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Feminist critic of Islam (letter to The Independent on Ayaan Hirsi Ali)



Feminist critic of Islam

In his profile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rupert Cornwell refers to her and her husband Niall Ferguson as “conservatives with a shared antipathy to soggy liberalism” (11 April). But it is not quite as simple as that.

While it is true that Ferguson is a neocon historian, Hirsi Ali comes from a different perspective. Her first political affiliation was with the Dutch centre-left Labour Party and it was her disillusionment with them that led her to switch to the conservative-liberal Party for Freedom and Democracy before this party also failed her regarding her asylum status.

In her consistent opposition to the conservative, misogynistic aspects of Islam, she is, in fact, a feminist revolutionary. The “soggy liberals” and feminists who should have supported and championed her have, instead, offered apologies or silence for all manner of reactionary, illiberal beliefs and practices emanating from religious-ethnic minorities, especially from Islamists. One egregious example is that of Germaine Greer defending female genital mutilation back in 1999 on the grounds that to outlaw it amounted to “an attack on cultural identity”.

It is hardly surprising then that Hirsi Ali (who was subject to genital mutilation) fled to the US, where she was welcomed with open arms by the American Enterprise Institute.

Rather than Joan of Arc, she is better understood as following in the footsteps of one of the great champions of women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft, who was brazen in her criticisms of the subordinate position of women in Islam. Alas, though modern feminists warmly embrace Wollstonecraft, on that issue they remain silent.

Accordingly, Hirsi Ali's frustrations and impatience with them and the “soggy liberals” is entirely justified.

Published in The Independent on 15th April 2015


Here is Rupert Cornwall’s profile: