I recently read “Infidel”, a remarkable autobiography about a Somalian woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, raised as a Muslim in Somali, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Ethiopia, who then moved permanently to Holland as a refuge. She learned Dutch, and educated herself.
She wrote articles in Dutch newspapers, appeared on Dutch TV talk shows, participated in public debates and became an outspoken critic of Islam. The Labor party (of which she was a member and on their “think-tank” committee) felt uneasy about her critique of the Dutch multicultural tolerance of Islamic practices, but the Liberal Party was enthusiastic about her beliefs. She eventually became a member of parliament and pursued her agenda. Muslims heavily criticized her, called her a traitor, accused her of knowing nothing about Islam, insulted her, said she was lying if she said Islam was backward and thought that she had lost her mind.
She and her friends and work associates realistically began to fear for her safety. Threats were made against her and it was believed that plans were being made to kill her. The Internet was full of threats. She was under heavy security for 2 years and the immigration minister at the time eventually revoked her refuge status as she had used her grandfather’s name on her refuge application form (this turned out to be legal). She left the country and went to the US for her safety. She eventually moved permanently to Washington DC.
She gives many insights into Islamic thinking that I will try to paraphrase here.
Realize that this is a Somali version of Islam and may not apply to elsewhere.
ISLAM AND THE QURAN
The Ten Commandments in the Quran were passed on to Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran is a historical book written by humans – one version of events as perceived by men who wrote it 150 years after the Prophet Muhammed died. It is a very tribal and Arab version of events. Theoretically there is no coercion in Islam. No human being has the right to punish another for not observing his religious duties. Only Allah can do that.
Muhammed was a cruel man who demanded absolute power and who stunted creativity by limiting the imagination to only what was permitted. Allah helpfully indicated that Muhammad should marry the wife of his adopted son, Zayd. He also allowed the Prophet to marry the six-year-old daughter of his friend Abu Bakr, and to consummate that marriage when the girl, Aisha, was only nine. Aisha’s description of the scene is truly pathetic; she was playing on her swing in the garden when her mother called her and placed her on the Prophet’s fifty-four-old lap.
The Prophet Muhammed attempted to legislate every aspect of life. By adhering to rules of what is permitted and what is forbidden, Muslims suppress the freedom to think for themselves and to act as they choose. The moral outlook of billions of people is frozen into the mind-set of the Arab desert in the seventh century. Not just servants of Allah, they are slaves. Islam is totalitarian in its pure moral framework. It regulates every detail of life and subjugates free will. True Islam, as a rigid belief system and a moral framework, leads to cruelty.
Being Muslim means participating in your religion every day.
There was always a god. Not having one was immoral. If you didn’t accept god, then you couldn’t have a morality. This is why the words infidel and apostate are so hideous to a Muslim: they are synonymous with immorality in the deepest way.
You may not interpret the will of Allah and the words of the Quran. There is a read-only lock. It is forbidden to pick and choose; you may only obey. The Prophet says “I have left you with clear guidance; no one deviates from it after me, except that he shall be destroyed.” That only the Prophet can call a holy War is not in the Quran. It is blasphemy to put it there.
It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war. For centuries Muslims have behaved as though all knowledge was in the Quran, refusing to question anything, refusing to progress. They have been hiding from reason for so long and are incapable of facing up to the need to integrate modern thinking into their beliefs despite that it wasn’t working but only leading to hideous pain and monstrous behavior.
If the Quran is timeless, then it applies to every Muslim today. If it is not timeless, then it’s not holy. If a Muslim questions the holiness of the Quran, they also question the existence of heaven and hell. Though there is no proof of the existence of angels and djinns, when Muslims look at paintings in the west, they wonder if their angels are beings in white dresses with chubby cheeks. But Muslim angels are totally different – they don’t have wings. But they are scared of the angel that will visit them after they die to interrogate them on their loyalty to Allah and the Prophet. They are scared of failing that exam, and of the endless hellfire that would await them. If you want to go to Heaven, those who do not pray, they shall be charcoal for the fire.
You’re not supposed to argue with an imam. You are definitely not supposed to argue with the word of Allah. Islam is submission. You submit on earth, in order to earn your place in Heaven. Life on earth is a test and It is easy to feel like one is failing as a Muslim. When praying, you feel the angel on your left shoulder growing weary of writing down all your sins.
Celebrating the birthday of the Prophet was forbidden because it resembled Christmas and Muslims should never imitate unbelievers in any way. Wearing amulets and asking favors of dead forefathers was blasphemous, as it associated Allah with lesser gods, and for that you could burn forever. When entering a bathroom to use the toilet, start with the left foot and when coming out, put the right leg out first. The only greeting permitted among Muslims is Assalamu-Allaikum Warahatullahi Wakararakaatuku “Peace be to you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. If you are greeted in any other way you must not answer.
Every Islamic value taught instructs them to put themselves last. Life on earth is a test, and if you manage to put yourself last, you’re serving Allah; your place will be first in the Hereafter. The more deeply you submit your will, the more virtuous that makes you.
Islam does teach a lot of good things. It is spiritually appealing to believe in a Hereafter. It has injunctions to be compassionate and show charity to others. The Prophet declared that Islam is peace, but those verses about peace in the Quran apply only to life among Muslims. Muslim decree opposes any kind of intoxication especially in a woman.
Muslims must bury people within 24 hours. There might be some dispensation for a father or a husband but not likely for a woman who could attend within 24 hours.
Muslim thinking believes if one is not a follower of God, then they must be a follower of Satan. In Islam, you are Allah’s slave: you submit, are devoid of personal will and are not a free individual. She started to read “The Atheist Manifesto” as she was having so many questions about Islam. After reading only 4 pages, she knew that she had left God behind years ago and was an atheist. She felt a real clarity. The angels watching from her shoulder, the mental tension about having sex without marriage, drinking alcohol, and not observing religious obligations were gone. The ever-present prospect of hellfire lifted. God, Satan and angels were all figments of human imagination. She could navigate life based on her own reason and self-respect. Her moral compass was within herself, not in the pages of a book. She was no longer afraid of the hereafter.
Muslim thinking believes if one is not a follower of God, then they must be a follower of Satan. In Islam, you are Allah’s slave: you submit, are devoid of personal will and are not a free individual.
Even after reading about Christianity, she could imagine that a moral framework for humanity could exist that wasn’t religious. She started to read “The Atheist Manifesto” as she was having so many questions about Islam. After reading only 4 pages, she knew that she had left God behind years ago and was an atheist. She felt a real clarity. The angels watching from her shoulder, the mental tension about having sex without marriage, drinking alcohol, and not observing religious obligations were gone. The ever-present prospect of hellfire lifted. God, Satan and angels were all figments of human imagination. She could navigate life based on her own reason and self-respect. Her moral compass was within herself, not in the pages of a book. She was no longer afraid of the hereafter.
For a Muslim to no longer believe in Islam, to be apostate, is the worst thing possible. Christians can cease to believe in God, that is a personal matter that affects only their eternal soul. But for a Muslim to cease believing in Allah is a lethal offence. Apostates merit death, on that the Quran and hadith are clear. For a Muslim woman to abjure her faith is the worst kind of disobedience to god, because it comes form the lowest, most impure element of society, It cries out for God’s punishment.
How much female skin could be bared without causing chaos to break out across the landscape? Once a girl reaches puberty every part of her body except her face and her hands must be covered when in the company of any men who are not immediate family and at all time outside the home. This was because her bare skin would involuntarily cause men to feel an uncomfortable frenzy of sexual arousal. Not all thinkers agreed on exactly which parts of a woman’s face and hands were so beguiling that they must be covered. Some scholars held that the eyes of women were the strongest source of sexual provocation. When the Quran said women should lower their gaze, it actually meant they should hide their eyes. Others thought that the very sight of a woman’s lips, especially full ones that were firm and young, could bring a man into a sexual state that could cause his downfall. Yet other thinkers spent pages and pages on the sensual curve of the chin, a pretty nose, or long, slender fingers and the tendency of some women to move their hands in a way that attracted attention so their temptations. For every limitation the Prophet was quoted.
Even when all women had been covered completely from head to toe, another line of thought was opened. For this was not enough. High heels tapped and could trigger in men the image of a woman’s legs; to avoid sin, women must wear flat shoes that make no noise. Using any kind of pleasant fragrance, even perfumed soap and shampoo would distract the minds of men from Allah’s worship and cause them to fantasize about sinning. The safest way to cause no harm to anyone seemed to be to avoid contact with any man at all times and just stay in the house. A man’s sinful erotic thoughts were always the fault of the woman who incited them.
What about the men? Shouldn’t they cover? Don’t women have desire for male bodies. It seemed logical to her.
It is a long ritual. First you wash and cover yourself in the long white cloth, fixing your gaze at the floor, because Allah is present and you do not look God in the eye. You recite the opening chapter of the Quran, a short chapter made up of just seven verses. Then you prostrate yourself, with your palms open toward Mecca, the heartland of religion. You say Praise be to Allah, and stand up again, you say another verse of the Quran – you are free to choose which verse. You repeat the whole procedure, two three, or four times, depending on what time of day it is. Each time you must recite the first chapter of the Quran and one other small chapter or some verses from a longer chapter of your choosing. Then you sit and end the prayer by looking sideways, first right and then left, and you cup your hands together and ask for god’s blessing. You beg: Allah, make me wise, forgive my sins. Bless my parents and give them health, and please Allah, put my parents in Paradise. Please Allah, keep me on the safe path. Then you take your prayer beads, which are a multiple of 33 – or if you have no beads, you use your finger bones. Each hand has fifteen bones in it, counting the base of your thumbs, so two hands, plus the three digits of one extra finger, are thirty-three. You say Praise be to Allah 33 times, god forgive me 33 times, Allah is great 33 times and then, if you choose, you may also say Gratitude to Allah. Prayer is a long procedure and it is required 5 times a day.
The goal of prayer was awareness, constant awareness of the presence of God and the angels, and an inward submission to God’s will that permeate every thought and action, every day. Islam has a lot of hell, and they pray because they have to. It is a master-slave relationship about fear and submission.
Angels hover above each of your shoulders, on the left and on the right, they record your thoughts, intentions, and ideas – bad and good. Even if you do cover yourselves and pray, that was not sufficiently meaningful for God. What counted was the intention. If your mind strayed – if you were doing it for the wrong reasons – god and the angels could look in your heart and know.
The imams talked about purity – purity in deed and thought – and said that the remedy for forbidden thoughts is more prayer. When you pray you are supposed to feel the force of God and know that you are in His presence. But though she tried hard to open her mind to that force, she never seemed to feel it. She prayed because she knew she should, She only felt the discomfort of the grass mat pressing against her feet and the unpleasant odors of some of the bodies around her as the imam droned, monotonously for hours.
Men do not pray alongside women. Women pray behind because though they cover themselves for prayer, that cloth could shift and uncover a piece of clothing, or skin, which could distract the men and lead them into sin. Or maybe it is simply that is the way things are.
In Somalia, the Islam was diluted, relaxed about regular prayer, mixed up with ancient beliefs. In Saudi Arabia, prayer five times a day was insisted on. Before every prayer, they had to wash and roe themselves.
Islamic class is dry and dull, the least spiritual class you could imagine. There was no analysis, no ethical discussion, just basic neutral historical information, learning lists of battles and revelations by the Prophet, following a curriculum for the national exams. You opened chapter one of the Quran, got your long wooden board, wrote it down in Arabic, learned it by heart in Arabic, recited it by heart, washed the board with reverence because it was now holy, and did it again. You did this for two hours, and every mistake earned you a rep on your hands or legs with a thin, sharp stick. There was no discussion about meaning. Often we had no idea what the words meant, we were learning a text in a language that she only barely remembered and most other children didn’t even begin to understand.
She wondered how she could be even vaguely balanced when her parents had paid attention to none of: cognitive development, emotional security, motor skills, social skills – all vital to creating a well-balanced human being.
A new kind of Islam was on the march. It was much deeper, much clearer and stronger, much closer to the source of the religion than the old kind of Islam with spirit ancestors and djinns. It was not like the Islam in the mosques where Imams mostly recited by memory old sermons written by long-dead scholars in an Arabic that barely anyone could understand. It was not a passive, mostly ignorant, acceptance of the rules: Insh’Allah, “God wills it.” It was about studying the Quran, really learning about it, getting to the heart of the nature of the Prophet’s message. It was a huge evangelical sect backed massively by Saudi Arabian oil wealth and Iranian martyr propaganda. It was militant and it was growing.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in the 1920s in Egypt as an Islamic revivalist movement, then caught on and spread, slowly at first but much faster n the 1970s, as waves of funding flooded in form the suddenly massively rich Saudis. By 1987 the MB ideas had reached Somali housewives. They believed that there was a pure original Islam to which all should return to. Traditional ways of practicing Islam had become corrupted, diluted with ancient beliefs that should no longer have currency.
In contrast to clan warfare, the Muslim Brotherhood seemed to have amore universal character because it included people of every clan. It seemed to many to be the most reliable. As its following grew the movement became more self-assured. Brotherhood imams began operating in larger mosques, no longer restricting themselves to semi-clandestine houses. Sermons were openly political announcing that the government’s days were over and the time for Islamic law had come.
Organizations set up by the Brotherhood sympathizers were not corrupt. Many Somalis had ceased to trust the banking system and carried out financial transactions in shops and warehouses that were owned by Brotherhood people. The Brotherhood also gave free health care to the needy. They set up Quran schools for the unemployed youths who roamed the city. On Fridays they distributed grain and meat outside the mosque.
In MB enterprises there was virtually no corruption. Medical centers and charities managed by the Brotherhood were reliable and trustworthy. If non-Muslim Kenyans converted, they too, could benefit from these facilities and in the slums many Kenyans began converting to Islam.
Hawala is a way of transferring money in Islam. You see a man in Toronto or Stockholm or Kuala Lumpur and give him cash. He calls a grocery store in a Somali neighborhood in Nairobi or Birmingham or anywhere else and arranges for a friend to pick up the money. There’s no commission, no paperwork. The whole thing takes a few phone calls and just a day or two. It’s based entirely on trust within the clan or within the Muslim Brotherhood that runs the cheapest and most reliable systems of all. For Somali refugees all over Kenya, money was coming in from the clans.
Brotherhood girls wore a stiff black cloak that was terribly hot. In Nairobi she wore a black robe on top of a long dress and long sleeves but that too seemed excessive. Nobody wore black in Somalia and she stood out in the street. She began dressing in a light-colored dirha al long tunic with a flap on the side and a cotton shawl draped over her head. Far fewer women dressed in Western clothes in Mogadishu in 1990 than they had just 10-20 years before. They had always been a minority but now the tide had visibly shifted against them Before the Brotherhood came, you could see everyone’s arms and legs. A neck was too sexy now.
Why the new kind of fundamental Islam is so successful may be partly due to the use by the preachers of different kinds of media: videotapes of martyrs, cassette tapes of vivid sermons, websites reinforcing the message. The new Islam is about images and IT technology is very simple and visual.
ISLAM AND WOMEN
Religion gave her a sense of peace only from its assurance of a life after death. It was fairly easy to follow most of the rules: good behavior, politeness, avoiding gossip and pork and usury and alcohol. But she could not follow the deeper rules of Islam that control sexuality and the mind. She wanted to be someone, to stand on her own. If she stayed in Somalia and married, she would become a faceless unit. That prospect filled her with sudden panic. She was in a state of moral confusion – a crisis of faith. She was prepared for the limitations and the price she had to pay for that sense of belonging.
The college she wanted to go to was Christian and you had to acknowledge the existence of the trinity to attend classes. As a Muslim, that would have been absolute blasphemy. To associate Allah with other unities and say he had a child – you would burn in hell for saying this. Allah is not begotten, nor does he beget.
Going to a bar was haram. She thought Allah would strike her down.
In Somalia they pretended problems were not there, hoping Allah would just make them disappear on their own. In Africa the self was ignored. You pretended to be obedient, good and pious for the approval of others; you never sought to express yourself. A Muslim woman must not feel wild, or free, or any of the other emotions and she felt when she read foreign books. A Muslim girl does to make her own decisions or seek control she is trained to b docile. If you are a Muslim girl, you disappear until there is almost nothing you inside you. In Islam, becoming an individual is not a necessary development. Many people, especially women, never develop a clear individual will. You submit: that is the literal meaning of Islam: submission. The goal is to become quiet inside so that you never raise your eyes, not even inside your mind. The idea of seeking pleasure just because you felt like it, is a very foreign idea. Dressing or expressing yourself like a Westerner is kufr, like being a traitor. Western ideas are viewed as a sort of a virus slowly destroying moral values. Islam does not tolerate thinking precisely and questioning everything to build your own theories. Learning about government, development of the individual, systems of thought like social democracy and liberalism, the one product of the other, individual choice improving the lives of people, equality between men and women, does not enter into Islamic thinking.
Everything was in the Quran. Women should obey their husbands. Women were worth half a man, infidels should be killed. Women are emotionally stronger than men – they can endure more so they are tested more. Husbands may punish their wives – not for small infractions like being late but for major infractions like being provocative to other men. This is jus because of the overwhelming sexual power of women. What if the man provokes other women “in Islam society that’s impossible. it was not permitted to imagine that perhaps the Quran’s words could be adapted to a modern era. The Quran had been written by God not by men the Quran is word of Allah and it is forbidden to refute it. You obey and you serve Allah this is the test. If you submit to god’s will on earth you will attain bliss in the Hereafter. The rule is strict and pure.
Many verses in the Quran said god was wise, god was omnipotent, god was just and Muslim women were not different but equal. But the Quran said “Men rule over women” in the eyes of the law and in every detail of daily life women were clearly worth less than men.
Attitudes towards women.
There were two kinds of struggle for Allah. The first effort was the jihad within ourselves: submission of our will. We must want to obey our parents, and to behave in a manner that spreads kindness. We must want to be dutiful. We must think about Allah’s will in every gesture of every day and choose to lay down ourselves before Him. It is a preparation for a practice of faith, not prepping in the history of Islam.
Muslim women were not to copy the behavior of unbelievers: shouldn’t dress like them, make love like them, behave like them in any way, not read their books for they would lead us off the straight true path to Allah.
The Miss World pageant was held in Nigeria. A young female journalist wrote: “Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 young women to Nigeria to ask them to revel in vanity. What would the Prophet Muhammad think?. . . He would probably have chosen a wife from one of them.” More than 200 people were killed in the resultant riots that broke out. The office of her newspaper was burned down, and the woman was forced to leave the country. Instead of blaming the violence on the men who were burning down houses and murdering people, the British woman who had organized the pageant blamed the young reporter for making “unfortunate remarks.” The reporter was incensed by this excusing of fanaticism. The journalist had written nothing wrong and was right: the Prophet married most of his wives because they caught his eye in one-way or another.
Menstruation was the essence of what made women filthy and unworthy of prayer. When menstruating, they weren’t allowed even to pray or to touch the Quran. All the girls felt guilty for bleeding every month. It was proof that they were less worthy than men. They must purify themselves after their periods :shave their underarms and pubic hair. Womanhood was both irresistibly desirable and essentially filthy, and all these interventions were necessary to earn Allah’s pleasure.
Suspicion is good, especially if you are a girl, for girls can be taken, or they may yield. And if a girl’s virginity is despoiled, she not only obliterates her own honor, she also damages the honor of her father, uncles, brothers, male cousins. There is nothing worse than to be the agent of such catastrophe.
Sexuality. Sexuality tortures young Muslims, but it doesn’t work. Excision of genitals didn’t eliminate the human sex drive and neither did the fear of hellfire. Repression only led to hypocrisy and lying, strategies that corrupt the human individual, and it failed to protect people from unwanted pregnancy and disease. When in an extramarital affair, Muslim women feel frozen, that Allah and the two angels are in bed with them, judging them. They were sinning.
As women we were immensely powerful. The way Allah had created us, our hair, our nails, our heels, our neck, and ankles, every little curve in our body was arousing. It a women aroused a man who was not her husband, she was sinning doubly in god’s eyes, by leading the man into temptation and evil thoughts to match her own. Only the robe worn by the wives of the Prophet could prevent us from arousing men and leading society into fitna, uncontrollable confusion and social chaos.
Suppressing sexuality was a common theme with imams. They preached endlessly about how women should be aware of their sexual powers; they must cover themselves and stay indoors. Some Somali men thought that good women were forbidden by God to feel desire. Love is considered synonymous with desire and sexual desire is seen as low, literally unspeakable.
In Somalia, the whole subject of what was between our legs was taboo. Her sexuality belonged to the owner of my family: my father or my uncles. I absolutely had to be a virgin at marriage, because to do otherwise would damage the honor of my father and his whole clan – uncles, brothers, male cousins – forever and irretrievable. The place between my legs was sewn up to prevent it. It would only be broken by my husband.
A friend had become involved with a man from Trinidad, worked for the UN and was divorced, uncircumcised, not even a Muslim, flat-nosed, and kinky haired. Her mother would have seen him as subhuman, like the Kenyans. When she got pregnant out of wedlock with such a person, it was as if the entire clan had been impregnated by somebody from Trinidad.
“Once this long kintir is removed you and your sister will be pure.” From Grandma’s words and gestures I gathered that this hideous kintir, my clitoris, would one day grow so long that it would swing sideways between my legs.
Grandmother gripped my upper body, two other women held my legs apart. The man, who was probably an itinerant traditional circumciser from the blacksmith clan, picked up a pair of scissor. With the other hand, he caught hold of the place between my legs and started tweaking it like milking a goat. Then the scissors went down between my legs and the man cut off my inner labia and clitoris. I heard it, like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece a meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs, indescribable and I howled. Then came the sewing, the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia, my loud and anguished protests. When the sewing was finished, the man cut the thread off with his teeth. I was five years old. My legs were then tied together to prevent me from moving to facilitate the formation of a scar. My bladder was bursting, but it hurt too much to pee. The sharp pain was still there and my legs were covered in blood. It wasn’t until the next day that I could be persuaded to pee even a little. By then everything hurt. When I lay still the pain throbbed miserably but when I urinated the flash of pain was a sharp as when I had been cut. It took about two weeks to recover. After every tortured urination, my grandmother washed my wound carefully with warm water and dabbed them with purple liquid. Then she tied my legs again and reminded me to stay completely still or we would tear and the man would have to be called again to sew us back up. After a week the man came and inspected us. She had torn her wound while urinating and struggling.
Her sister was never the same afterward. She became ill with a fever for several weeks and lost a lot of weight. She had horrible nightmares. My once cheerful, playful little sister had changed. Sometimes she just stared vacantly at nothing for hours. We all started wetting our beds after the circumcision.
Her mother had been away and when she returned, she was very upset. Who asked you to circumcise them? Their father had not wanted his daughters circumcised.
If you are not cut, you are not pure, but pure from what? Somebody owned us; what was between my legs was not mine to give. They were branded. Not all Muslim women are excised, but in Somalia and other Muslim countries, the Islamic culture of virginity encouraged it. Somali women seek to be baarri, the ideal behavior for a woman, to serve well. Almost all are genitally excised. The Arabs mostly don’t do circumcision.
Excision does not remove your desire or ability to enjoy sexual pleasure. It is cruel on many levels: physically and painful. It sets girls up for a lifetime of suffering. And it is not even effective in its intent to remove their desire. She was completely unprepared to deal with the force of her desire for her first husband.
In Saudi Arabia, the kids at the madrassa picked on an 8 year old girl calling her kinitrleey, “she with the clitoris”. The kids did not want anything to do with her. They spat on her and pinched her; they rubbed sand in her eyes, and once they caught her and tired to bury her in the sand behind the school. The madrassah teacher didn’t help. Once in a while he called her dammin, dunce, and kintirleey, too.
Farooni an extreme excision where the whole genitals are scraped off and mend into a hard band of dark skin. Mostly only the Isaq girls from the North of Somalia are excised in this way.
Even though betrothal happened at very young ages often by age 9, even though she didn’t want to marry him, she knew that one day it would happen. Your parents decided these things for you. If your father was rich and kind, then maybe he would find a husband for you who was also rich and king. If not, well, that was your destiny.
Girls had to leave school to get married. It was perfectly respectable. It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone in authority to prevent these children from being taken out of school to marry total strangers, even though most of the girls were reluctant and some were petrified. Daughters begged to be able to finish school.
An arranged marriage within the family or clan with the father’s blessing was the best destiny. In Somalia as in much of the Middle East and Africa, marriages between cousins are often seen as the safest unions possible: they keep the family wealth together and any possible conflict would be quickly resolved by the couple’s relatives. Marrying men from strange families was viewed as a horror. If you married outside the rules, you didn’t have your clan’s protection when your husband left you. Your father’s relatives wouldn’t intercede on your behalf or help you with money. The family will always look after you. You are so slcoem you understand each other.
Most Muslims believe that a woman on her own would end up in prostitution or working as a maid or marrying beneath their status to a man who would exploit you. Your name would be smeared.
It was believed that love marriages were a stupid mistake and always ended badly, in poverty and divorce. You sank into a hideous destiny of impurity, godlessness and disease. It was the worst thing you could do to your family’s honor, you damaged your parents, sisters, brothers, and cousins.
But the allure of romance called from the pages of books. They were often trashy soap opera like novels but they were exciting – sexually exciting. And buried in all these books was a message – you had a choice. Most were steeped in these cheap paperbacks and they made us all unhappy. We wanted to fall in love. Nobody wanted to get married to a stranger chosen by her father. But we knew that the best we could do was simply stave off the inevitable.
In Islam, the nikah ceremony is the moment when you become legally bound to your spouse. A marriage contract is signed, but it is not always followed immediately by consummation; the night of defloration usually follows a party that ends in the house that husband and wife will share. The wedding party and wedding night could take weeks later. There can be ample opportunity to get to know each other. The woman is not legally required to even come to the nikah.
But the women thought sex was awful. After the wedding ceremony, the lights were turned off, the wife lay down on the bed fully dressed, he groped under her dress, opened her legs, took off her underpants and tried to push his penis inside her. Foreplay was frowned upon: kissing, touching a woman’s breast, sucking her breast brought the response “these Christians are filthy. This is forbidden. For Muslims it is not like that at all.”
He didn’t cut her with a knife, just with his penis. It took a long time and hurt. Every night was almost as painful and always the same. He would push inside, move up and down inside her and ejaculate. That was it. Then he would stand up and take a shower to purify himself. She would get up and shower, also to purify and apply Dettol to the parts that were bleeding. That was her sex life.
She was briefly married to a Muslim. The reception clerk would not give them a room without a marriage certificate. This was a growing Muslim Brotherhood influence. After 2 more refusals, they ended up at the worst hotel in Mogadishu. She washed and lay down on the bed and wanted everything to be wildly erotic. She made an attempt at foreplay but her husband asked her if she had done it before. She admitted to being a virgin and there was no pleasure at all. Good girls are virgins who feel nothing at all. It wasn’t rape but he gasped and shoved and sweated with the effort of forcing open her scar. It was horribly painful and took so long. She gritted her teeth and endured the pain until she became numb. Afterward her husband fell asleep. In every respect, her wedding night had turned out exactly as she had been told by a friend.
What if you didn’t bleed? That would mean that you were not a virgin. Such a thing was unthinkable.
She subsequently had an arranged marriage but never consummated it. Her father said that this made him and their family not only mean, but disgraceful, and caused him pain and grief. Refusing an arranged marriage would damage her forever and hurt the honor of the whole clan.
There is a Quranic injunction to women to be sexually available to their husband at all times. “Your wives are your village, go in unto your village in what manner so every you will”. You must always be there for your husband, in bed, and outside it. Don’t make your husband beg, don’t refuse him, don’t make him look elsewhere. This is also a kind of permission you give from the onset: you are always available. He can’t abuse that because he is from a good family. Force and rape are not an issue because he is a believing Muslim.
When married because she was a woman, she could never become an adult, always treated like a minor, her decisions made for her. She might have a decent life but would be dependent always on someone treating her well – a unit in a vast beehive.
Contraception was not the responsibility of men, women were supposed to count the days. It is easy for men to always blame women for the problems. The Muslim men who beat their wives, say these women must obey because Islam requires it.
How to be a good wife: She had a duty to ask permission to leave the house. You can agree together, early on, that permission is permanently given. That is a form of trust, so you don’t have to ask permission every time you go out for groceries.
A woman couldn’t break a marriage because it was awful or boring, that was utterly forbidden and the way of Satan. If your husband hurts you must tell him that and ask him to do it differently. If you cooperate it will always be less painful. And if he’s not hurting you, then count yourself among the lucky ones.
Her mother had no right to a divorce under Muslim law. The only way she could have claimed one was if her husband had been impotent or left her completely indigent. All the members of her clan in Kuwait told her she was being ridiculous. Her husband was wealthy and although he could have afforded several wives, he came home to her every night. What more could she want? If she divorced my mother would be used goods – no longer a virgin. And besides, they argued, she would get a reputation that she was not haarri.
A woman who is haarri is like a pious slave. She honors her husband’s family and feeds them without question or complaint. She never whines or makes demands of any kind. She is strong in service, but her head is bowed. If her husband is cruel, if he rapes her and then taunts her about it, if he decides to take another wife, or beats her, she lowers her gaze and hides her tears. And she works hard, faultlessly. She is a devoted, welcoming, well-trained animal. This is haarri. In the process of being haarri, you feel grief, humiliation, fatigue or a sense of everlasting exploitation, but you hide it. If you long for love and comfort, you pray in silence to Allah to make your husband more bearable. Prayer is your strength. Nomadic mothers must try to give their daughters this skill and strength.
If you are a Somali woman you must learn to tell yourself that God is just and all-knowing and will reward you in the hereafter. Meanwhile everyone who knows about your patience and endurance will applaud your father and mother on the excellence of your upbringing. Your brothers will be grateful to you for preserving their honor. They will boast to other families about your heroic submission. And perhaps, eventually your husband’s family will appreciate your obedience, and you husband may one day treat you as a fellow human being.
For years, her mother had been perfect, her virtue had been legendary, her work habits impeccable. Partly it was her nature: her mother found strength and comfort in clear-cut rules and the dead certainty that if she were good, she would go to Paradise. She also feared her father might curse her if she disobeyed. A father’s curse is the worst thing that can happen to you, a ticket straight to Hell.
After wives converted to the true Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood believers, they began saying that chewing qat, smoking and skipping prayers were forbidden, they actually sent heir husbands off, calling them unbelievers. When the men shouted about disobedience, the women replied that in the hierarchy of submission, we must follow Allah even before husband and father. Allah and the Prophet decreed that wives should obey their husbands who themselves obey Allah.
Most unmarried Somali girls who got pregnant committed suicide, sometimes by pouring gasoline over themselves and lighting themselves on fire. If they hadn’t done this their father and brothers would probably have killed her anyway. If she did not commit suicide she would be constantly molested on the street. Men would grab at her breasts and stare at her laviciously. She was a harlot and had no clan protector. She would be prey. The only way to wash off the shame was to pray, pray, pray and give your life to Allah in search of forgiveness. Allah wouldn’t test you on whether you condemned somebody who became pregnant outside of marriage. He would test you on our hospitality and charity.
A child born out of wedlock was prey and would be treated like an outcast. Adults would never step in to prevent the abuse. There was a stigma on him.
A Somali woman had just not married outside her clan but outside Islam to a Dutch man. Her family called her filthy and made her an outcast. An Osman Mahamud married a Hawiye and her children were Hawiye and were shunned by other Osman Mahamuds.
Somalis never say “Sorry” or “I made a mistake” or “I don’t know”, they invent excuses. All these group strategies to avoid confronting reality depressed her. Reality is not easy, but all this make-believe did not make it easier. Everyone was involved in everyone else’s business. The complete lack of privacy, of individual space and the social control was suffocating.
In Somalia it is dishonorable to turn a guest out of your house. If she made an excuse, they would accuse her of acting white Who did she think she was? If she looked down on them, she had become gaalo.
Bigotry. She hated the open bigotry in Somalia. She was taught that belonging to a higher clan signified a higher morality. When she protested about the blatant prejudice against people of the Sab clans, she was called a communist.
In her school playground, the Somalis and Yemenis were close and the Indians and Pakistanis were close. The Yemenis, Somalis, Indians and Pakistanis played with each other and interacted, and in the hierarchy, the Kenyans were lowest. One day she came home and told her mother that humans had descended from apes. She said ‘that’s the end of your school fees. Kenyans may have come from apes, yes, but not Muslims”. Ethiopians were Christian who in Saudi Arabia had been a heinous playground insult meaning impure. Her mother confirmed that Ethiopians were kufr, they drank alcohol and they didn’t wash properly. They were despicable.
Somali women work, unlike Arab women, and as a result, were probably more freer. Islam was never as forceful in Somalia as it has always been in Saudi Arabia. Some Somali women of her father’s generation were very modern in their outlook.
To her family, Saudis had perverted Islam. They hated Saudi judges and Saudi law, thinking it all barbaric Arab desert culture. There were executions and stonings in the public square. No Somali could ever win if a Saudi decided to take him to court.
When her family lived in Saudi Arabia, separation of sexes was etched into every detail of every day. If her family wanted to go somewhere as a family, they had to take separate buses, her father and brother in the men’s bus, the women in the women’s. Then they would all meet up at he bazaar. In practice, the rule of separate buses applied only to foreign workers. All the Saudis seemed to be rich, and Saudi women were driven around by drivers.
Her mother hated having to go out without a man, hated being hissed at by men on the street, stared at with insolence. Women were accosted on the street, driven away, dumped on the roadside hours later or simply never seen again. To be a woman out on her own was bad enough. To be a foreigner and moreover a black foreigner meant you were barely human, unprotected and fair game. When her mother went shopping without a male driver or spouse to act as guardian, grocers wouldn’t attend to her. Even when she took her 10-year-old son with her, shop assistants wouldn’t speak to her.
But her mother never saw her tribulations as in any way the fault of the Saudis. She just wanted her husband to do the shopping and the outdoor work like all the Saudi men did. None of the Saudi women went out in the street alone. They couldn’t, their husbands locked their front doors when they left their houses.
Saudi regularly beat their women. Severe marital violence was seen as the prime example of the crudeness of the Saudis.
Saudi families were very different form theirs. The mothers were idle and had servants. The little boys simply ran rampant. They ran around as much as they liked. Arabs are very tolerant of small children but the boys were in charge. They ordered their mothers and sisters around.
It was a normal routine thing that after the Friday noon prayer you could go home for lunch or you could go and watch the executions in the public square. Hands were cut off. Heads were cut off. Men were flogged. Women were stoned. Its society seemed fixed in the Middle Ages.
In Somalia, Africa and throughout the Islamic world, the more corrupt and unreliable the apparatus of government, the more it persecuted its people, and the more those people headed back into their tribe, traditions, their church or mosque, and hunkered down – like among like. To Somalis, government was bad, crooked and duplicitous and oppressed you. Intolerance is a big part of Islam: Clan against clan, sect against sect, Muslims against nonbelievers. Hawiye would not want a Darod living with them.
Having unbelievers as friends was a gray area, it’s discouraged, but if you can make good honest friendships with infidels, as long as you don’t follow their ways, then such relationships are not forbidden.
Most Muslims think in a single-minded logic with little realism “We must all work hard to convert everyone to Islam.” They want an Islamic government, a rule by Allah’s laws. Any system of politics devised by man was bound to go wrong. Muslims brag about Averroes and saving Aristotle and how Islam discovered the zero. But what has happened with Islam since 1200?
But liberal Muslims think that Divine Law would not be fair to everyone who wasn’t Muslim. Even in Islam, not everyone thinks the same way. Who would make the laws? The rule of clerics is totalitarian. People can’t choose. Humanity is varied and that should be celebrated rather than suppressed. The Quran might be God’s truth, a spiritual guide, but in terms of building governments, it is Godless. Western theories give better answers.
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN ISLAM and the WEST
Most Muslims find it too complicated to deal with the whole issue of war with the unbelievers. Most Muslims never delve into theology and rarely read the Quran. It is taught in Arabic, which most Muslims don’t speak. As a result, most Muslims think that Islam is about peace. It is from these people, honest and kind, that the fallacy has arisen that Islam is peaceful and tolerant.
The inhuman act of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 was the logical outcome of this detailed system for regulating human behavior. Their world is divided between “Us” and “Them” – if you don’t accept Islam, you should perish.
All the quotes made by Osama bin Laden and his people to justify the attacks of 9/11 are there in the Quran. This is how Muslims must behave if they are at war with infidels. It isn’t about the battles of Uhud and Badr in the seventh century. The Prophet said ‘Wage war on the unbelievers”. Either you are with the Crusade (Christianity) or you are with Islam.
Mohamed Atta, the hijackers’ leader, had instructed them on how to “die as a good Muslim.” He used the prayer every Muslim utters when he is dying: he asks Allah to stand by him as he comes to Him. This was the core of Islam – Mohamed Atta believed that he was giving his life for Allah.
Committing suicide for Holy War was acceptable only in the name of the Prophet – and then only because the unbelievers had attacked the Prophet first. Today there could not be a Holy War because only the Prophet Muhammad could call for a holy war. It is confusing about who gives the signal to wage war. Bin Laden was not the authority – it is impractical to wage war against a whole hemisphere where Muslims aren’t in control.
Many in the west don’t share the mainstream view that Islam is a peaceful religion. Muslims point out everything that is wrong about the west: the arrogance of invading other countries, neocolonialism, the decadence of a system that has created societies that only consume, etc.
It was not a lunatic fringe who felt this way about America and the West. The vast majority of Muslims saw the attacks as justified retaliation against the infidel enemies of Islam. War had been declared in the name of Islam. There was a choice to be made. Which side were they on? Is this really Islam? Does Islam permit, even call for this kind of slaughter? Do I approve of the attack? And if I don’t, then where do I stand on Islam?
After 9/11, there were many demonstrations around the world actively in open support of Osama Bin Laden. In Ede, Holland, camera crews on the streets just after the towers were hit, recorded a group of Muslim kids jubilating. The Dutch response was “They were just kids, it’s been overblown, if the cameras hadn’t been there it wouldn’t have happened.” But the cameras just caught a part of it and if there had been more cameras in other neighborhoods, they would have seen it there too. The Dutch believed that this was not about Islam. But it was about Islam. It was based on belief.
World leaders called on Muslims to condemn the attacks, appealing to Muslims to stand up and say that Islam does not permit this sort of slaughter of noncombatants.
Westerners believed that they were the lunatic fringe of Islam. The west has extremist Christians who interpret the bible literally. They thought that most Muslims do not believe these things. To say so was to disparage a faith which is the second largest religion in the world, and which is supposedly civilized and peaceful.
She was taught that they should oppose the West. The goal was a global Islamic government for everyone. Some said the most important goal was preaching to spread Islam among non-Muslims and to awaken passive Muslims to the call of the true, pure belief.
Attitude toward Jews: There are described as physically monstrous: they had horns on their heads, and noses so large they stuck right out of their faces like great beaks. Devils and djinns literally flew out of their heads to mislead Muslims and spread evil. Every thing that went wrong was the fault of the Jews. The Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein who had attacked the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was a Jew. The Americans, who were giving money to Saddam, were controlled by the Jews. The Jews controlled the world, and that was why we had to be pure: to resist this evil influence. Islam was under attack and we should step forward and fight the Jews, for only if all Jews were destroyed would peace come for Muslims.
The Saudi blame everything on the Jews. When the air conditioning broke or the tap stopped running, it was the Jews who did it. The children were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. Teachers lamented at length all the evil things Jews had done and planned to do against Muslims. Jews were like djinns bit the Saudis had never met a Jew.
MUSLIMS IN HOLLAND
Dutch women wear clothes that show off their bodies. “If anyone else enjoys my legs, so much the better.” That is precisely the opposite of what she had been brought up to believe. If men see women dressed with arms bare and everything naked, then they will become confused and sexually tempted, blinded by desire. They won’t be able to work, the buses will crash and there will be a state of total fitna. Muslims were always boasting but their whole culture was sexually frustrated.
Even with a headscarf and long skirt, she was the most uncovered she had been in public, but was anonymous in Dutch society. There was no social control, no eyes silently accusing her of being a whore, no lecherous men calling her to bed with them. No Brotherhood members threatening with Hellfire. Wearing jeans, leaving her hair uncovered and riding a bicycle all bothered Muslim men. “you are putting us all to shame with your bicycle. When you ride towards us with your legs spread we can see your genitals.” The men were also wearing jeans and if they showed genitals then a man’s would be more visible than hers.
She was supposed to cover herself because she was so beguiling that she would lead men astray; even the allure of perfume or high heels under a black hidjab could supposedly cause an intolerable chaos of desire.
Her main concern was always for Muslim women. All society would benefit if Muslim women were free to fully participate in Dutch society. If girls and women are uneducated, oppressed and psychologically demeaned, then their children are all stunted by their ignorance. If women are well educated and nurtured they, their children will make up a self-reliant, responsible citizenry and a productive work force.
In Holland, gay school teachers were often harassed by Moroccan kids. But this behavior was encouraged by the imam who explained that homosexuality was a contagious disease that could infect school children. It was a threat to humanity. The attitude was much larger than one imam – it was systemic in Islam, because it is a religion that has never gone through the process of Enlightenment that would lead people to question its rigid approach to individual freedom. Islam doesn’t just oppose the right of homosexuals to live undisturbed. Abortion clinics and women’s centers feel the abuse of Islam as its sexual morals are intolerant of women’s freedom.
The Dutch are attached to freedom and in many ways Holland was the capital of the European enlightenment. 400 years ago, when European thinkers severed from church dogma, Holland was the center of free thought. Cut were the roots of old fixed ideas of magic, kingship, social hierarchy and the domination of priests. The country was half Protestant, half Catholic but instead of strife, they worked it out. Everyone loses in a civil war. There were three pillars of Dutch society: Protestants, Catholics and the smaller, nonreligious secular Liberals. They operated just like clans with separate schools, hospitals, clubs, shops, separate channels on TV and separate radio stations.
Holland had been founded on religion, but the whole nation was at its core, ungodly. The very existence of God was contested at every turn and people openly disbelieved every aspect of religion. In Islam, natural disasters were signs from God, to show humans they were misbehaving on earth. Reclaiming land from the sea, controlling flooding with canals was like defying God.
She read European history, Darwin, Freud, Spinoza (no miracles, no angels, no need to pray to anything outside ourselves: god was us and nature. Humans fantasized religion to give themselves a sense of security.) And everything challenged her as a Muslim. Even reading these books was sinning in Islam. The formation of modern states confronted her with contradictions in her belief in Allah. The European separation of God’s world from the state was itself haram. The Quran says there can be no government without God; the Quran is Allah’s book of laws for the conduct of worldly affairs.
Holland may not be perfect and the Dutch complain a lot, but it’s orderly, humane and prosperous and everyone seemed basically happy. And Muslims are pouring into places like Holland so they must be doing something right. Society worked without reference to God, and it seemed to function perfectly. This man-made system of government was so much more stable, peaceful, prosperous, and happy than the supposedly God-devised system Muslims are taught to respect. How could Holland give its people so much better a life than any Muslim country?
This was an infidel country whose way of life Muslims were supposed to oppose and reject. Why was it then so much better run, led and made for such better lives than the places they came from? Shouldn’t the places where Allah was worshipped and His laws obeyed have been at peace and wealthy, and the unbelievers countries ignorant, poor and at war?
Most of the countries with civil war were Muslim. Why should infidels have peace, and Muslims be killing each other, when we were the ones who worshipped the true God. As Muslims and Somalis, they had always been sure they were superior to nonbelievers, and here we were not superior at all. Most people withdrew from the embarrassments into an enclave of shared Somaliness. They created a fantasy that they as Somalis knew better about everything than these inferior white people. Most Somalis were not integrating into Dutch society, they weren’t working and just hung around the asylum center cadging meals. Some learned to cycle, were ambitious, studied and worked but these people had no time to socialize. The others just chewed qat all night and sat around talking about how horrible Holland was.
Muslims will soon be the majority in most of Holland’s major cities. They fail to accept the rights of women and homosexuals, as well as the basic principles that underlie democracy.
The Dutch initially were mostly positive about Islam. If Muslims wanted mosques and separate graveyards and ritual slaughterhouses, they were built. Community centers were provided where Islamic fundamentalist ideas grew but the tolerant Dutch thought this was a natural reaction. They had been uprooted and were clinging (temporarily) to traditional ideas that would gradually fade away. This compassion for immigrants and their struggles in a new country resulted in attitudes and policies that perpetuated cruelty. Thousands of Muslim women and children in Holland were being systematically abused. Little children were being excised on kitchen tables. Girls who chose their own boyfriends and lovers were beaten half to death or even killed; many more were regularly slapped around. The suffering of all these women was unspeakable. The Dutch ignored the silent suffering of Muslim women and children in their own backyard. Holland’s multiculturalism – in respect to Muslim’s way of doing things – wasn’t working. It was depriving many women and children of their rights. Holland was trying to be tolerant for the sake of consensus, but the consensus was empty. The immigrant’s culture was being preserved at the expense of their women and children and to the detriment of the immigrant’s integration into Holland. Many Muslims never learned Dutch and rejected Dutch values of tolerance and personal liberty. They married relatives from their home villages and stayed, inside Holland, in their tiny bubble of Morocco or Mogadishu. Children with learning disabilities or 3 years old and not talking, unable to play with educational toys or could not recognize a pen, would often have a young, barely educated mother unable to speak Dutch.
Abortion. The author’s sister had had two abortions despite feeling that Allah would never forgive her. But when outside in Dutch society, she put on a headscarf saying “I have to be careful in this country. It’s Godless. It will turn us into nonbelievers.”
After 9/11, the Dutch (in their fortunate country where nothing ever happens), pretended that nothing had happened. The Dutch had forgotten that it was possible for people to stand up and wage war, destroy property, imprison, kill, impose laws of virtue because of the call of God. That kind of religion hadn’t been present in Holland for centuries.
Somalis did not want to live in gaalo neighborhoods. They want to avoid contact with the ungodliness of Holland. But Dutch officials always saw it as a natural desire to form a community.
Many did not like Holland. They felt they were treated like criminals at the airport. The air stank of cow dung and the language sounded stupid. They called the Dutch gaalo and kufr. Being nice in Somali terms means that someone gives you what you ask for. So if someone politely said no, even if they explained why they couldn’t do something, the Muslims saw it as arrogance or racism.
Education. When Muslims wanted their own school, it was probably a way to force their children to obey ideas unquestioningly but the Dutch saw no harm in funding them. Teachers even questioned the relevance of teaching immigrant children Dutch history, and a generation of children were written off under a pretense of tolerance. At the Muslim schools, there were no Dutch children. The little girls were veiled and often separated from the boys, either in the classroom or during prayer and sports. The schools taught geography and physics just like any school in Holland, but they avoided subjects that ran contrary to Islamic doctrine. Children weren’t encouraged to ask questions and their creativity was not stimulated. They were taught to keep their distance from nonbelievers and to obey.
She believed that the Dutch government urgently needed to stop funding Quran-based schools as they rejected the values of universal human rights. All humans are not created equal in a Muslim school. There is no freedom of expression or conscience. They fail to develop creativity – art, drama, music – they suppress the critical faculties that can lead children to question their beliefs. They neglect subjects that conflict with Islamic teachings, such as evolution and sexuality. They teach by rote, not question, and instill subservience in girls. They also fail to socialize children to the wider community.
She thought that faith-based schools should be at least debated. That raised a dilemma. Holland’s constitution permits faith-based schools in Article 23. If the authorities were to close down only Muslim schools, permitting other forms of private schooling to continue, that would be discrimination. Holland has become an immigrant society, with Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and all kinds of non-Western backgrounds. She thought that everyone, even native Dutch children, should learn to understand and grow up alongside children from all other backgrounds. She thought that perhaps Article 23 of the Constitution should be abolished. Government funds would be better used setting up schools that are ideologically neutral and, encourage children to question and respect pluralism. This sounded Communist to the others in the thing-tank she worked for. They thought that Article 23 would never be revoked.
Satellite dishes are in every apartment in municipal housing projects with TVs tuned to Moroccan and Turkish TV. The Dutch saw it as a natural desire to maintain contact with home. It seemed unrealistic to her to think that Muslims would integrate best if the Dutch indulged every kind of Muslim self-segregation.
But with the satellite dishes came preaching and indoctrination. Door to door preachers passed out cassettes, most migrant neighborhoods have shops selling traditional clothes, carpets, tapes, DVDs and books on how to be a good Muslim in infidel territory. The number of women wearing headscarves increased to the point of being impossible to ignore but the Dutch thought it was only recent immigrants who would soon abandon the practice. They did not realize that it was the second generation who were rediscovering their roots, brainwashed by jargon: tawheed, kufr, the evil Jews.
Places like Holland are confusing to Muslims from strict societies. Back in Somalia, they are used to fighting for every little thing and suddenly there is nothing to fight for as everything is possible in Europe. They lose their roadmap and the lack of guidance can become unbearable.
There are disadvantages to freedom. Loneliness, a feeling of empty lives, it was sometimes tiresome to find out everything for yourself, instead of relying on the comfortable, clear lines of doctrine and detailed rules. The limitless rules of Holland produced fear.
Somalis thought that the Dutch were racist, even though they were obviously not. Being made to follow Dutch rules was interpreted as being unfair. They complained that they were only offered lowly jobs. They wanted an honorable profession such as an airline pilot or lawyer. When it was pointed out that they had no qualifications for such work, the attitude was that everything was Holland’s fault. They claimed that they were being held back by racism. Everyone was in a constant simmer of anger about how they were discriminated against because they were black. If a shopkeeper wouldn’t bargain over the price of a T-shirt, the claim was that discounts were only for white people.
“If you tell a Dutch person, it’s racist, he will give you anything you want.” The claims of racism were often strategic. She thought they were using it as an excuse as a comfort mechanism to keep them from feeling personally inadequate and to externalize the causes of their unhappiness.
She asked why are Muslims were so overrepresented in crime statistics, unemployment and other social problems? Some Dutch were starting to think that a new ethnic underclass of immigrants had formed, that it was much too insular. By rejecting the values that knit together Dutch society, the Muslims were creating new damaging social divisions. There wasn’t enough insistence on immigrants adapting. Some believed that there was no place in Holland for a culture that rejected the separation of church and state and denied rights to women and homosexuals. They foresaw social unrest.
After living in Holland for ten years and working as an interpreter, she saw how poorly Muslims were performing in the Dutch culture due to self-induced segregation. They are allowed to form their own pillar in Dutch society, with their own schools and their own way of life, left politely alone to live in their own world. The idea was that immigrants needed self-respect, which would come from a strong sense of membership in their community. They should have Quranic schools and government subsidies for Muslim community groups.
To force Muslims to adapt to Dutch values was thought to conflict with those values; people ought to be free to believe and behave as they wish. The Dutch adopted these policies because they wanted to be good people. They had behaved unspeakably in Indonesia and didn’t (much) resist Hitler in Holland – a greater percentage of Jews were deported during WWII than in any other country in Western Europe. The Dutch felt guilty about this recent past. When massive immigration began in Holland in the 1980s, they felt they should behave with decency and understanding toward them and accept their differences and beliefs.
Of all the non-Western immigrants in Holland, Muslims were the least integrated. They made disproportionate claims on social welfare and disability benefits and were disproportionately involved in crime. Women’s shelters in Holland (often with 30-100 women in them at any one time) had hardly any white women, but only women from Morocco, Turkey, Afghanistan, ie mainly Muslim countries along with some Hindu women from Surinam. The stories were almost always the same: the men took all the welfare money, spent it on Qat, and when the wife hid the money he would beat her until finally the police intervened. Women like this never pressed charges. The prospect of making their way alone seemed to them impossible. They were convinced that by accepting systematic, merciless abuse, they were serving Allah and earning a place in Heaven, and they always went back to their husband. Family always supported the husband. You must obey your husband if you are Muslim. If you refuse your husband and he rapes you that is your fault. Allah says husbands should beat their wives if they misbehave; it’s in the Quran.
Neither men nor women are circumcised in Holland. The Somali response was: they are filthy, the whole country is filthy. Because there was a difference between the Dutch and Somalis, that is why the Quran tells us never make unbelievers our friends.
Going to a bar was haram, even if you didn’t drink.
Children in school get into problems with interactions with other children in disagreements, they attacked and hit first as they did in Somalia. If they waited to be hit, they would only be bullied more. It was congruent with their upbringing.
She proposed publically that Islam was the problem. Islam influenced every aspect of believer’s lives. Women were denied their social and economic rights in the name of Islam, and ignorant women bring up ignorant children. Sons brought up watching their mother being beaten will use violence. The passive, Insh’Allah attitude so prevalent in Islam – “if Allah wills it” – affected people’s will to change and improve the world. If you believe that Allah predestines all, and life is simply a waiting room for the Hereafter, does that belief link to the fatalism that so often reinforces poverty?
Dutch parents breed their daughters to be self-reliant and most Muslim parents breed theirs to be docile and submissive. As a result, immigrant children don’t perform or act like Dutch youth. But asking for these issues to be examined only brought criticism form all sides.
She wanted these issues examined and debated so that education could shift this mentality, but came under attack from many directions.
Political parties in Holland. All the political parties are in favor of an active, almost invasive degree of government intervention in the business of buying and selling, with high taxes and redistribution of wealth. The Liberal Party economically stood for less government interference and lower taxes. In other matters, there were secular, careful to be neutral about religion. They stood for abortion rights, gay rights and the emancipation of the individual.
She became disappointed in the Labor Party. She had joined it as they were social democrats standing for reform. They sought to improve people’s lives, they cared about suffering, which she thought should have meant they would care about the suffering of Muslim women. But in reality, they appeared blinded by multiculturalism, overwhelmed by the imperative to be sensitive and respectful of immigrant culture, defending the moral relativists. When she said that the position of Muslim women had to change, the party was always telling her to wait or calling her right-wing.
The West underwent a period of religious warfare and persecution, but then freed itself from the grip of violent organized religion. The same process could occur among the millions of Muslims. They could shed their attachment to those dogmas that clearly lead to ignorance and oppression. In modern times, there are so many books that Muslims could read and leapfrog the Enlightenment. The dogmas could be held up to the light, scrutinized and infuse traditions that are rigid and inhumane with the values of progress and modernity. They could come to terms with individual expression.
To believe this though, Muslims must make the leap to believing that the Quran is relative – not absolute, not the literal syllabus pronounced by God, but just another book. It has to reject the idea of Hell, whose looming prospect always frightens Muslims from making any criticism of Islam. They would wonder then about what they truly believe about God.