When it comes to Islam, Ayan Hirsi is an important figure, although I don’t think she’s important in the way that she believes she is. As a so-called “expert” on Islam, by default, her voice is assigned a certain degree of credibility, but let’s be clear–what credentials does she have to support the platform she’s been given?
More than likely, the only reason she’s even been given a platform is because she caters to a very specific need that serves a political narrative, and with it, an agenda.
We see people like Ayan Hirsi all the time–they’re the Muslim supporters of Zionism, the black conservatives–the people whose beliefs seem to clash with their very identities, making it slightly unfathomable to the rest of us that their thoughts are even their own.
So why do they do it? Why do people like Ayan Hirsi ostracize themselves from their families, and make being Muslim in America that much harder for the rest of us?
Cue the white savior complex. People like Hirsi are basically the lap dog/favorite child/handmaiden of people like Pamela Gellar, who are on a mission to “save” Muslims, and by “save” Muslims, what I really mean is erase Islam.
But back to Hirsi and why she does it: It’s easy. It helps her to fit into the world that once shunned her, and creates the idea of a “model Muslim” for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, it allows politicians to be low-key racist and Islamophobic without our call-out culture calling them out on it. People like Ayan Hirsi and Tawfik Hamid, the man who kindly referred to wearing hijab as a form of “passive terrorism,” are essential to the smear campaign against Muslims and Islam. That’s the real reason–and the only reason–they are celebrated. I don’t believe it’s because of their intelligence, or because of their ground-breaking work, but instead because they cater to a much-needed idealogical narrative.
I’ve been following Hirsi’s work since I was 14. The first time I tried reading The Caged Virgin was during a family road trip: My mom saw the book, and threw it out the window as my dad drove down the prairie highway. The lecture I received from my mother was standard issue; I shouldn’t be filling my mind with garbage. But it wasn’t garbage–it was fascinating. Even at 14, I was so aware of the fact that this woman was being willingly exploited by a movement that wanted to take rights away from everyone who looked like her; that she was the enemy they were trying to erase, and she was willing to use her body as a weapon against the people she shared blood with. It was reading her work that showed me how important it was to find a sense of belonging. For Hirsi, belonging meant exploiting her family, and everything about her identity, to be accepted in mainstream society.
Interestingly enough, I think you can actually compare Hirsi and Tawfik to young men who join extremist groups overseas. While it may sound crazy at first, it’s not far-fetched at all; they’re merely two sides of the same coin. Both groups of people abandon their former lives, and all traces of their former self for this idea that they are “saving” and reshaping Islam, and they do it by working with people who aren’t Muslims. Then, they become the token Muslim spokespeople of Islam, and everyone who doesn’t practice their particular brand of Islam becomes the enemy, a threat to their very existence.
It seems to me that the Muslim “reformers” have a tendency to declare Islam’s problem as being all other Muslims; yet people like Hirsi are constantly given a platform. Again, I don’t think it’s because she’s reforming anything–it’s because she’s regurgitating the narrative that her handlers spoon-feed her, and this narrative serves someone else’s agenda. It would seem to me that just like her ideas aren’t her own, her agenda isn’t her own, either.
People like Ayan Hirsi–pawns–will not be going away anytime soon. Politicians need people like this–people to sell their stories, people who can lend credibility to a selected political narrative–and it’s important to remember that in the end, it’s just a poorly orchestrated ruse to disguise racism and discrimination and pass it off as just foreign policy.
At the end of the day, the pawns and the kings all go back in the same box, and it really shouldn’t matter, because everyone knows that it’s by thinking outside the box that progress is made.
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