LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Dear Editors, I am frustrated with voice's point/counterpoint feature about Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Feb. 20 issue. One point claims that the writer found Hirsi Ali's statements suspect, but could not come to a conclusion because she admitted that she didn't know enough about the subject matter.  The counterpoint hails Hirsi Ali as a profoundly brave and motivated individual who "does not pursue the path of fear or hatred; her goal to protect, free, equalize and aid the oppressed remains steadfast."  Nowhere did you feature an article that explained the reasons why her views are so vehemently opposed.  Even the article that did not draw a conclusion praised Hirsi Ali's "willingness to be vilified by those who disagree with her."  The supportive article claims that "we all have something to learn from such a woman" and "when the person has such dynamic political and cultural experience, we should all have the sense to listen."  I wish you could have provided a more balanced perspective on this controversial speaker by featuring an article written by someone who opposes Hirsi Ali. In my opinion, Hirsi Ali's "advocacy" approaches hate speech.  I say this because she targets audiences that (like our campus audience) know very little about Islam and proceeds to insinuate that the Muslim community is perpetrating secret human rights atrocities. Meanwhile, she neutralizes any Muslim opposition by saying that they are "brainwashed" or "saving face for Islam" (effectively silencing Muslim women) and neutralizes any other opposition by saying that they are being too politically correct.  Now, by targeting groups that know very little about Islam, she could cause, at best, neighbor to look askance at neighbor; at worst, she could inspire hate crime.  This is why the application of her experiences of a specific type of Islam to a global community that does not hold the same views is a huge problem: her audiences don't necessarily know that. The key word here is responsibility.  Hirsi Ali might seem as though she "does not pursue the path of fear or hatred," but if her speech inspires others to do so, who is to blame?  As it is irresponsible for extremist religious officials to lead their followers to believe that the faithful should commit acts of violence, so is it irresponsible to inspire fear and hatred for an entire population without any qualifications.  This is not to say that Hirsi Ali's views should go unread or unrecognized, but to say that they must be presented in the proper context.

Jessica Burrus (‘11)