overwhelmingly written and translated by men. Then again, maybe it all boils down to nothing more than a misinterpretation of scripture.

Any explanation that involves protecting the virtue of the woman or honoring her is nothing more than cockamamie. It’s time that men were responsible for their own actions and stopped blaming women for their lack of self-control, and it’s time that women were given the respect that they deserve and be allowed to participate in the work of their Creator.

I’m also tired of Eve being made out as a villain. Perhaps she should be applauded for her bravery and quest for knowledge. After all, if you believe the biblical account of creation, none of us would exist if it hadn’t been for her curiosity.

‘Infidel’ by Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Open discussion

infidelI’ve been trying to figure out how to handle our online discussions of Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Having a different post for each chapter seems a little cluttered and chaotic, and since we’re all at different places in the book, I figured having one central post might be the way to go. If anyone had a better idea, please share it. I want to make this as enjoyable and easy for everyone as possible.

This post will likely attract some inflammatory comments from people who haven’t even read the book. I will delete any that are rude, threatening, or do not contribute to the overall conversation.

For future reference, clicking the image of this book in the sidebar will bring you back to this post.

So, join in and have fun!! :)

Wanna read with me?

The next reading selection for our study group is titled Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I will be covering it chapter by chapter as I did with our last selection, and would love it if some of my “regulars” wanted to read along and join in on the ensuing online discussions!

I still have one more chapter to finish on the last book and will be posting my thoughts on it shortly. We meet the first week in September for our final wrap-up on it and will then begin reading Infidel.


From Amazon.com:

Readers with an eye on European politics will recognize Ali as the Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament who faced death threats after collaborating on a film about domestic violence against Muslim women with controversial director Theo van Gogh (who was himself assassinated). Even before then, her attacks on Islamic culture as “brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women” had generated much controversy.

In this suspenseful account of her life and her internal struggle with her Muslim faith, she discusses how these views were shaped by her experiences amid the political chaos of Somalia and other African nations, where she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage. While in transit to her husband in Canada, she decided to seek asylum in the Netherlands, where she marveled at the polite policemen and government bureaucrats. Ali is up-front about having lied about her background in order to obtain her citizenship, which led to further controversy in early 2006, when an immigration official sought to deport her and triggered the collapse of the Dutch coalition government. Apart from feelings of guilt over van Gogh’s death, her voice is forceful and unbowed—like Irshad Manji, she delivers a powerful feminist critique of Islam informed by a genuine understanding of the religion.

This book is currently only available in hard-cover and runs around $20. Most local libraries are willing to order books that are requested, so that might be an option.

Tolerating intolerance

As a liberal person living in very chaotic times, I am often expected to have an open mind about other religions and groups in order to gain more of an understanding of their culture. I sometimes find myself in a quandary about this.

Why should I be tolerant of a religion or culture that is inherently intolerant? It makes no sense to me. What respect do they deserve, if I am getting none in return?

Most major faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism) believe that homosexuality is wrong, but do not currently practice violence towards them. There is one glaring exception: Islam.

Several countries that have Koran-based governments not only despise homosexuals, but actively prosecute and murder them because of their lifestyles. There are many examples of this taking place on a regular basis around the world, with little or no coverage by the mainstream media.

So, again, why should I have tolerance for intolerance?

If I am going to respect another person’s right to practice the religion or lifestyle of their choice, then they should respect mine as well.