An honorary Oscar statue for Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

submission01Speculation about who will receive what honor at the Academy Awards starts early and runs right through the ceremony itself. So let me openly campaign for a person who I believe should receive a major standing ovation that night. This has nothing to do with Whoopi or Mel.

No, I hope that Hollywood shines a spotlight, somehow, on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, once of Somalia and currently — in hiding — in the Netherlands. I will let a Dallas Morning News editorial from this week pick up the story:

In 2003, she was elected to the Dutch Parliament but has had to go into hiding on several occasions after receiving death threats. Her most recent retreat into the underground came after the Nov. 2 slaughter of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam. Police have charged a Muslim extremist with that murder. Ms. Hirsi Ali collaborated with the assassinated artist on Submission, an 11-minute film . . . protesting the condition of women under Islam. A note pinned to the dead man’s chest with a dagger said she would be next.

Hirsi Ali has vowed to carry on, including plans for a sequel to Submission (which is accessible at The issue, according to the editorial, is what activists in the rest of the world can do to help protect her, especially “artists, writers, political activists and feminists.”

Maybe, maybe not. It’s been more than week since The Wall Street Journal ran a column by Catholic writer Bridget Johnson titled “Look Who Isn’t Talking: A filmmaker is murdered, and Hollywood loudmouths say nothing.” The topic is old, by now, but still timely — since little or nothing has appeared in the mainstream press or the entertainment press on the topic. Strange. Johnson notes:

There’ve been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don’t remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense. You didn’t see the National Rifle Association order a hit on Michael Moore over “Bowling for Columbine.”

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we’ve heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears” changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims. The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.

The conservative press has, of course, been all over this story.

Which is really strange if you stop and connect the dots between the issues raised in this murder. Tick them off again, with the Dallas Morning News editorial — women’s rights, artistic freedom, the right to offensive free speech. Sounds like a Frank Rich column to me.

Instead, it was the launching pad for a column in Human Events by that noted voice for human rights — wait for it — Pat Sajak. I have to hand it to him. In his “A Hush Over Hollywood” essay, Sajak has come up with a logical way to turn this story inside out and see it in a different light.

GetReligion readers on the left should take a deep breath and proceed. Is this fair, or what?

Somewhere in the world, a filmmaker creates a short documentary that chronicles what he perceives as the excesses of anti-abortion activists. An anti-abortion zealot reacts to the film by killing the filmmaker in broad daylight and stabbing anti-abortion tracts onto his body. How does the Hollywood community react to this atrocity? Would there be angry protests? Candlelight vigils? Outraged letters and columns and articles? Awards named in honor of their fallen comrade? Demands for justice? Calls for protection of artistic freedom? It’s a pretty safe bet that there would be all of the above and much more. And all of the anger would be absolutely justified.

So here is my appeal to the academy: Can you spare an honorary Oscar statue for Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • dk

    Abortion and movies that criticize Christianity might not make the best analogies. Included in the list of sins attributed to Ms. Ali in the letter pinned to Van Gogh’s body was this line:

    “Thus you had the cowardice to ask Islamic children at school to make a choice between their Creator and the constitution.”

  • Ken53

    A murder takes place in a farwaway country and everyone in America is supposed to get all bent out of shape over it? Get a clue.

  • Jon S.


    Ever hear of Daniel Pearl? Fellow journalists brought his case to your attention.

    Ever hear of Salman Rushdie? Friends in the creative community told you about that.

    So, no, tmatt’s request is not unreasonable.

  • ken53

    Jon S,

    Daniel Perle was an American journalist. His murder was relavent. Salman Rushdie is, as far as we know, alive and well. I don’t see your point.

  • Victor Morton

    OK, ken53, so then let us never hear one peep from you about atrocities or human-rights abuses or murders or anything else abroad. Abu Ghraib? Not an American like Daniel Pearl. And in a country even farther away than Holland. And they are, as far as we know, alive and well. Darfur? Ditto. Tiananmen Square? Double ditto.

  • Victor Morton

    And on the merits of Mr. Mattingly’s proposal (though I obviously agree with everything else he says) … I’m leery about handing out Oscars (or Grammys or Pulitzers, etc.) for anything except cinematic excellence (or musical or literary, etc.)

    Collaborator on an 11-minute short film doesn’t exactly make someone Stanley Kubrick, though the film itself could of course be entered in the appropriate category (Documentary Short, one of the four categories nobody picks in the office Oscar pool) and win or lose on its merits.

  • ken53


    If you weren’t aware, the torturers at Abu Ghraib were American soldiers. This makes it relavent to us no matter how far away.

    Darfur is a tradegy, but not our immediate problem. If we can help someone fare away without denying our own poor help here at home we should help.

    Tiananmen Square. Does anyone really care anymore? China is our largest trading partner. Who is gonna make waves over political freedom when money is involved?

  • Will

    I never noticed “liberals” having trouble “getting bent out of shape” over happenings in “far-off” South Africa or Ireland. (As opposed to presumably “farther-off” Cuba).

  • Andrew C

    Ken 53, who cares about human rights abuses in China? I do! Others do! Who cares about abuse in Zimbabwe?I do! Others do! Who cares about people being killed for expressing their religious beliefs? I do! So should you! People are afraid of what has happened in Holland, not because they necessarily agree with van Gogh, but because somewhere down the line, democracy gets closed down, anyone who doesn’t toe that particular religious line disappears, the dissenters die. It’s happening now. Right now, in many countries. So wake up and think about how important this really is.

  • Victor Morton

    Was Abu Ghraib an action of American soldiers? Thanks for alerting me to that fact, bud. Really. I did not know that.

  • tmatt


    Tiananmen Square. Does anyone really care anymore? China is our largest trading partner. Who is gonna make waves over political freedom when money is involved?


    Actually, the opposition to the liberalization of China trade policies was a rare case of a left-right coalition that is PRECISELY what I have in mind for protests against the Van Gogh murder.

    Because of the Tibet connection, Hollywood DID get involved in that issue — even if it meant marching with religious conservatives. There are people in Hollywood who have real convictions and follow them. A tiny number of entertainers (I remember Joan Baez, of course) who even protested the Clinton crowd’s bombing of Serbian churches on Easter morning.

    But, back to China.

    Here is a giddy sample, cut from a list of strange tidbits in my 1998 anniversary column for Scripps Howard.

    * Try to picture this odd couple. The scene is a protest rally near the White House, during Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s visit. Religious Right strategist Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council taps actor Richard Gere on the shoulder. The veteran Tibet activist turns around and, according to Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, exclaims: “Gary! My main man!”

  • Brian Jones

    Let me help

    Ken53: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!

    Everybody else: Yes but it isn’t just saying “no it isn’t”.

    Ken53: Yes it is!

    Ad nauseum.

  • Hope-ite

    I would bet a dollar to a donut that ken53 is the same ken that posts in FPM’s comments section. He spews the same old, tired left wing, anti-U.S garbage whenever possible. Blah, blah, blah. Might as well get over it Ken, because your type of political mindset is thankfully on the way out.

  • Molly

    OT: I don’t know if you all are still looking for quotes/arguements on “The Incredibles” or not, but I thought of this site’s discussion when I read this on Slate today.

    “Finally, here’s a word from the source:

    I actually work for Pixar, and worked on the movie. Regarding the recent mail you received as to whether The Incredibles is an attack on affirmative action, I can tell you that, for most of us here at Pixar, we are all rather amused at the various political readings given to the film by various critics. Paging through the reviews on, we were quite surprised to find out that the film we all worked on was pro-Bush, anti-Bush, post-9/11, pre-9/11, making a case for tort reform, indicting corporate war profiteering, and almost every other conceivable political stance.

    Maybe this was inevitable, opening, as it did, just after an election of unprecedented emotional involvement. But the truth of it is, anyone at all who sees some grand political message in this film is saying much more about their viewpoint than the intent of a film that, at its heart, is really about familial relationships, and the constant clamor of work and life that pulls us away from them. I suppose we should be grateful. I remember one of my college literature professors telling me that great art allows viewers or readers to interpret it in a way that suits them, regardless of the intent of the artist. These wide and wildly varying interpretations of a cartoon just point out what a complex, compelling piece of storytelling it is. And to us, the filmmakers, that’s really the ultimate compliment.

    [Name withheld] 2:50 p.m.”

    Okay, go back to hitting each other.

  • jvarela

    De slime blank klagen van immigratie maar zij vergeten dat de blank self verandevoorlijk zijn van immigratie omdat de blank slaven zijn voor de joden. en vergeten ze ook de oorlog dat de joden tegen de bank voeren, dat de in wonners van de blank landen niet de laatse 30 jaar niet gestegen .omdat ze koude oorlog hebben met joden, als ze homo,s maken kunnen ze toch nooit geen kindren krigen.

    Als de blank bevolking verminderen joden creeren burger oorlog in de derde werld om immigrant in de west te krijgen,as blank vrij waren en controlen hum eigen land ze hebben nooit van immigrantie geklaagde,de slimme blank begrijpen niet,of mischien begerijpen ze en willen schulde aan de jodische baas niet immigrant hebben geen keuze net als de blank soldaten die voor de joden sterven in irak.Jorg Haider zei , dat de Britisch en American soldaten de goedkoopste honden ter werld zijn die joden gebruiken om hum droom waar te maken.

    Dat is blank nationaliste man die de blank will beschermen . maar de blank honden gebruikers ze weten niet wie is hum vijande is,gebruiken de honden voor sex en niet klagen van jodisch baas ,want hij leert de blank homo,s sexuality en dat is de best want de blank werld zal over bevolk raken.en de jodisch baas will blank landen erven

    Daarom willen ze blank kindren krijgen en als geen blank persoon hebben gebruiken ze blank sperma om jodisch vrouwen zwanger te maken , daaroom hebje jodisch leaders in de meest blank landen.

    Als ten kosten van andere mensen gaat joden noemen ze politiek en freedom maar als over hum gaat zij noemen raciste,

    Blank nederlanders vieren 4 en 5 mai de bevrijding dag ( 4 en 5 mai vier de vrijheide )als jode vier je je vrijheid maar als blanken vier je de eerst dag dat ze makten voetje of stapje om hum vrijheide helemaal verlezen en de jodisch baas te dienen. en de blank army werd vernietig, jode missen nooit een blank volk om als slaven te gebruiken tegen andere blank of tegen andere volk ,dat was zo in laatse 500 jaren.

    De resultaten van Hitler kan je sien heel duidelijk van dag, de Duitch natie zij vertrouw niet de joden en daarom weten duitch vrouwen de verschillen om honden te gebruiken en man te gebruiken, de joden hebben geen kans gekrijgen homo, en tansexuality en heroine pedofiles, kinderen en vrouwen handle te vernitengen. Jij kan noemen de enige blank natie dat joden schade niet toe gebracht hebben.

    Mieschien hilter was katholiek want joden hebben hum vernietig hun en hun kerk.

    De joden hebben in sommige blanke landen getest dat de blank khatoliek man kan zwanger worden na dat ze transsexual makde ,

    De meest blank mensen weten niet de oorlog dat ze hebben met joden, blank zijn de meest slachtoffers van de joden , maar weten niet vanwege decondutie van hun gezonheide ,de joden hebben allemaal ziek gemaak anderes begrepen wat

    God segt in de holly books dat de joden inferior en gevoelig zijn, zij kunen niets tegen ,dat kan ook in de practijk bleken,maar ze willen ze ook hun hande niet te huis houden .

    Mijn advice for joden is, probeer jouw handen te thuis te houden en niet graaf for jouw zelf te graven net als joden altijd deden, maar mischien jij will 6 meljoen missen .

    Myn advice for de blank is , de joden hebben niet veel nodig , zij zijn vevoelig en inferior , en jij hebt niet veel nodig om jouw kinderen en vrouwen te beschermen , van jodische volk die gebruik blank kinderen en blank vrouwen van bron van in comen, je moet gewoon durven as jij man bent. als een jode de blank vrouw niet verkoopt verkoop hij haar naakt fotos of gebruikt hij als porno actrice met honden en paarden, om moraal steun te geven de jodisch volk en de werld te laten zien hoe de joden hun vijanden vernederen. Maar het duurt mischien een tijdje dat de blank moeten begrijpen.

    Vraag de slime blank mensen, wat is de voordeel voor de blank volk om minister van integratie te hebben behalf dat de joden willen blanken mixen met de immigranten om zelf blank te zijn want zij gebruiken blank sperma om hum joden wifjes zwanger te maken en eidelijke blanke landen te erven van original smart blank.joden moeten zorgen dat ze geen kinderen krijgen en als toch krijgen minister van de integratie mixe met immigrant.

    Blank hebben nooit oorloog gevoert behalf als voor een joden vechten , zij hebben altijd een blank volk as slaven gehad als zij een veliezen hadden ze andere blank volk als slaven, als een blank volk wilen andere blank volk willen bevrijden van de joden, hadden ze joden altijd blanken slaven die voor ze stervenen vechten tegen hum broeders of tegen andere volk,net als blank Americanen en Britisch van dag , blank hebben in Irak verloren 500 britisch soldaten 24500 americanen, weet je waarom ? wie gaat meest kan missen, en omdat de trouwen van je sexgenoten al lang legal is in groot Britanie maar tijdens de oorlog willen ze legalezeren in America om slime blank bezig te houden anders merken ze hoeveel ze verlizen.

  • remy

    First, I like to apologise for the incredible mis-use of the Dutch language by jvarela. If you don’t understand it, please don’t try to get it. It has been a while since I’ve read such an incredibly stupid story. He honestly must be a complete racist freak for whome I am feeling really sorry.

    Back to the original post.
    In light of current events you can see why hollywood didn’t pay tribute to Van Gogh or Hirsi Ali. The land of the free doesn’t even dare to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons as a news related issue. To show what’s it all about one could print at least one cartoon, but no. Afraid to insult. Insult who? A few Moslims who get food stamps to protest against something that’s been published 5 months ago? They don’t want to live in a democracy, they don’t want freedom of speech, they don’t want to learn and progress. Who is insulting who?
    So I am personally not surprised by hollywood ignoring the Islam issue.