The two women invited to the Dirksen Senate Office Building last week seemed like the kind of expert witnesses any Democrat, especially a female Democrat, would love. Both have become respected academics, authors, and activists for women’s rights. Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism. Both are Muslims, and both are critical of Muslim extremism, and for way too many Democrats that point of view is not legitimate.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia to a Muslim family. As a young girl she suffered genital mutilation. Her family and friends followed such an intense form of Islam that in her teens she cheerfully looked forward to the day when the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie would be carried out at last. When her family tried to force her into marriage, she fled Africa for the Netherlands. There she met director Theo Van Gogh; together they made a film critical of extreme interpretations of Islam which sanction the abuse, degradation, even the killing of Muslim women. After the film was released, Van Gogh was murdered on a city street by a terrorist. Pinned to his clothes was a note declaring that Hirsi Ali would be next. Today, Ali is in the United States. She is a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of two best-sellers, Heretic and Infidel. And she has renounced her Muslim faith. Because of all these factors, her life is in constant danger.
The other witness was Asra Nomani, a writer and activist for equal rights for women in Islam. She has taught journalism at Georgetown University. She was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. In 2002, she was on assignment in Karachi, Pakistan. A fellow WSJ reporter, Daniel Pearl, and his wife were staying with Nomani. In January of that year, Pearl was kidnapped by Muslim terrorists. Nine days later Pearl’s captors released a video in which Pearl addressed the world: “My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m a Jewish American from Encino, California, USA.” Then, on camera, the terrorists slit Pearl’s throat and cut off his head.
Like Hirsi Ali, Nomani is a heretic. In a Washington Post guest column she wrote, “I am a Muslim, a woman, and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.” This admission set off Professor Christine Fair, one of Nomani’s colleagues from her days at Georgetown. Taking to social media (where else?), Fair advised Nomani, “I have written you off as a human being.” Fair went on to denounce Nomani for “pimping yourself out” for media attention, and characterized her as a one-woman “fame mongering clown show.” Then, predictably, Fair added “F*** off” and “GO TO HELL.” Nomani filed a complaint with Georgetown’s Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action organization. I’m sure the organization’s administrators will censure Fair most severely.
Ali and Nomani had been asked to address the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on a matter they both know intimately — the ideology of Islamic extremists. The New York Times reports that this was “the first time a Senate hearing was devoted to discussing the ideas motivating both violent and nonviolent Islamist movements around the world.” The first time? Really?!
Before the hearing opened a spectator, a gentleman wearing a Muslim prayer cap, stood up and shouted abuse at Hirsi Ali. Once the hearing was in session, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri tried to derail its purpose by asserting that the meeting was not legitimate because it had been called to attack a religion. McCaskill went on to deliver a lecture on the principle of freedom of religion in America. “No evil should ever be allowed to distort these premises,” she continued. “I’m worried, honestly, that this hearing will underline that.” Yeah. I know. What did she say? But don’t spend too much time trying to untangle the senator’s tortured syntax.
Nonetheless, Hirsi Ali took on the senator from Missouri, saying she wasn’t there to curtail anyone’s freedom to practice Islam. She was there to discuss an extremist, violent distortion of Islam. “We haven’t paid as much attention to those people who get into the hearts and minds of vulnerable people and turn them toward the idea that it’s OK to run your car over people, to kill homosexuals, to kill apostates,” Hirsi Ali said. “I came and accepted [Chairman Ron Johnson’s (R-WI)] invitation to only talk about that group, not to vilify or stigmatize those Muslims who accentuate their spirituality.”
Without mentioning names Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) implied that Hirsi Ali and Nomani were guilty of “anti-Islamic sentiment” and fretted that “The perpetuation of anti-Islamic attitudes undermine our collective values and it contributes to the undercurrent of xenophobia.”
Andy Ngo, writing for the Times, reported that in the days leading up to the hearing, Hirsi Ali and Nomani were attacked in social media and criticized in news articles. Ngo gave as an example a statement released by Jordan Denari Duffner, a researcher at the Bridge Initiative, a project of the Saudi-funded Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Duffner denounced the “anti-Muslim voices” that were about to be heard at the committee hearing.
Nomani suggested such statements play into the hands of the extremists who want to silence this conversation. “Ayaan and I are under attack constantly,” she said. “Between us, I don’t know how many death threats we have faced.”
The hearing lasted a little less than two hours. Testimony from Hirsi Ali and Nomani took about 15 minutes. During the question and answer period, none of the Democrats on the committee addressed a single question to Hirsi Ali or Nomani, not even the four women senators, McCaskill, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who you think would be eager to give the floor to two women of color who were advocates for women’s rights.
To his credit Senator Johnson stood up for the two witnesses the Democrats deplored, then ignored. “I think the witnesses were very careful to distinguish between Muslims who practice their faith peacefully as opposed to political Islamists,” Johnson said. “They are bending over backwards to make that distinction.”
Sad to say, Hirsi Ali and Nomani have been dissed before, both of them by the solons of academia. In 2014, Brandeis University revoked an honorary degree it had awarded to Hirsi Ali and reneged on an offer to have her speak at commencement. The university administration concluded that Hirsi Ali’s activism against female genital mutilation, honor killings, and forced marriages are intolerable examples of “Islamophobia.” In 2015, Nomani was scheduled to speak at Duke University on her progressive, feminist interpretation of Islam. The Duke University Center Activities and Events canceled her talk after the school’s chapter of the Muslim Students Association claimed that Nomani was allied with “Islamophobic speakers.” When Nomani demanded evidence of her alleged Islamophobia, the Activities and Events people re-invited her and a spokesman for Duke expressed regret for the “misunderstanding.”
I’m not the first guy to ask these questions, but I’ll ask them anyway. How many little girls have to be blown up at a concert? How many pedestrians have to be mowed down in the street? How many more bombs have to go off at a marathon’s finish line before the academic and political poseurs admit that there are wild-eyed, merciless, bloody-minded radicals — and I emphasize the word radicals — all across this planet who believe that Allah is delighted every time they slaughter a non-Muslim. But the self-appointed brainiacs of Western society refuse to see much less admit that these killers exist. Lenin used to call such individuals “useful idiots.” St. Thomas Aquinas had a term for their mental condition: “invincible ignorance.”