Three quarters of the people in Pakistan favor the death penalty for leaving Islam. In Iraq or Bangladesh it is only about 42 percent of the population. Instead of merely socially ostracizing or imprisoning the original thinker – all distasteful reprisals to the western mind that prizes freedom of ideas … millions of people believe this person should be killed.
Where is the outcry against such an intolerable idea? Paradoxically a sizable contingent of western liberals are following Ben Affleck’s lead in shouting “gross and racist” when anybody wonders aloud about Islam and how it is practiced. Islam is a peaceful religion we are told. Not necessarily true. That is why you must read Ayaan’s Hirsi Ali’s most recent book, Heretic.
This is not a book by an Islamophobe. Ayaan grew up with the Islamic religion and although she had a questioning nature, her religious indoctrination had her at one time seeing the justice in demands for the death of the heretical Salman Rushdie. She understands a certain mindset from the inside. Escaping an arranged marriage and observing the lifestyles of the good people of Holland moved her in another direction. This could not have happened as easily if she had remained immersed in the male dominated stridently religious culture of her homeland.
For Western liberals, this should be an eye opening book. Western liberals have got into the convoluted reasoning that when a horrendous murder is committed and the perpetrator does a shout out to god during the execution, discussing the religious motivation is off limits. Ayaan informs us - If a large group of people believe that the Qur’an should be literally accepted as the word of god and those words glorify the slaying of someone who is not a Muslim and also the execution of someone who questions some of that intolerant wording in the sacred text – we have a problem. The problem is an accepted body of ideas that warrants discussion.
This is a hopeful book as Ayaan sees the awakening of an Islamic reformation in response to life in the modern world. She identifies five key tenets of Islam that are at odds with a free society. She tells us there are already Muslims in the past and present who have questioned these core ideas and some have even been executed for this. We should not be encouraging the power structures that have been set up in some communities which enact ruthless responses to those attempting this reformation. The western world should be encouraging modern Islamic thinkers who challenge the subjugation of women or the glorification of religious warriors who get a ticket to a male dominated paradise. The western world should not be encouraging any Islamic groups who shout discrimination while privately believing in ideas that restrict civil rights.
This is not a tome filled with hate speech. It is an impassioned response to a primitive 8th century version of a religion that needs to enter the twenty first century