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Risking Her Life to Expose Islam

Her words make her the target of death threats and force her to travel 'round-the-clock with armed bodyguards.
 

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"Islamic dogma creates a cult of death, a cage for women, and a curse against knowledge," writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her words incite outrage, make her the target of constant death threats, and force her to travel 'round-the-clock with armed bodyguards. "I am convinced that there is a threat from radical Islam, that it is threatening, that people here are really very complacent," Hirsi Ali said. To many in the West, 37-year-old Hirsi Ali is a defender of Muslim women's rights, the millenium's Salman Rushdie. But to most of the Islamic world, she is an infidel. In her autobiography Infidel, Hirsi Ali describes her childhood as a Muslim in Somalia; her escape from an arranged marriage; and her asylum in the Netherlands where she rose to become a Dutch member of parliament. Based today in Washington, D.C., Hirsi Ali is risking her life to expose Islam. It's a religion that she says subjugates Muslim women to lives of slavery, suffering, and submission. Submission is the title of a film Hirsi Ali wrote and co-produced in Holland. It reveals Quranic verses that condone the beating of women, forced marriage, and punishment for victims of rape. One line of the film reads, "Each time my uncle comes to see me, I feel caged, like an animal waiting for slaughter." Blasphemy worthy of death was the verdict of Muslim clerics. Hirsi Ali said, "I had taken verses from the Quran considered holy in themselves, and I had written them on the surface -- the most contemptible surface -- the skin of a woman." After the film's release, Director Theo van Gogh was assassinated on the streets of Amsterdam -- shot to death, his throat slit, and a knife stuck his chest with a letter that listed Hirsi Ali's crimes against Islam. But Islam's crimes against women are what concern Hirsi Ali. She says the Muslim obsession with virginity is behind the brutal practice of female genital mutilation. Hirsi said, "There is no Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, with 100-percent certainty that he condoned or urged girls to be genitally mutilated. But if you look at the list of countries where female genital mutilation is practiced and especially where it happens to more than 90 percent of the females, you'll see that they're all Muslim. That's very interesting." Like 98 percent of Somali girls, Hirsi Ali and her sister suffered the mutilation without anesthesia at the hand of their grandmother. It was an excruciating procedure that not all survive. "But if you survive it, urinating is painful, menstruating is painful, sex is painful, giving birth is painful, so you end up leading a life of pain," Hirsi Ali said. Hirsi Ali says that she doesn't blame her family, but Islam that teaches the subordination of women. Hirsi Ali said, "So my grandmother's conviction that I must remain a virgin -- that I would not find husband if I was not circumcised -- that I would therefore be a piece of vulnerable sheep fat on the streets -- that is inspired by her beliefs in Islam." She can cite verses from the Quran instructing husbands to beat their wives. And she says Islam's leader set the original perverse example. "The prophet Mohammed married a 6-year-old child and consummated the marriage when she was nine. Child brides are rampant in Muslim communities," Hirsi Ali said. Although a small minority of Muslim women support her work, Hirsi Ali says most cannot or will not speak against the faith. She said, "Here are many whose spirits have been killed when they were small. There are many who fear change." Hirsi Ali renounced Islam after 9/11 -- her response to Osama bin Laden's calls for jihad. Those rantings were not from radical elements who hijacked the religion, she says, but from hostility that is rooted deep in the Quran. "'These infidels were now in Muslim lands and shedding Muslim blood. And if you shed Muslim blood, all Muslims are obligated to join in that.' Now he was making all these quotations and getting them from Mohammed," Hirsi Ali said. Hirsi Ali says that's a problem for Westerners like President Bush who call Islam a "great religion." She said, "I can disagree with President Bush and say he's wrong -- say he has no idea what he's saying, and must prove that it's great -- and he won't come and behead me. He won't put me in jail." That's not the case in most Muslim nations, Hirsi Ali says. She contends that Islam is incompatible with democracy. It tramples on human rights and denies free speech. In Washington, Hirsi Ali challenged journalists to question the tenets of the faith. Ali said, "This is what I'm trying to tell journalists. What Muslim leader in any country can you criticize as a citizen of that country, as a visitor, as a journalist, without getting into trouble?" Hirsi Ali's views have won her dangerous enemies. But she says that the radical Islamic threat is real and that the West has grown complacent. She warns Westerners that if they don't resist a culture that oppresses women and schools children in hate, the consequences could be severe. "If we don't push back, then like Turkey, like the Turkish secular people, one day we'll wake up to an Islamic reality and that's not what I want," Hirsi Ali said. A solitary voice in a life-or-death debate, the former Muslim says that despite the death threats, she'll continue to speak out in the battle over values of the West versus those of Islam. Hirsi Ali said, "Because freedom is also worth dying for and fighting for."

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