26 Jan, 2007
Spiegel Interview With Hirsi Ali
SPIEGEL: Now you are beginning to sound like a martyr yourself. The September 11 terrorists also died for an idea.
Hirsi Ali: I would like to draw a distinction there. If we all keep still and remain silent, there will be more than just one or two deaths. I prefer to follow the philosopher Karl Popper. He says that freedom is not to be taken for granted. It is vulnerable. One must fight for it and be willing to die for it. The Islamic scene is very aggressive. Those Muslims who wish to kill someone receive a great deal of support from their home countries. There is plenty of wealth, there are plenty of sponsors and there are plenty of desperate people who choose this path. We must defend ourselves if we wish to preserve our Western values. The price we pay is to be threatened.
Islamic extremists: "The intolerable cannot be tolerated." [REUTERS]
SPIEGEL: You seem to be resistant against the hostility. In your book, you are unrestrained in your denunciation of Islam as backward, and you call for policies that force immigrants to become integrated. You are also in the process of preparing a second part of the film "Submission." Aren't you concerned about generating even more rage against you?
Hirsi Ali: What else can they do but issue a death threat? Now that I've already been given the maximum sentence, at least I can act freely.
SPIEGEL: The politics of intimidation seem to be effective with others. The producers of the Tessin film festival didn't dare to screen "Submission."
Hirsi Ali: I believe this will change. If Islam is to develop peacefully, words or images will be necessary. Even radical Muslims have had access to the Internet and satellite television for a long time. We must have answers to this. In other words, there will be a "Submission II," and also a "Submission III."
SPIEGEL: Not everyone in your party, the right-leaning liberal VVD, is happy about your commitment.
Hirsi Ali: The VVD is primarily an economic party that promotes liberal markets. Attacks on Islam are not part of the party platform. That's why many are irritated by my work.
SPIEGEL: Why did you switch from the Labour party to the VVD in 2002?
Hirsi Ali: The Labour party and the Green party are too politically correct for my tastes. They believe in a purely multicultural ideology. Because of my criticism of Islam, I could have been the cause of a split in the party, especially as many of their voters are Muslims. But I absolutely wanted to utilize the opportunity to fight for my cause in parliament. Politics can offer solutions for social problems, and that's important to me.
SPIEGEL: Since the murder, you have been making appearances everywhere. Are you satisfied with the political response to the threat posed by religious fanatics?
Hirsi Ali: The intelligence services only became truly attentive after the attack, and now they say they have a better handle on the movement. They searched the apartments of presumed Islamists -- and there are rumors of a video on which Theo's murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, announces the attack. He also explains that it wouldn't matter to him if he were to die in the attempt, because he would end up in paradise.
SPIEGEL: But didn't the authorities respond to September 11?
Hirsi Ali: Yes they did. They called together the Muslim leaders, gave them money and asked them to keep their young people under control. It was laughable. Then they tried to force the many different groups under one roof. That effort produced two groups, one for liberal and one for orthodox Muslims. Their spokesmen were then expected to enforce all agreements internally. This is simply a naive expectation.
SPIEGEL: Why? After all, Islam is a highly authoritarian religion with strong leaders.
Hirsi Ali: Do you know what young Muslims who are drawn to radical Islam call these "leaders" who negotiate with the government? Charity whores. They consider them to be collaborators, traitors, idiots.
SPIEGEL: You want to see these young people be systematically introduced to Western values. But they live in closed communities, so how can they be reached?
Hirsi Ali: Start by knocking on the door! We must penetrate into their worlds.
SPIEGEL: You'll be seeing many doors slammed in your face.
Hirsi Ali: I'm not saying that it would be easy. For her book entitled "Invisible Parents," the journalist Margalith Kleijwegt did some research in the Moroccan section of Amsterdam, where Van Gogh's murderer, Bouyeri, lived. She knocked unsuccessfully on doors six times. The seventh door was opened, and then she learned a great deal about this community. For example, she learned that no parents in that neighborhood knew about the murder, that no parents even knew who Van Gogh was or had heard about the film. They only watch Arab television where they are fed with conspiracy theories about the West. They spend every vacation at home in Morocco. They can't speak or write Dutch, and they don't read newspapers. The lesson of Margalith Kleijwegt's book is that the parents are not equipped to give their children the upbringing necessary in a modern western society. They also have many children and these parallel worlds are growing. We look on without even knowing what happens in them.
SPIEGEL: Who should go in? Social workers?
Hirsi Ali: Certainly not. They are too politically correct and in most cases very young and inexperienced. No, there are other ways to get in. One is the political tool of preventing further growth of the ghettos. We need to employ a policy of integration that dictates to people where they can live and where they cannot live, thereby guaranteeing a mixing together of cultures and nations.
SPIEGEL: That sounds like a lot of trouble -- from the Dutch as well.
Hirsi Ali: So what? What is at issue is defending our values, and that can certainly lead to arguments.
SPIEGEL: Aren't you concerned that tensions would arise in these forced communities?
Hirsi Ali: The other alternative creates even greater tensions. If you allow the ghettos to grow, you'll have clashes between skinheads and Muslim extremists, for example. The second means of access should also be controlled by political means: A prohibition on all faith-based schools. Schools must be places of civilization, places that impart Western values, the purposes of democracy. We must treat the children as our children and not turn their education over to defenders of foreign dogma who indoctrinate them with anti-liberal doctrines.
SPIEGEL: Ignore the cultures of the immigrants?
Hirsi Ali: Blindly respecting their cultures is the wrong approach. Here's an example: Many children in Holland's Arab ghettos are taught the teachings of Ibn Abu-Taymiya, one of the founders of pure Islam who preaches the holy war as a way of life. Instead of studying European philosophers, the children are taught to abide by 11th century teachings!
SPIEGEL: Integration and European culture can't be imposed on people.
Hirsi Ali: But we can do something about it. This is where society comes in. Artists, kindergartens, churches, they should all penetrate into the ghettos. It's really grotesque: We have all kinds of NGOs that send people all the way to Africa to convince people to use condoms. But they don't dare touch the problems we have at home. Charity begins at home.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps this is partly because part of democracy means allowing people to think as they wish.
Hirsi Ali: Democracy also includes legitimate intolerance. The intolerable cannot be tolerated. We must declare war on Islamist propaganda. Why should we ignore that women in our midst are being suppressed, beaten, enslaved? Why should we ignore that people preach hatred and vow to destroy us?
SPIEGEL: Ms. Hirsi Ali, thank you for speaking with us.
Interview conducted by Conny Neumann and Michaela Schiessl
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
AYAAN HIRSI ALI, a Somali immigrant who served in the parliament of the Netherlands until earlier this year, is the author of "Infidel," an autobiography to be published in February.