Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Acceptable Extremist


The anti-Islam campaigner has been given a cushy reception by the Australian media, despite a history of borderline genocidal incitement, writes Michael Brull.

On Monday, a relatively moderate version of Ayaan Hirsi Ali appeared on what is probably the ABC’s most prestigious program, Q&A. Hirsi Ali is world famous for her revulsion of Islam and Muslims. Now that she’s back in Australia, the media has rolled out the red carpet for her once again.

The other guests included a former British adviser to occupation forces after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and a French ambassador who wanted to criminalise comparisons of Israel to apartheid.

In the past, Hirsi Ali has courted controversy for making extreme statements about Islam, and how the West should respond to the religion.

Ayaan on Islamic law:

“if I want to talk about Islamic law, I think that Islamic law is deplorable. Is it an insult to Muslims if I say Islamic law is deplorable, Sharia law? Sharia law degrades women, it degrades homosexuals, it is a message of intolerance.”

Ayaan on suspecting all Muslims in response to terrorist attacks:

ROHAN VENKATRAMAN: So, my question surrounds more around every time an act of violence is committed by the extremists, is it fair to look upon the peaceful mob among the followers of Islam and question them as to why they don’t condemn it?

AYAAN HIRSI ALI: I think it’s not about being fair or unfair. I think we live in a world where people who identify themselves as Muslims invoke the Quran and invoke the Prophet Muhammad and they go around killing people shouting “Allahu Akbar”, and I think it is perfectly justified for those of us who don’t do that to ask fellow Muslims – just pose the question: what on earth is that about? That is not Islamophobia. That is not unfair.

Ayaan on white political correctness:

And when you say that at times you feel squeamish about, you know, being a white man in that culture, here’s what I wish that white men and white women would not feel squeamish about: it is to protect the rights of the individuals within these communities and within these groups. If you have young girls who are subjected to forced marriage, it is not a marriage, it’s an arranged rape. It’s a forced rape and I wish we were not squeamish about it. We were not squeamish about slavery, we were not squeamish about eradicating, you know, civil rights apartheid and I wish that that is one thing we would not be squeamish about.

Ayaan takes Tony Jones to task: stop blaming America. There might have been WMDS in Iraq:

AYAAN HIRSI ALI: About blaming America and American wars and American invasions. I mean, I don’t think America just stood up one day and decided to go into Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a reason for that.

TONY JONES: What was the reason for going into Iraq, for example? Because they said it was for weapons of mass destruction and in the Bush’s office immediately after September 11, it was plotted that this would be the next course of action even though there was nothing there.

AYAAN HIRSI ALI: The jury is still out on whether there were weapons of mass destruction or not at that point. I remember I was in parliament and we were reviewing should we now go with the Coalition of the Willing, this is the Netherlands, or not go with the Coalition of the Willing and based on the information we had at that point we decided to go with the Coalition of the Willing.

Hirsi Ali also claimed that the new mayor of London was elected because of the backing of “organised Islamists”.

ayaan hirsi ali 2To get a sense of mainstream liberal reaction, the Guardian wrote up Hirsi Ali’s appearance. It summarised her apparently respectable opinion that “It is becoming increasingly difficult to criticise Islam and Muslims in western countries such as Australia”. Strangely, the Guardian – and the rest of the media spectrum – do not host debates about how much criticism of Jews and Judaism is permissible. Can anyone imagine anything like that happening in any media outlet?

For those looking for a movement to join that would implement Hirsi Ali’s ideas, Reclaim Australia agrees that “SHARIA LAW HAS NO PLACE ON AUSTRALIAN SOIL”. They too are sick of political correctness.

Though the right often complains about the ABC, they are sometimes impressed by the quality of its coverage of Islam. Andrew Bolt was glad that ABC radio gave Hirsi Ali a courteous hearing, as she complained that Prime Minister Tony Abbott wasn’t critical enough of Islam and its connection to ISIS. He also gave it credit for a long and sympathetic interview with Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, less extreme anti-Islam writers. Tony Jones, well-known for his interviewing technique, got through the 20-minute interview without a single tough question.

The Lebanese Muslim Association responded to this week’s Q&A by condemning it, singling out for reproach the platform given to “infamous bigot Ayaan Hirsi Ali”. In a few hours, it had been shared over a hundred times.

Perhaps those who supported the statement had in mind Hirsi Ali’s claims that Islam is “the new fascism” and “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death”. That comment also shows how Abbott is mild compared to her: he only thinks that ISIS is the “death cult”.

Hirsi Ali’s most notorious comments on Islam were in this interview:

Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

Hirsi Ali’s Q&A comments roughly align with some of the larger anti-Muslim movements in Australia. The quasi-genocidal comments quoted above, on the other hand, are more overtly hateful and murderous than anything I could find from any anti-Muslim groups. Militarily crushing Islam puts Ayaan in her own category.

Other than her extreme anti-Islam and anti-Muslim animus, Hirsi Ali’s views fit in well with other American warmongers. Aside from courageously still wondering if Saddam had WMDs in 2003, Hirsi Ali also thinks that “in a fair world”, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would get the Nobel Peace Prize. Though acclaimed as a courageous, free-thinking atheist, she has tried to convert to Judaism, and hopes to one day do so (“it was very difficult”).

In short, Hirsi Ali is exactly the kind of kind of brave ex-Muslim the West loves. The kind who has fallen in love with the West and repackages its conventional wisdom as amazing and liberating. Her lies about her background haven’t diminished the constant appeals to her life story whenever her claims are subjected to critical scrutiny.

The fact that a right-wing hawk who hates Islam is the darling of media figures like Miranda Devine isn’t surprising. When more low-brow demonisation of Islam is presented by the likes of Reclaim Australia or News Corp, progressives are dismissive; Q&A issues no invite. Yet when the same demonisation – in fact, far more vicious demonisation – comes from a black African, the highbrow media rolls out the red carpet and offers a platform. It seems that it doesn’t take much to legitimise the latent prejudices of Australian media.


Michael Brull

Michael Brull writes twice a week for New Matilda. He has written for a range of other publications, including Overland, Crikey, ABC's Drum, the Guardian and elsewhere. His writings can be followed at his public Facebook page (click on the icon below right).