Infidel again

I just finished reading Infidel and I have to say I greatly respect this woman. What a story. And what a character, to have endured it all and emerged a determined, principled, passionate but not bitter or unyielding woman.

A quote from her book:

People are always asking me what it's like to live with death threats. It's like being diagnosed with a chronic disease. It may flare up and kill you, but it may not. It could happen in a week, or not for decades.

The people who ask me this have usually grown up in rich countries, Western Europe and [North] America, after the Second World War. They take life for granted. Where I grew up, death is a constant visitor.

Which reminds me -- on a related topic, one of the things that bothers me about Islam is how often its followers' reactions to offences are so disproportionate. A Western journalist composes editorial cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammad; violence erupts in the Middle East, including attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria. A public figure speaks critically (but not derogatorily) about the religion; he or she receives threats on their life, necessitating bodyguards and going into hiding for their personal well-being. It's so visceral and utterly unreasoned. A woman has sex with a man out of marriage, whether at her bidding or against her will; her own family maims or kills her for the sake of "honour."

I understand that you're upset, that you feel your holy beliefs have been violated, but this lethal striking out is just not appropriate. Neither your wounded pride, nor your pious indignance at the sacrilege are sufficient excuses to threaten, to riot or to kill people.

When I read Hirsi Ali's first book, The Caged Virgin, in which she describes and critiques the beliefs and fundamental assumptions taught by Islam and ascribed to in varying degrees by its followers, I thought it only fair that I direct these same accusations at Christianity as well. I was relieved to find that, for the most part, we fared all right. (See my earlier post on the chocolate Jesus--while I thought that response misguided, at least it was only words and boycotts, not bombs and death-threats.) Which is not to say Christians aren't guilty of certain tragic abuses, excesses, even tortures in the name of religion, but whereas the voice of reason and the true spirit of the Bible seem to be compatible, the voice of reason and the words of the Qu'ran seem to be at odds--all the more so, since interpretation is not permitted.

Forgive me for my potentially inflammatory remarks coming from my relatively unschooled opinion. I hope no one is offended by my pontificating. Do comment if you agree or disagree strongly.


Rebs said…
I agree. don't forget about the Salman Rushdie fiasco. I think he still has some sort of public thing...wait, I'm going to look it up...a "fatwa calling for his assasination", despite all his apoligizing and back pedalling. and I think even his book distributors and editors and such were killed or threatened.

extreme doesn't even begin to describe it.
kar0ling said…
Yeah, I was thinking of both Hirsi Ali and Rushdie when I mentioned death threats for writing books. I'm sure there are some other high profile cases I've heard of, and many smaller cases I haven't.

I liked Hirsi Ali's comment on the Rushdie fatwah which she experienced from the perspective of a Muslim, living in a Muslim community -- she says even at the time, she couldn't quite see why they (the righteously indignant Muslims) would go out and buy his book-giving money to the author and publisher-only to burn it.

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