Reason: But do you feel at all uncomfortable with that heavy emphasis on religion in American public life?
Hirsi Ali: Yes. And the good thing is—and that’s what I’ve tried to tell all my European friends—I’m allowed to say so.
I accept that there are multitudes seeking God, seeking meaning, and so on, but if they reject atheism, I would rather they became modern-day Catholics or Jews than that they became Muslims. Because my Catholic and Jewish colleagues are fine. The concept of God in Jewish orthodoxy is one where you’re having constant quarrels with God. Where I come from, in Islam, the only concept of God is you submit to Him and you obey His commands, no quarreling allowed. Quarreling or even asking questions means you raise yourself to the same level as Him, and in Islam that’s the worst sin you can commit. Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love, who represents a hereafter where there’s no hell, who wants you to lead a life where you can confess your sins and feel much better afterwards. Those are lovely concepts of God. They can’t compare to the fire-breathing Allah who inspires jihadism and totalitarianism.
Reason: Should we acknowledge that organized religion has sometimes sparked precisely the kinds of emancipation movements that could lift Islam into modern times? Slavery in the United States ended in part because of opposition by prominent church members and the communities they galvanized. The Polish Catholic Church helped defeat the Jaruzelski puppet regime. Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?
Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.
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.
Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.
Reason: Are we really heading toward anything so ominous?
Hirsi Ali: I think that’s where we’re heading. We’re heading there because the West has been in denial for a long time. It did not respond to the signals that were smaller and easier to take care of. Now we have some choices to make. This is a dilemma: Western civilization is a celebration of life—everybody’s life, even your enemy’s life. So how can you be true to that morality and at the same time defend yourself against a very powerful enemy that seeks to destroy you?
Reason: George Bush, not the most conciliatory person in the world, has said on plenty of occasions that we are not at war with Islam.
Hirsi Ali: If the most powerful man in the West talks like that, then, without intending to, he’s making radical Muslims think they’ve already won. There is no moderate Islam. There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.
Reason: I want my government to protest the Rushdie fatwa. I’m not so sure they ought to diplomatically engage some idiots burning a piece of cloth or a straw figure in the streets of Islamabad. Isn’t there a huge difference between the two?
Hirsi Ali: It’s not just a piece of cloth. It’s a symbol. In a tribal mind-set, if I’m allowed to take something and get away with it, I’ll come back and take some more. In fact, I’ll come and take the whole place, especially since it’s my holy obligation to spread Islam to the outskirts of the earth and I know I’ll be rewarded in heaven. At that point, I’ve only done my religious obligation while you’re still sitting there rationalizing that your own flag is a piece of cloth.
We have to get serious about this. The Egyptian dictatorship would not allow many radical imams to preach in Cairo, but they’re free to preach in giant mosques in London. Why do we allow it?
Reason: You’re in favor of civil liberties, but applied selectively?
Hirsi Ali: No. Asking whether radical preachers ought to be allowed to operate is not hostile to the idea of civil liberties; it’s an attempt to save civil liberties. A nation like this one is based on civil liberties, and we shouldn’t allow any serious threat to them. So Muslim schools in the West, some of which are institutions of fascism that teach innocent kids that Jews are pigs and monkeys—I would say in order to preserve civil liberties, don’t allow such schools.
Reason: Having lived in the United States for about a year now, do you find that Muslims in the United States have by and large integrated better here than they have in Europe?
Hirsi Ali: Since I moved here, I’ve spent most of my time in airports, in airplanes, in waiting rooms, in hotels, doing promotion for Infidel all over the world, so the amount of time I’ve actually lived in the U.S. is very small. But yes, I have the impression that Muslims in the United States are far more integrated than Muslims in Europe. Of course, being assimilated doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be a jihadist, but the likelihood of Muslims turning radical here seems lower than in Europe.
For one thing, America doesn’t really have a welfare system. Mohammed Bouyeri had all day long to plot the murder of Theo van Gogh. American Muslims have to get a job. What pushes people who come to America to assimilate is that it’s expected of them. And people are not mollycoddled by the government.
There’s a lot of white guilt in America, but it’s directed toward black Americans and native Indians, not toward Muslims and other immigrants. People come from China, Vietnam, and all kinds of Muslim countries. To the average American, they’re all fellow immigrants.
The white guilt in Germany and Holland and the U.K. is very different. It has to do with colonialism. It has to do with Dutch emigrants having spread apartheid in South Africa. It has to do with the Holocaust. So the mind-set toward immigrants in Europe is far more complex than here. Europeans are more reticent about saying no to immigrants.
And by and large, Muslim immigrants in Europe do not come with the intention to assimilate. They come with the intention to work, earn some money, and go back. That’s how the first wave of immigrants in the Netherlands was perceived: They would just come to work and then they’d go away. The newer generations that have followed are coming not so much to work and more to reap the benefits of the welfare state. Again, assimilation is not really on their minds.
Without passing any moral judgment, those are the differences between the two places.
Reason: Tolerance is probably the most powerful word there is in the Netherlands. No other word encapsulates better what the Dutch believe really defines them. That makes it very easy for people to say that when they’re being criticized, they’re not being tolerated—and from there it’s only a small step to saying they’re being discriminated against or they’re the victims of Islamophobia or racism or what have you.
Hirsi Ali: We have to revert to the original meaning of the term tolerance. It meant you agreed to disagree without violence. It meant critical self-reflection. It meant not tolerating the intolerant. It also came to mean a very high level of personal freedom.
Then the Muslims arrived, and they hadn’t grown up with that understanding of tolerance. In short order, tolerance was now defined by multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures and religions are equal. Expectations were created among the Muslim population. They were told they could preserve their own culture, their own religion. The vocabulary was quickly established that if you criticize someone of color, you’re a racist, and if you criticize Islam, you’re an Islamophobe.