Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants you to know she was wrong. In her 2010 book Nomad, she argued that Islam could not be reformed and ultimately should no longer exist.
However, she says that watching the Arab Spring and the two revolutions that took place in Egypt she has changed her mind and has new hope that Islam can be and is ready for reformation. This becomes the overall thesis of her new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs Reformation Now.
For anyone who has followed the career of Hirsi Ali you will not be surprised to find her ideas often misrepresented and her character attacked in an effort to silence on the most powerful and critical voices against modern day Islam.
Quoted mining from an interview with the libertarian magazine Reason that shows her calling for a “war” with Islam are used to call her a war-monger and an Islamophobe who wishes to do nothing but kill all Muslims is nothing short of genocide. While her rhetoric at the time seemed rather hostile, it was often misrepresented as violent when “at war” does not necessarily mean military, even when she felt military involvement may have been necessary. This is rhetoric she has since drastically changed.
In Heretic, we are shown a much different activist, one that has grown and matured as she has watched Islam around the world show signs of hope, all the while never being afraid to be the voice of opposition to extremism but even more importantly to accommodationists who continue to allow countries such as Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others to continue to enforce sharia and oppress and subjugate its citizens under archaic and brutal regimes.
She quickly and often denounced the US imperialism that has quickly led to faster recruitment of Islamist fighters and argues that the money the US spent on the endless and fruitless wars could have much better spent empowering reformers and helping give a platform to those who wish to help Muslims trapped in these brutal regimes. This very argument alone shuts down 99% of her critics who wish to believe she wants nothing more than a world war waged against Islam.
The Ayaan Hirsi Ali that wrote Heretic is nothing short of a feminist hero. She is the voice for those who are unable to have a voice living in countries under Islamic control. She is the voice for gay rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, and the rights of men and women who simply wish to question the teachings of Islam or wish to leave Islam all together without the threat of violence or death.
While those such as Reza Aslan want you to believe that Hirsi Ali’s work is demeaning to Muslim women and that she wishes to strip them of their right to believe, Heretic paints a much different picture that Aslan himself will have a hard time rejecting, though given his history of ignoring evidence and siding with countries that impose such barbaric laws, he will continue to smear her name in an effort to protect fundamentalist Islam from any reformation.
Hirsi Ali puts forth five changes she believes are the most important in changing the face of Islam today and without argument the last four are paramount to reformation. Yet one fault with her list is that she believes that Muslims must reject the prophet status of Mohammad and realize he was nothing more than a man, but in essence this would be like asking Christians to reject that Jesus is the son of God.
While her argument for this change is powerful, it seems to be an unrealistic goal that is set to fail from the outset, though this one blunder hardly does anything to slow down the importance of this work.
Heretic also acts as a call to action to liberals who have become cowards in the fight for human rights when the Islam is involved. While these “liberals” are anything but, she reminds them that Muslims are the most targeted victims of Islamic extremism and that refusing to acknowledge that groups such as ISIS are rooted in Islamic teachings and texts straight from the Quran does nothing but further empower these Islamists to continue to oppress and kill innocent Muslims caught in their way.
When Ben Affleck went on Real Time with Bill Maher and fought to silence Maher and guest Sam Harris and accused them of racism, Hirsi Ali argues that the only thing Affleck did was silence discussion and much needed criticism of Islam that Muslim reformers and many moderate Muslims have been waiting for the west to finally have.
The pseudo-liberal fear of not being politically correct and fearing the idea of not endorsing religious freedom has done nothing but silence critics and allowed Islamist groups to continue to flourish. Enough is enough, Heretic is the call to action that these frightened liberals must read and have their eyes opened to what life under sharia is actually like. It is time to abandon cultural and relativism and stop pretending that as non-Muslims we can do nothing to change the Islamic world.
If Heretic has one underlining fault, it is that Hirsi Ali often sees the west, especially the US, with rose colored glasses. This is actually very understandable, when you listen to her life story as briefly told in Heretic or if you go back and read her memoire, Infidel, you can understand how coming to the west and escaping life under Islamic law would quickly make any free country, faults and all seem almost perfect, but as someone living in the US, I often find it misrepresenting the current political climate in the US, however this does not in any way change the overall thesis of the book.
Overall, Heretic is probably going to be heralded as one of the most important works in the reformation of Islam, if not today, it will be in the future as actual liberals become a stronger voice for change and help empower reformers living inside Islamic countries who will be able to educate and give voice to those who are tired of living under Islamic law and wish to welcome modernity into the Islamic community.
If the secular, atheist and liberal communities are serious about social justice, including feminism, humanism and secular governments that will protect the rights of all citizens, they will no longer be silent on the ties between Islam and extremism and will work tirelessly to give rise to reformers and bring about a new day in which Islam may have its own Martin Luther who will forever change the face of the religion and work to make Islam the religion of peace it wrongfully claims to be today.