I caught last night’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s interview with Sea Hannity on the web this morning. She was promoting her new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now, which I have not read. I have read other books by her, however, and understand why she is a darling voice for certain ears, described by someone somewhere recently as “a political superstar.” The ears for which she offers re-enforcing insights were represented by Hannity’s comment in the interview that Hirsi is claiming, in Heretic, that Islam is “not a religion of peace” and yet when he says the same thing he is branded an “Islamophobe.”
The interview was all very predictable to someone familiar with Hirsi’s train of thought which has been consistent and constant, although somewhat more discordant since her embracing of atheism.
Be all that as it may, what caught my attention was her comments regarding American policy in the Middle East, and indeed more globally, over many decades. You can hear them in the interview, as linked above, at 01:30 – 01:48. Hirsi references, as explanation in great part for the explosion of current Islamic terrorism, traditional, even standard, American support of “despots” and which enabled, legitimized, and thus sustained their despotic leadership.
Immediately another video popped into my head, this time a portion of a sermon. In this clip you can hear what echoed in my mind at 02:19-02:50.
Jeremiah Wright was excoriated for his “America’s chickens coming home to roost” statement. His sermon was especially publicized and commented on in the tumultuous and bitterly sore aftermath of the 9/11 calamity, not its original context. Some at the time were hinting if not explicitly stating that the victims in the Twin Towers conflagration were somehow “getting what they deserved.” Wright, I think, was not saying anything to support that, which is outrageous and insane He was with drama, flair, and dynamism saying that America’s support for despots over the years was behind foreign detestation of the USA as well as America’s reliance on violence itself to advance its interests.
Hirsi states it calmly and is lionized. Wright preaches it with passion and is both despised and rejected, as President Obama, his parishioner, was driven to do.
My interest lies in the medium and manner, not the message. As for the message, that a nation’s foreign policy can be morally culpable and provide cause for violence against that nation, it is nothing more than a basic lesson of history down the ages. It can shock only those who know nothing of history, their own or others’. As for the implication that this insight applies to the USA in the case of 9/11 and all that has followed, that, it seems to me, is in need of far more examination, particularly by placing US foreign policy in the Middle East in the broader context of what America does and seeks to accomplish globally. This context, let it be said, is such that recognition is demanded of an enormous amount of good being done. So, moving on from that:
An interview delivered in calm tones in a polite context is received with equanimity, if not total acquiescence, while a sermon uttering the same sentiments with theatrics, passion, and memorable phraseology is greeted with amazed disdain, if not stunned horror.
This tells us something, it seems to me, about the Western public square’s unease with religious faith per se. Hirsi is welcomed and attention given to her and Wright not; quite the opposite in fact; Wright was slashed by comments hinting, not at bad theology, but treason. Hirsi was far tamer than Wright.
More controlled and controllable perhaps?
What could be more cool than an atheist telling religion how to reform itself? Religion without God? Cool!
Cool, perhaps, in a NYC television studio and along the corridors of western academia, but I have no doubt that she, even though saying what Western ears think they want to hear, will be the one ridiculed and despised in Riyadh, on the streets of Sana’a and Tehran, and the crowded rooms of every madrassah.