May 30, 2010

Lay Off Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I hardly agree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali about everything, but each time I read a nasty take-down of a brave woman who lives under armed guard and on the hit lists of murderous death squads by a pampered cocoon-dwelling intellectual like Nicholas Kristof, it pushes her new book Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations higher on my must-read list.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, calling Kristof a "pampered cocoon-dwelling intellectual" sounds much harsher than I intended, especially considering he sometimes travels to dangerous places to gather material, so allow me to clarify. I also consider myself all pampered and safe compared with Hirsi Ali, even though I travel to places like Baghdad. She is braver than Kristof and I put together.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 30, 2010 3:58 PM
Comments
Actually, the only "nasty take-down" here is the one written by Andrew Roberts. It's true Kristof doesn't bend over backwards to kiss Ayaan Hirsi Ali's backside, AND he is upfront saying he believes she speaks too dogmatically about a "variegated" faith.

Here is how Kristof ends his review:

"It’s true that public discussion in some Muslim countries has taken on a strident tone, full of over-the-top exaggerations about the West. Educated Muslims should speak out more against such rhetoric.

"In the same way, here in the West, we should try to have a conversation about Islam and its genuine problems — while speaking out against over-the-top exaggerations about the East. This memoir, while engaging and insightful in many places, exemplifies precisely the kind of rhetoric that is overheated and overstated."

I'm sorry but this simply isn't the "unhinged" attack on Ms. Ali that Roberts claims it is. And I urge people to go actually read Kristof's review first and then Robert's take on it second. You don't have to agree with Kristof (I don't in many particulars), but Roberts is damn near irrational here.
Posted by: Rich Horton at May 30, 2010 4:22 pm
"a pampered cocoon-dwelling intellectual like Nicholas Kristof"
I am a big long term fan of Kristof, even when I don't agree with him. He has done an amazing amount of work to advance the welfare of woman in conservative rural parts of Pakistan.

I also don't agree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I think that Islam is a positive faith and a force for good in the world, much as Judaism, Chritianity, Buddhism, Zorastrianism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Yazidiism, and Jainism are.
Posted by: anan at May 30, 2010 4:43 pm
I had the same objections to his critiques of Hirsi Ali that you did, Michael, but to call Kristof of all columnists cocoon-dwelling is pretty ridiculous. He's one of the few who isn't.
Posted by: Dan at May 30, 2010 4:46 pm
Rich,

Kristof claims that Ayaan Hirsi Ali "never outgrew her rebellious teenager phrase, but she would be a terrific conversationalist at a dinner party".

It's one thing to refuse to suck up to someone you disagree with. It's quite another to suggest that your intellectual opponent is a child, or that she would be better at making small talk at a dinner table than engaging in serious debate. Yeah, it's a nasty review.

I wouldn't quite call Kristof's review "unhinged", though. To me, "unhinged" implies that Kristof is frothing at the mouth. "Condescending" would be a better word choice. "Smarmy" would be another.
Posted by: Walter Kovacs at May 30, 2010 4:56 pm
Hirsi Ali paints with too broad a brush. What happened to her was deeply immoral, wrong, and unislamic. It is hard not to empathize with her.


At the same time, there are many great muslims that I think the world of. Some of them are:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatimah
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_ibn_Abu_Talib
Hassan/Hussein
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ishaq_Shami
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muinuddin_Chishti
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qutbuddin_Bakhtiar_Kaki
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizamuddin_Auliya#Spiritual_lineage
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi
Posted by: anan at May 30, 2010 4:59 pm
Bottom line, Rich and Anan? I'll buy every book Hirsi Ali writes as long as she lives ... full price, first edition, and encourage everyone I know to do the same. And I'll do anything else I can do to help her and encourage her to keep doing what she does. Condescending reviewers? Not so much.
Posted by: Gene at May 30, 2010 5:30 pm
to the kristoff-defenders - if you ever cover the same beat as Kristoff (who covers more beats than any one person maybe should), then you'd realize that calling him a pampered cocoon-dwelling intellectual is a complement and understatement.
Posted by: Nathania at May 30, 2010 5:33 pm
"Hirsi Ali paints with too broad a brush. What happened to her was deeply immoral, wrong, and unislamic."

No True Scotsman would have ever treated her this way. (Or continue to threaten her life, for that matter.)
Posted by: Bob at May 30, 2010 5:54 pm
Posted by: Bob at May 30, 2010 5:54 pm.

Protecting the right of all people to speak is at the heart of the global war on terrorism. Many around the world are dying to protect Ayaan Hirsi Ali's rights, and the rights of many others like her, and they are right to do so.

The people trying to kill Hirsi Ali aren't human.
Posted by: anan at May 30, 2010 7:05 pm
anand sez: "Protecting the right of all people to speak is at the heart of the global war on terrorism."

So. Based on that sentence, you support the cartoonists who have been drawing sometimes irreverent pictures of the prophet of islam, and you also oppose the OIC (organization of the islamic conference) attempts to limit criticism of islam. Since this is, according to you, "at the heart" of a global war, what have you done to defend the cartoonists and oppose the OIC?

But what kind of war is it, against a tactic? Did the allies in WW2 fight against blitzkrieg? Was that the problem then?
Posted by: del at May 30, 2010 7:21 pm
Anan: The people trying to kill Hirsi Ali aren't human.

Ah, but they are, and there's no point pretending otherwise. Some people are vicious and need to put down or into a cage.

I once spent a few minutes in a room full of Al Qaeda prisoners in a jail outside Fallujah. It was an interesting lesson in the banality of evil. The Al Qaeda guys looked no different from anyone else I'd seen in the Middle East, but the Iraqi police officers standing next to me were terrified and wanted to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible even though they had rifles.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 30, 2010 7:27 pm
MJT, so many people just don't get the global threat the Takfiri extremists pose. Why?

Del, you know what I mean about the global war on terrorism. I would call it the war on Takfiri extremism. The OIC can't reach end state in one leap, but has to be moved in a positive direction over stages.

Del, do you understand that the war against extremism is more on behalf of muslims than it is on behalf of nonmuslims? The questions we need to ask ourselves are:
-are we are on the side of muslims in their war on extremism?
-are we as outraged by extremist attacks against muslims as we are outraged by extremist attacks against nonmuslims or westerners?
Posted by: anan at May 30, 2010 8:50 pm
Anan: I would call it the war on Takfiri extremism

Why only against Sunnis and not their Shia counterparts? You still haven't explained that.

more on behalf of muslims than it is on behalf of nonmuslims

Not from our point of view, it isn't.

Yes, these bastards kill far more Muslims than Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or Jews, and I've pointed that out many times when arguing with leftists who think everyting is our fault, but we invaded Afghanistan because of 9/11.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 30, 2010 9:03 pm
Anan: MJT, so many people just don't get the global threat the Takfiri extremists pose. Why?

For the same reasons you don't understand the threat from their Shia counterparts, I suppose.

I don't have anything against Shias as Shias, and I actually sympathize with them to an extent in a general sort of way, but that sympathy does not extend to Hezbollah or Iran's Islamic Republic regime.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 30, 2010 9:05 pm
A "tiny minority" of 1.2 billion is considerably larger then the entire population of 1938 Germany.

STAND
HERE,
R
Posted by: Render at May 30, 2010 10:10 pm
Wow, I usually like Kristof, but he's incredibly ignorant here. Michael, you got to read the full review:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/books/review/Kristof-t.html

This is someone who writes so much about violence against women, and here Kristof says shit like like this:

"perhaps Hirsi Ali’s family is dysfunctional simply because its members never learned to bite their tongues and just say to one another: 'I love you.'"

Or maybe its because, I don't know, they mutilated Hirsi Ali's genitals?

"During a recent trip to Sudan, I was speaking to a Muslim Arab in Khartoum. When I said I was from the United States, he looked quite shocked and said worriedly: 'Oh! It is very violent there.'"

Nick Kristof takes this statement seriously while he's in a country that stones women to death for adultery?
Posted by: Wagner James Au at May 30, 2010 10:15 pm
The Shiite extremists are also a threat, though a smaller one. The good news is that powerful forces from within the Shiite world are weakening the Shia extremists.

A strengthening Iraq and Najaf Marjeya is rallying Shiites against the IRGC Kuds and Khamenei. Now that the Quom Marjeya, Iranian Shiites, Indian Shiites, Pakistani Shiites, Azerbaijan Shiites, Afghan Shiites, and Turkish Shiites are against them; their days are numbered. After they fall, Nasrallah is likely pushed aside by fellow Lebanese Shiites.

This will make the remaining extremists isolated and more easily discredited and picked off by the global Shiite community.

9/11 was a collateral affect of the war between muslims and the Takfiri extremists. By muslims I mean normal Sunnis, Shiites, Ismaili, Ahmedi and Sufi. The fundamental "root cause" [don't like the phrase] is the muslim war with extremists. This just doesn't apply to terrorism directed against America. It also applies to terrorism directed against Canada, Europe, Russia, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and Africa.

The only way any of us win this war is if muslims win this war. As Pres Obama said, sometimes we have to help other children to save our own.
Posted by: anan at May 30, 2010 10:29 pm
"Not from our point of view, it isn't."

There are concentric circles of "we":
-America
-West [not sure what this means]
-nonmuslims
-the world [muslims + nonmuslims]

All of these groups are at war with the extremists. America joined this global war partly in 1998 and to a greater degree after 9/11/2001.
Posted by: anan at May 30, 2010 10:45 pm
Michael, first let me say that of course I have tremendous respect for all you are doing here on your blog. Like you say about Kristof, *you* are "travel[ing] to unsafe places to gather material", places I never would visit myself (or be allowed to). You are thoughtful and fair and generous to a fault.

But you should seriously consider whether anan[d] is the "fault" point, especially in view of what Render posted about him in the previous thread ("Darkness in Damascus", May 29 10:04 AM). This strongly supports my view that anand is a disreputable character whose studiously "good-natured" posturing is a contrived concealment for some terribly malevolent motives. I earnestly recommend you handle him with care and caution. The ill he is determined to cause may go far beyond his antisemitic blathering in support of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at May 30, 2010 11:35 pm
Gary, what is your strategy to defeat the Takfiri extremists, the greatest security threat in the world today? Do you have ideas on how to unite the ummah and nonmuslim world in a common shared strategy to defeat the extremists?

Sometimes you seem set a little too intent on dividing the enemies of the Takfiris among themselves which only serves the extremists. It is almost like what some on this blog call Takiya.

Israel has suffered greatly from terrorism, including Palestinian Israeli citizens. So have many other countries around the world.

Are you on the side of the GoI and ISF in their war against the enemies of Iraq?

Are you on the side of the GIRoA and ANSF in their war against the enemies of Afghanistan?

Are you on the side of the Turkey in their war against the enemies of Turkey? [The Turks had the foresight to send combat embedded advisors to the Northern Alliance inside Afghanistan before 9/11/2001.]

Do you condemn and oppose all terrorist attacks against Pakistani civilians [including Shiites, Sufis, Ismaili, Ahmedi, and normal Sunnis] with the same passion that you oppose all terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens [including Palestinian Israeli citizens]?

Are you on the side of the India in their war against the AQ and Taliban linked networks attacking India?

Are you on the side of the Russia and China in their war against the AQ and Taliban linked networks attacking them?

Israel's survival depends on other peoples and other countries winning their wars against the extremists. Something many Israelis understand. Do you understand?
Posted by: anan at May 31, 2010 1:27 am
If a guy travels to dangerous places, it doesn't mean he can't be a cocoon-dwelling intellectual. Some cocoons are light and portable and Kristof probably takes his with him wherever he goes. He does sound like an egalitarian, half-baked socialist and Islam's egalitarianism (among men) undoubtedly appeals to him.

I have often been amazed how some people can travel all over the world and come back completely unchanged.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 2:53 am
The body may be put at risk in dangerous places but the brain can remain impenetrable, shielded by the 'cocoon' of ill-conceived preconceptions.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 3:22 am
Bad PR day for Israel today.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 3:24 am
Bad PR day for Israel today.

If you consider soldiers of a sovereign nation legally boarding a vessel carrying a mob of 600 armed terror-enablers, and then defending themselves from iron-bar swinging, knife-wielding attackers bad PR, well, yeah.
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 5:18 am
Li'l Mamzer
LOL, you re good. Have you considered a career at the Ministry of Truth? Anyway, I wasn't making a political point. Just saying it won't look good in many capitals. But perhaps we shouldn't care?
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 5:26 am
Have you considered a career at the Ministry of Truth?

I just gave you the truth. And more of that truth is that the view from "many capitals" is the same today as it was yesterday. Israel is the favorite whipping-boy for bigots and hypocrites the world over.
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 5:32 am
I wish the Israelis would siphon off whatever materials the ships were carrying in the amounts that were needed to repair the homes damaged and destroyed in Sderot, Ashqelon, and other towns, as well as the materials required to build bomb shelters to protect lives in those towns from Gaza rockets. If it's a PR game, play on.
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 5:38 am
Li'l Manzer: "If you consider soldiers of a sovereign nation legally boarding a vessel carrying a mob of 600 armed terror-enablers, and then defending themselves from iron-bar swinging, knife-wielding attackers bad PR, well, yeah."

Please explain the word 'legally' in your sentence above. Reports say that the incident took place in international waters. If you board my boat uninvited and in international waters, don't expect me to roll out the red carpet.

My Ministry of Truth suggestion was that you were exaggerating the facts to fit your own prejudices.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 7:02 am
Walter writes:

"Kristof claims that Ayaan Hirsi Ali "never outgrew her rebellious teenager phrase, but she would be a terrific conversationalist at a dinner party".

"It's one thing to refuse to suck up to someone you disagree with. It's quite another to suggest that your intellectual opponent is a child,"

I think this is nonsense for a couple of reasons. One, every autobiography, by the very nature of its BEING an autobiography, invites that sort of comparison. Two, Kristof does not say her mental abilities ceased to develop but that a part of her character was set. The same could be said about a lot of people. Take Christopher Hitchens, for example. It is pretty obvious if you read his autobiography that in many ways his character (or a part of it) was set early one. He's a smart ass. He was a smart ass in his college days, he still is one now. Saying that it no way implies that he hasn't changed/grown in many other ways, but that doesn't make his smart ass-ness any less real. And it obviously is important to him as he seems to revel in it.

And lets face it, Ms. Ali's bodyguards are not there to protect her from the likes of Nick Kristof.
Posted by: Rich Horton at May 31, 2010 7:15 am
At the same time, these activists don't appear to be peaceniks. If they initiated the violence, they shouldn't have. See this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU12KW-XyZE&feature=player_embedded
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 7:45 am
If a news conference were called to announce that Israeli doctors had discovered a cheap and effective cure for cancer, the headline in the press would read: "Israelis wantonly destroy pharmaceutical industry."
Posted by: Harold at May 31, 2010 7:50 am
"I wasn't making a political point"

Nope. And you're not a Hezzie-lover either.
Posted by: Gary Rosen at May 31, 2010 8:35 am
Yes indeed, still most definitely not a Hezzie-lover, but you're still obviously an idiot.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 8:58 am
Joe: Please explain the word 'legally' in your sentence above. Reports say that the incident took place in international waters. If you board my boat uninvited and in international waters, don't expect me to roll out the red carpet.

Why don't you tell me why Israel's seizure of craft publicly declared to challenge a blockade of a genocidal enemy in wartime isn't legal? Cite all the maritime law you want. Keep in mind that many of the hundreds of "activists" were from known Islamist terror groups such as the Turkish IHH (read: Muslim Brotherhood). And they were armed with guns.
=============================

My Ministry of Truth suggestion was that you were exaggerating the facts to fit your own prejudices.

Anyone representing a "Ministry of Truth" is axiomatically full of shit. Do you also have a religious police?
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 9:12 am
Michael
I request your intervention since GR has now twice called me a 'Hezzie-lover'. We are all in favor of spirited debate but name-calling is not debate. It is an attempt to shut somebody up. This is a technique employed by the worst authoritarians in history and today. I think as the owner of this site, you welcome differing points of view. I request that you assert your authority and tell GR that you will boot him off immediately iif he keeps on making unfair accusations. Again, I have said nothing to deserve this awful label. I am here anonymously but it is my opinion that I am defending, an opinion which tries to be fair and objective, even if some don't agree with it.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 10:20 am
Li'l Mamzer
Lots of heat but no light. I am not representing a MOT. The 'my' in my comment applied to 'suggestion' not to 'MOT'.

Lots of fury here, misdirected as it shoots for the closest imaginary targets.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 10:47 am
If you want to insult Kristof's intellect and morals, simply point out that he attended Oxford.
Posted by: chuck at May 31, 2010 10:55 am
Joe, did you see Gary's comment to me above? It often seems like Gary advances the Takfiri agenda of dividing us among ourselves so that we fight each other for the extremists.

Was the purpose of the flotilla to reopen Gaza's seaport, so that Gaza could import goods and services without having to go through complicated and lengthy Egyptian and Israeli permitting?

Is Gaza's seaport blocked as part of an effort to strengthen the Palestinian Authority against Hamas? Does the world back the PA against Hamas? To my knowledge the only countries that back Hamas are Iran and to a much lesser degree Syria [which also retains good relations with the PA.]

How did a firefight break out on the flotilla lead vessel? Seems like a massive unexpected mess-up. The flotilla has citizens from 50 countries, many of them prominent EU and Turkish citizens.

What could have gone wrong?

This unfortunate tragedy might have major negative implications for Israel.
Posted by: anan at May 31, 2010 10:57 am
Bad PR day for Israel today.

Bad PR day for Turkey as well. And for Greece, to a lesser extent. But Turkey... even Obama is going to have to start questioning what Turkey's motives are soon. If they've gone over to the other side then what the hell are we doing partnering with them in Afghanistan, and why are they in NATO?
Posted by: Craig at May 31, 2010 10:58 am
Craig, the Turks rock! :-)

They are helpful all over the place, not only in Afghanistan, where they are very helpful.

Turkey is also helpful in Pakistan.

If you want to bash someone, bash the Greeks. They are a sneaky sort that might now refuse to repay their creditors. The Greeks threaten to cause a global financial crisis. ;-)

Go Turks! Greeks, not so much.

I am more uneasy about the substantial and valuable Jordanian and Egyptian contributions to Afghanistan. Don't get me wrong, they are substantial and helpful. But do we really trust the Jordanian and Egyptian governments?
Posted by: anan at May 31, 2010 11:10 am
Craig
Time to reactivate the Kurdish Independence talks. The Kurds, a people screwed by the Treaty of Versailles. Oh no, some angry lame-brained Turkish guy is now going to call me a 'PKK lover'.
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 11:11 am
Anand, did you watch the helicopter footage in the link Joe provided>

How did a firefight break out on the flotilla lead vessel? Seems like a massive unexpected mess-up.

I don't think it was at all "unexpected". I think the peace-protesters knew the Israeli navy was going to interdict them, and planned all along to violently resist that.

The flotilla has citizens from 50 countries, many of them prominent EU and Turkish citizens.

So? I've said it before and I'll say it again: I favor systems that require people to live with the consequences of their own actions. That includes both Israel and Turkey. The US needs to re-evaluate its position on Turkey. And Obama needs to sign that "genocide" bill. The only reason that hasn't happened in the past is the US was concerned about having a good relationship with Turkey. That good relationship clearly no longer exists. Every week or two there's another story coming out of Turkey where they have decided to do something that's a slap in the face for the US. Time to slap back. That's how international diplomacy works, isn't it anand?

By the way, the BBC has not updated this story in the last 12 hours:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/default.stm

That usually means they know they got it wrong, but don't want to admit to that until the damage is (fully) done.

I also noticed their story about the Israeli embassy in Turkey being attacked has been removed. When the BBC is so blatantly trying to defame Israel while at the same time is going out of its way to try to protect Turkey's image, isn't it time to start asking the British some questions? The BBC is an organ of the British government, is it not?
Posted by: Craig at May 31, 2010 11:14 am
PKK sucks. The Turks rock!

Turkey has the best relations it has had since 1918 with Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey's own Kurdish community.

Has anyone found any data about what happened on the flotilla? There is a bizarre account of passengers stealing two guns from Israeli IDF. Another account of 6 IDF injured.

The Flotilla had some very smart and respected passengers and sponsors. Suspect they would have tried hard to keep Takfiri extremist crazies off the boat. How did some nutjobs infiltrated their way in? Why didn't the IDF do a better job engaging whoever was engaging them without harming noncombattants. Are these really the best special forces Israel has got?
Posted by: anan at May 31, 2010 11:18 am
Time to reactivate the Kurdish Independence talks. The Kurds, a people screwed by the Treaty of Versailles.

Joe, yes... I think even the UN would have to support such talks, as the right of a people to self-determination is one of the UN's sacred cows :)

Anand,

They are helpful all over the place, not only in Afghanistan, where they are very helpful.

Can you prove they are "helpful", anand? 10 years ago or even 5 that claim would have had some merit, but now? Show me the money.
Posted by: Craig at May 31, 2010 11:22 am
How did some nutjobs infiltrated their way in?

Anand, watch the fucking video, would you? There were at least 100 people in that mob that was attacking the IDF boarders. There were only 600 people total on all of the vessels combined, so I'm guessing 100+ on one ship represents a pretty substantial portion of the total people on board.

Your comments of late have come very close to insulting the intelligence of readers of this blog.
Posted by: Craig at May 31, 2010 11:26 am
Here's a link explaining the terror-linked Turkish IHH, who, in addition to the ISM whack-jobs on the boat, were also part of this provocation:

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e105.htm
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 11:26 am
It looks like the Turkish opposition CHP has a chance of unseating Erdogan's government, but I haven't been able to find any clues to what their foreign policy changes would be should they win. Anyone know?
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 11:31 am
Just saw the video. Are there more like that? It is hard for me to make out exactly what is happening.

Are there any good sources for information?
Posted by: anan at May 31, 2010 11:43 am
Stratfor analysis
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100531_flotillas_and_wars_public_opinion?utm_source=GWeekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=100531&utm_content=readmore&elq=9594f4014cc9453494cb6a9c4d8ad35f
Posted by: Joe at May 31, 2010 12:35 pm
Everyone should read Joe's Stratfor link.
Posted by: anan at May 31, 2010 12:58 pm
Everyone should read Joe's Stratfor link.

George Friedman's analysis is fundamentally flawed.
In 1948, the Jews were trying to survive another attempted extermination - this time by the local Arabs and their neighbors.

Today's Arabs in Gaza face no existential threat from anyone; in fact, it is they themselves who are the threat, once again, to Jewish lives.

Get it straight, George.
Posted by: Li'l Mamzer at May 31, 2010 1:52 pm
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