21 Nov '15     home | more politics

The Islam of Chitter Chatter

We have a lot of conflicting talk about what Islam is – by Muslims and non-Muslims. Let us assume that anyone who calls himself a Muslim is a Muslim (an old view held by Muslim clerics). These days we have Muslims who are sick and angered by ISIS violence, and they claim that ISIS terrorists are not Islamic. And we have ISIS soldiers killing anyone who can't quote from the Koran.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on 19 November, and she said,

Let's be clear though, Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

Today we have news of the presidential candidate Ted Cruz telling us that the "Koran compels Muslims to lie."

We have a debate among Muslims and non-Muslims about the Koran. I imagine that Muslim academics also have their disagreements about the Koran, and they surely have interpretations of the Koran that differ from scholars on the subject who are not Muslim.

Intruding into this picture is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has a view about Islam expressed in her new book titled Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She appears to believe that an Islamic Reformation can take place with a speed, that is significant.

A heretic is how some Muslims see Ayaan. She has left Islam. She is threatened with death, and she sees herself as without the illusion that Islam is a religion of peace.  

Muslims who are living their faith while embracing peace are describing Ayaan as Islamophobic. (In 2014 Brandeis University announced that it would not be awarding Ayaan the honorary degree it had planned for her because of her pubic statements.)

Ayaan complains about the strategy of holding that terrorist violence is not Islamic. She says,

What we are witnessing now is a failure of that strategy. We need to face the problem and we should start by naming it.

Someone at Amazon.com comments on her book:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts forth very serious negative accusations regarding the faith of over a billion people (which she claims is inherently violent and supportive of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram) and also presents herself as an authority in her field of discourse... Her entire work relies heavily on sweeping generalizations, anecdotal evidence, and downright factual inaccuracies.

Ayaan is interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News – the Kelly File. Kelly describes herself as a journalist, and regarding Ayaan she is her usual passionate self.


President Obama said you cannot equate events in Paris with the religion of Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is here. A woman who has a death sentence hanging over her. Thanks to Islamic radicals. She will discuss that argument.

The interview is brief, and she talks over much of what Ayaan wants to say. Ayaan's thinking is more subtle than Kelly's. Ayaan (no liberal in the contemporary sense) says,

I think the president is right. The United States of America and the western civilization is not at war with Islam. *

Kelly comments on Ayaan's book:

I recommend -- it is for everybody. It's fascinating. It offers so many smart insights as we always expect from you, Ayaan, thank you for being here tonight.

I prefer the cooler real journalists at BBC News and PBS NewsHour. She is no authority on what Islam inherently is. Neither is Obama. Or Hillary Clinton. Or the pompous Senator Cruz. This biased observer is more with Clinton than Ted Cruz, but what matters is not what can be derived from all the experts on Koranic scripture and theology specialists. (Ayaan is good enough to admit she is no an expert). What matters is that Muslims continue to have the same kind of drift in attitude toward their faith that many Christians have had toward their faith across the centuries, a drift toward tolerance, humanism and an acceptance of democracy, a sociological and historical matter, not a matter of challenges to scriptural profundities. Let us hope the drift continues.

And what also matters is a rapid setback for those Muslims pushing a mindset that is more a part of the Middle Ages – as war in the mid-1900s made fascism a less attractive mindset.


* Ayaan says her assertion that Islam is not a religion of peace does not mean that Islamic belief makes Muslims naturally violent. She says there are millions of peaceful Muslims in the world but that "the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam."

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