I just heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaking at a National Press Club luncheon. Although she is an atheist, her comparison between Islam on the one hand, and Christianity and Judaism on the other is uncompromising and uncommonly frank.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born to a Muslim family in Somalia. She experienced the traditional Islamic practice of female genital mutilation as a child, and after requesting and gaining political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, she renounced the Islamic faith and proclaimed herself an atheist. In 2003 she was elected to the Dutch parliament. Outspoken in her critique of Islam, she was forced to go into hiding after threats were made on her life. After resigning from Parliament in 2006 due to controversy surrounding misstatements in her Dutch asylum application, Hirsi Ali emigrated to the United States.
In her National Press Club appearance, Hirsi Ali made it very clear that she considers the idea, common among secularists, of some sort of moral equivalence between Christianity and Judaism on the one hand, and Islam on the other, to be nonsense. I thought her statement very eloquent, and worthy of being widely heard.
During the question and answer period after her speech, she was asked about her own spirituality, and whether she felt that it was evolving, or that it was firmly entrenched in atheism. This is her reply:
On the question of spirituality, I want to share with you that religions are different.
I’ve been promoting this book (Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now) now for the last two weeks and you’ve probably seen my conversation with Jon Stewart and others. It always goes to, but is Christianity any different from Islam? And my observation is, yes, Christianity is different from Islam. Judaism is different from Islam.
These two religions have gone through a process of reformation. That will not say that I am converting to them. But I want to make it clear that the Christian God in 2015 is different from the Muslim god in 2015.
The worst thing that a Christian has ever said to me, the rudest thing that a Christian ever said to me, the thing that made me most uncomfortable that a Christian said to me: “I’m going to pray for you. I hope you will be safe. I hope you will be redeemed.”
But within my own family and my own community and, when I say, you know what? I’m in doubt about the Koran and Muhammad and life after death and all that. It is, well you are to die.
So I just want to point out that the differences between the religions. You can mock Christianity and Judaism as much as you like; you can’t say a thing about Islam. What makes me angry the moral equivalence. The moral equivalence.
Now religion gives us faith in the future, hope in the future, and my hope and faith in the future is that one day, one day, Islam and Muslims will become so civilized, and so peaceful and so tolerant, as Christianity and Judaism. I know that is controversial but I will leave it at that.