Jeff Tayler has apparently jumped ship at Salon, long a leaky and rat-infested tub, and gone over to Quillette as a vessel for his posts extolling reason and criticizing theism. In April, Quillette published his essay defending Sam Harris, and now Tayler’s just written a powerful piece on Ayaan Hirsi Ali with a nearly identical title—only the names have been changed. The new essay is “Free speech and Islam: In defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali“.
I’ve long said that Hirsi Ali should be a poster child for progressivism. She worked herself out of a life of dreadful oppression to become a spokesperson for free speech, liberal values, and the right of women to be free from religious persecution. She is female, black, and a former Muslim and a victim of genital mutilation. And yet the Regressive Left—I used to say “Authoritarian Left”, but now see that the former term is accurate since it represents abandonment of the progress of the Left—reviles her, and on totally ridiculous grounds. One criticism is that she used to work for a conservative think tank—but that was only because no progressive organization would hire her! And, at any rate, that’s no longer the case: Hirsi Ali is now a Fellow of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Another criticism was that she is married to a conservative, Niall Ferguson. To that I say, “so what?” The Democrat James Carville is married to the former Republican (and now Libertarian) Mary Matalin, and nobody criticizes Carville’s credential because of that. What matters when dealing with Hirsi Ali is her own ideas, not her husband’s.
Her critics assert that she misrepresented her immigration status in Holland (out of fear). But Dutch politicians already knew that, and, after rescinding her Dutch citizenship, eventually reversed the decision. Finally, she’s made one or two statements about Islam that could be considered militant or unwise. But against all these trivial and largely irrelevant beefs place the entire corpus of her work, especially her three well known books, Infidel, Nomad, and Heretic, the last of which is an explicit call not for the elimination of Islam, but for its reformation. It’s telling that those who criticize her often haven’t read any of these books, nor show an awareness that she has moderated her stand toward Islam.
Another reason why progressives should support her is because her life is constantly threatened by Muslims, to the extent that she, like Salman Rushdie requires bodyguards. Those threats come not only for her apostasy and criticism of Islam and its stand toward women, but for the film she made with Theo van Gogh, “Submission,” which resulted in van Gogh’s assassination by a Muslim extremist. I implore you to watch the short ten-minute film below, and ask if this is not a passionate plea for women’s rights, one that deserves our support. (The language is English; the subtitles Dutch.)
The reason Hirsi Ali is denigrated by liberals is simple: they value Islam above women, for that’s the Order of Oppression dictated by the Regressive Left. And it’s an ordering that Tayler eloquently takes apart in his piece. Go read it; I present only a few excerpts:
That this [the demonization and killing of former female Muslims] is no laughing matter has not stopped regressive leftists from doing their utmost to look ridiculous, if in a sinister sort of way. In attempting to discourage criticism of Islam — a faith they mostly do not profess — they de facto defend the right of one group of humans to oppress another group on the basis of their religion. Their talent for tragicomic perfidy shines through most clearly in their prodigious efforts to take down one woman in particular — a woman whose life story, by any rational, humane standards, should win encomia from, and the admiration of, decent people everywhere — the courageous, Somali-born author, human rights activist, and public intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
. . . Make no mistake about it, though: for rejecting a seventh-century ideology ordaining second-class status for women, death for apostates and gays, inferior temporal status and damnation in the hereafter for non-Muslims, and sanctioning the genital mutilation of which she herself is a victim, turncoat pseudo-liberals have striven to discredit Hirsi Ali as an extremist hate-monger, and even slur her racially. Their body of work — or at least representative samples of it — is my subject here today.
Those indicted by Tayler for know-nothingness include Nicholas Kristof, Jon Stewart, Brian Whitaker (former Middle East editor of the Guardian), Nathan Lean (who works at a Saudi-financed institute, something his supporters don’t mention), Brandeis University (which rescinded an offer of an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali), the unhinged plagiarizer C. J. W*rl*man, and journalist Carla Power. Tayler mounts a powerful defense of Hirsi Ali against the slurs and misrepresentations of these apologists, who espouse, says Tayler, “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Tayler’s peroration includes this:
We may now exit the Hirsi Ali Hall of Shame and take a breath of fresh air. So-called progressives who denigrate Hirsi Ali for criticizing a faith they themselves do not profess traduce reason and every ideal of the Enlightenment, to say nothing of common sense. Theirs is not a principled opposition, but, rather, either a stance based on confusion or a cowardly retreat from uncomfortable truths about absolutist Islamic doctrines engendering violence and oppression, a retreat made under cover provided by assassins — the very assassins who imperil Hirsi Ali. Most likely, it is both. When in doubt, always better to be on the side of those with guns.
In the end, ask yourself this: why does Hirsi Ali require round-the-clock armed guards, while Nicholas Kristof, Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald, Carla Power, C. J. W*rl*man, and Nathan Lean don’t? Doesn’t that say something about the justice of Hirsi Ali’s cause?