Jeffrey Tayler defends Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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?


  1. p. puk
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    “Another criticism was that she is married to a conservative, Niall Ferguson.”

    Guilt by association… It’s a trope of the Regressive Left. Like many other things such as “Privilege” and “rape-culture.”

    They somehow need to show that everyone’s well is poisoned and, therefore, that their ideas and opinions are invalid and unacceptable.

    It’s an awful philosophy. And they are awful people.

  2. Ingemar
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali: “I really admire Benjamin Netanyahu. Because he is under so much pressure, from so many sources, and yet he does what is best for the people of Israel, he does his duty. I really think he should get the Nobel Peace Prize. In a fair world he would get it.”

    She said this during one of Israel’s vicious assaults on Gaza no less. It is as if someone praised Hitler as his armies were decimating Poland. She may be right in many ways about Islam but she is a moral imbecile of the first water.

    Let us not also forget the following. Those who defend Ali should at least be honest about what it is she has said that has made her so controversial.

    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.

    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.

    • Posted June 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      You are aware, aren’t you, that the second interview is from 2007, and that in her latest book she makes clear that she doesn’t hold that view any more? It’s typical of Regressive Lefitsts to damn someone for a statement that made in the past, and then, even if they change their minds or views, they are forever tarred.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      The Polish constitution before WWII didn’t contain passages about total destruction of Germany. Poland didn’t shoot tens of thousands of missiles at German towns and villages, didn’t dig terror tunnels into German territory to kill, maim and kidnap Germans.

      During the war Germany didn’t supply Poland with electricity, water, food, medicines, and variety of different products. And Germany didn’t take very sick Poles into better equipped German hospitals to give them life-saving treatment. Here, in Poland, we really know what Germans did, and none of the above was in Germany’s repertoire. All of the above is what Israel does for Gazans. And you can read about Israel’s efforts to spare the life of Gaza’s civilians who were pushed in harm’s way by Hamas and used as human shields:

      A person who compares Netanyahu to Hitler, and Israel’s efforts to defend its own civilian population from a terrorist organization, and still has the temerity to call Ayyan Hirsi Ali an “imbecile”, is really beneath contempt.

      • somer
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink


      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        I am genuinely glad that none of my acquaintances goes by the name of Ingemar. What a harrowing, infantile discussion that could have led to!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        Good response Malgorzata!

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

        Well said Malgorzata.

      • Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Malgorzata, that is the most perfectly proportional, rational and logical, historically accurate response ever!!!
        Thank you for speaking up so!

    • colnago80
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      She said this during one of Israel’s vicious assaults on Gaza no less. It is as if someone praised Hitler as his armies were decimating Poland

      You know, it’s too bad that Bibi didn’t take a leaf from the Hafaz Assad book and apply Hama Rules to the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas aggression. Then you would really have something to whine about.

  3. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    No one wants to be called a racist – just about the only thing worse is a being called a paedophile. Criticism of Islam has become conflated with racism because a majority of its adherents are non-white. Sexism takes a back seat but I think that’s a big part of the problem here. I read Tayler’s full article, and one of the things Hirsi Ali is excoriated for is her “stridency.” The same word they use for Hillary Clinton. As I read somewhere yesterday (something like), “There’s a reason it’s called a ‘glass’ ceiling.” People often don’t even see the extra prejudice women suffer, whatever the situation, and even when they do it’s not considered as bad as racism so it’s ignored.

    Besides, why do we have to agree with everything a person says to admire them? (Also not such a problem for men.) Most of us here admire Christopher Hitchens while disagreeing with things like his stance on the Iraq war. But then men are allowed to be strident, and it helps perception just having a deeper voice as long as it matches your body. (Just ask Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Programme about that one.)

    • Sarah
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Quite right! And when are men ever called “strident”? Even Trump isn’t called “strident”. No, it’s reserved for women who speak forcefully. If they spoke with even half the stridency of Trump they would be called the other favorite term: “hysterical”.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 18, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        And since we’ve gone there, Merilee brought this to my attention yesterday:

        It’s long but worth the read. it includes stuff like that while Trump called her Crooked Hillary, Politifact actually judges her the most honest in the race and Trump not only the most dishonest by far, but also almost the most dishonest ever. But he supposedly, “tells it like it is,” as so many say.

      • Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

        Men are called “strident” when they’re atheists and make this fact known. Women just don’t have to be atheist to be called “strident”.

        • somer
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:42 am | Permalink

          As I see it theres a hierarchy of oppressions depending on the situation – but always skewed one way. With the regressive left the ultimate oppression /oppressed group is anything that can be attributed negatively to the West or any group highly critical of the west.
          We all need to be cognisant and responsive to western failings. But there are some things in European culture worth actively defending.

        • Sarh
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          Point taken!

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 1:11 am | Permalink

        Quite wrong! More like it.

        Being ‘strident’ was, is, a common complaint against the new atheists, many of whom were/are men.

        Google Richard Dawkins and strident.

        Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a prominent new atheist, which may be where the ‘strident’ comes from, not because she is a women.

      • steve
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:17 am | Permalink

        Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and probably Christopher Hitchens have been called strident, as have the “new” atheists (mostly men) in general. This was very common when the three (4 if you count Dennett)) horsemen started writing and Internetting a while back.

        • steve
          Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:19 am | Permalink

          Sorry — I see this was already pointed out.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 19, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

            And so I will decline to make the same point. 😉

  4. poltiser
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    It is actually very funny –
    she escape tribalism of life in Somalia, Somalian ghetto,
    to be a victim of US based “left” tribalism!

    Naked Ape never change!

    Revenge for ever and ever!

    I hope she will survive and prevail.
    Keep safe Ali!

  5. Posted June 18, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink


    • GBJames
      Posted June 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink


      • Cindy
        Posted June 19, 2016 at 6:12 am | Permalink


  6. Posted June 18, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Always a pleasure to have Jeffrey Tayler take us on a ride and add the appropriate names to the Hall of Shame. No doubt the membership will increase in the liberal rush to Islam’s defense.

  8. Vaal
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I guess I may be a party-pooper, but I’m not really digging the whole “regressive left” label and the bickering going on under that banner.

    Sam Harris seemed so bang on when he noted the tendency of religion to “balkanize” people into separate moral communities.
    But then I remember following PZ’s blog and thinking, “hey, this seems to be taking on the divisive tone of religion” when the tone of that site turned to “othering.”
    What many of us have decried in the “SJW” movement is that, even with someone who mostly agrees with them, if they find something to criticize then that is enough to make someone the enemy. If you entirely agree, you are in. If there is something I don’t agree with you about…you become persona non grata.

    And usually when I read from both sides, I’m always amazed at how much they actually agree on.

    I’m getting that same feeling from those, like Sam Harris (who is as close to a hero to me as anyone gets) and Tayler who seem ever more bent on divisive labels and making the list of enemies. And this “hall of shame” piece seems yet another step in that direction.

    For instance, Tayler comes down on Nicholas Kristof for his review of Nomad. Apparently Kristof’s review must have been so egregious he deserves to be put on the “hall of shame” enemies list. And yet when I re-read Nicholas Kristof’s review I saw little to merit this shaming. Kristoff lauded Ali quite a bit, painted her as likeable, agrees she is targeting some very real problems within the Muslim world, but..*gasp* thinks she can be a bit strident and paint with too broad a brush here and there.

    The general tenor of the review is capture when Kristof writes: “It’s true that public discussion in some Muslim countries has taken on a strident tone, full of over-the-top exaggerations about the West. Educated Muslims should speak out more against such rhetoric.

    In the same way, here in the West, we should try to have a conversation about Islam and its genuine problems — while speaking out against over-the-top exaggerations about the East.”

    Heresy! Into the hall of shame with Kristof!

    There is also the implication from Tayler that a non-Muslim traveling through Muslim nations is in no position to describe Islam as it seems to be practices, compared with someone who was once a Muslim. But surely that isn’t necessarily the case (it might be with Ali, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted). We atheist know very well that Christians have different beliefs, and individuals Christians can actually be fairly insular and ignorant about what other Christians believe. Any Christian will tell you “what Christianity is” and you can take that the next state over and be told “That’s not Christianity at all.” It’s quite possible for an outsider, not having been inculcated either way, to have a more complete view.

    Ali may certainly be more expert in Islam than Kristof, but it can’t just be accepted on the grounds that she lived and suffered as a Muslim – the card Tayler seems to be playing to rebuff criticism of Ali.

    None of this is to criticize Ali, whom I admire enormously. She blows my mind. I’m only describing what I see to be over-eagerness to take an area of disagreement and, just as Hitchens decried, take it as representative of a person, and then to cast that person into “Halls Of Shame.”

    We so often end up doing what we decry in others.

    • Robert Ryder
      Posted June 20, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I agree. I fear the anti-regressive left folks may become as intolerant as those they are criticizing. If Ayaan Hirsi Ali is allowed to change positions (and some of her earlier positions do sound somewhat abhorrent to me), surely we can cut someone like Jon Stewart a little slack as well. Let’s not go as crazy as the people we’re criticizing, eh? I don’t have to like and praise Netanyahu to be part of this club, do I?

      • GBJames
        Posted June 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        Is allowed to change positions?

        I think you miss the point.

        If people are criticized for holding particular opinions, they should be those they currently hold, not opinions they have abandoned. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind.

        But that is not a defense of Jon Stewart for Islam-coddling nor one for Bill Mahar’s anti-vaxx nonsense. Both deserve criticism. And it is legitimate to dislike some of Ali’s comments while still holding her in high regard for many other reasons.

  9. Shep
    Posted June 19, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    While I find myself mostly “aligned” with Ayaan, it should be pointed out that she did support and suggest we (Canadians) vote for Stephen Harper in the last Canadian federal election, the man who gave use the “it’s totally Ok for me to spy on law abiding Canadian citizens” bill.

    • Cindy
      Posted June 19, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Unfortunately the Liberal Party also supports warrantless spying on Canadians…

      • Shep
        Posted June 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        True … I’m not usually a single-issue voter, but I felt I had little choice in this last election. The Liberal talk of reviewing / modifying the bill is not adequate, IMO. Scrap it and start over.

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