Religion

Ayaan Hirsi Ali at University of Wisconsin

The bold, brilliant Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who escaped a fundamentalist Islamic community and arranged marriage in order to educate herself and speak out against radical Muslims, just gave a talk at University of Wisconsin. Her talk is described here, complete with the videos I’ve embedded below.

“Allahu Akbar,” several audience members yelled as Ayaan Hirsi Ali took the stage Tuesday night. “That means God is great,” she responded. “I’m not going to say God is great.”

Full speech: DLS presents Ayaan Hirsi Ali from The Badger Herald on Vimeo.

Bonus videos after the jump!

Q&A Session:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali takes audience questions from The Badger Herald on Vimeo.

Interview with the Badger Herald:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on death threats and Islamic doctrine from The Badger Herald on Vimeo.

Hirsi Ali talking to Avi Lewis, saying there’s no such thing as Islamophobia (I disagree with this stance):

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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14 Comments

  1. That interview with Avi Lewis is a-fucking-mazing. She absolutely SLAYS that smug, patronizing shit. What a total delight that was to watch. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Akbar!

    I agree with you that her assertion that ‘islamophobia doesn’t exist’, is false. But it certainly needs to be stated that it is no vice either; which is what I think she was getting at. I’d consider myself pretty islamophobic, as in, I am fearful of that particularly awful religion and its precepts and consequences. But I’m also scientologyphobic and evangelical christianityphobic for many of the same reasons.

  2. @Magnus H.: I agree, I think “islamophobia” needs to be properly defined before we get into whether or not it exists. Do I fear what people do in the name of Islam? Yes, of course.

    However, I think of the word in the same way that people use the word “homophobia,” which is in fact not a “fear of” homosexuality but a hatred of it. Obviously you can argue those two concepts are intimately related, but they can have very different real-world results, as I think hate will inspire a more violent and far-reaching response.

    In the case of Islamophobia I think the hatred is very different from the fear, and when I use the word I use it to mean those people who use hatred to reach the wrong conclusions and the wrong solutions to the problems Islam presents.

  3. @Rebecca: I don’t want to belabor and put too fine a point on it, but I have to admit that I would still find myself reluctant to renounce terms like islamophobia, even when taken to mean “hatred of” rather than merely “fear of”. For any given “ideology-ophobia” term, I still think such terms should carry no intrinsic stigma or conflation with for instance, racism (though I am not suggesting that you are attempting to do this, it is a frequent tactic used by many others).

    For instance, I hate Christianity because it is an evil religion and has wrought an enormous measure of needless suffering upon the world since its inception. In the same sense, I equally hate fascism. So it would seem that I am unable to escape descriptions of being Christianophobic and fascistophobic, under either the hate or fear definitions – proudly so. Also, I feel I must stress that neither of these terms mean that I hate europeans, despite the fact that both ideologies originated from members of that racial group. In the exact same sense, my islamophobia in absolutely no way indicates any racial hatred whatsoever against Arabs. Indeed, I am a significant part Arab myself.

    I would argue that the term homophobia (if we accept the “hate of” definition) does not fall within the exemption from odiousness that I am defending above because of course, it is not an ideology. It’s an immutable characteristic and furthermore, it causes no harm.

    Honestly I’m not trying to be a shit here, and I fully understand your concern about the possibility of hatred being used “to reach the wrong conclusions…”, but at the same time, I feel we should be extra careful not to allow others to use these sorts of neologistic cudgels against us in order to immunize themselves from justifiable criticism. Which is what I believe (and what I think Hirsi Ali is also arguing) is being done in many cases.

  4. She’s awesome, obviously, but I also think she creates a bit of a false dilemma. It seems like she’s suggesting that we ought not to be upset over mild, domestic examples of sexism because they are insignificant when compared to the horrendous treatment of women under sharia law. She’s right that there’s no comparison between the two, but I don’t see why we can’t be proportionally upset by both.

    After reading what I’ve just written, I’ve decided that I’m completely wrong. She’s not suggesting that at all, but I’ll post this comment anyway. It makes me seem like I have my own opinion about something.

  5. I will view these videos later Rebecca, but thank you for posting them. I look foward to seeing them at a later time.

    I simply want to say that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a true heroine in my opinion. Her story is inspiring, her intelligence is fierce, and her courage is almost mythical.

    I once suggested via e mail for the SGU to interview her. Alas, that was a long shot request.

    It looks like this will suffice. THANK YOU!

  6. “I hate Christianity because it is an evil religion and has wrought an enormous measure of needless suffering upon the world since its inception.”

    Gee, what about the good that some Christians have done in the world? And don’t you think hatred of any kind for anything is dangerous?

  7. ^ “Gee, what about the good that some Christians have done in the world?”

    Yeah and? What about it? Name me one (genuinely) virtuous act done by a Christian that couldn’t just as easily have been done by a buddhist or an atheist.

    Shall I hush my visceral revulsion toward the gulags of Stalinist Russia because he also gave women unprecedented equal opportunities in education, employment and access to improved medical care?

    “And don’t you think hatred of any kind for anything is dangerous?”

    No, but I do think simpering, oversimplified maxims of false virtue sometimes are.

  8. @Dale Husband: Yeah, so? You can do good without religion. Many people do every day.

    Perhaps if you knew the horror she knows, you’d understand.

    What about the hatred that Christianity brings? Isn’t that dangerous?

    As a queer women, I see it everyday. Nothing like she does, of course, but I see the bigotry, and the absolute hatred that religion can and does bring. I live in Arizona. With Gov. Brewer. My rights as a queer and a woman are severely lessened because of her. Because of her GOD.

    I try to be understanding, because I know many people who are religious and who are wonderful people, especially within the queer churches, but they are a minority and they always will be.

  9. @Magnus H.: ““And don’t you think hatred of any kind for anything is dangerous?”

    No, but I do think simpering, oversimplified maxims of false virtue sometimes are.” COTW

    It is unfortunate that we hate some things, but the unfortunate part is that those hate-worthy things exist, not that we hate them.

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