The struggle for the soul of Islam, part 3

(If you’re wondering where parts 1 and 2 are, I’m reaching back a bit:  more than two years! See Fuel for antisemitism in the Qur’an and The struggle for the soul of Islam in Canada, both posted in July 2005.)
 
 
Johann Hari tells the story of a Somali woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who fled fundamentalist Islam for sanctuary in the Netherlands. Hari says that Ayaan is deeply conflicted. There are “two Ayaans … with clashing and contradictory views on Islam.” On the one hand:

She has no time for what she sees as the ignorant, woolly Islam-is-peace message of Western liberals, insisting: “I see no difference between Islam and Islamism. … Sayyid Qutb [the thinker who inspired al Qaeda] didn’t invent anything, he just quoted the sayings of Mohammed.”

On the other hand, reform of Islam is possible:

She insists, “It’s wrong to treat Muslims as if they will never find their John Stuart Mill. Christianity and Judaism show people can be very dogmatic and then open up. There is a minority like Irshad Manji and Tawfiq Hamid who want to remain in the faith and reform it. …

Can you be a Muslim and respect the separation of church and state? I hope a large enough number of Muslims will agree you can, and they will find a way to keep the spiritual elements that comfort them and live in a secular society.”

The struggle (= jihad) for the soul of Islam is dramatized in Ayaan’s ambivalence. I hope the part of her that dares to hope for reform is right. All of us have a stake in the outcome of this particular struggle.

The interview is gut-wrenching. Ayaan continues to live in grave danger:

The internet is littered with pledges to torture and slay Ayaan Hirsi Ali. … When she describes the people who want to hack her body to pieces, it is in paragraphs that feel pre-packed. Perhaps it is all she can bear to show.

The government of the Netherlands used to provide security services for Ayaan, but now they have thrown her to the wolves. Sam Harris hosts a site where you can make a donation to help defray the costs of private security.

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