Newsweek is featuring an article by the admirable Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose books Infidel and The Caged Virgin impressed me deeply. Since reading them, I've been hoping to do an in-depth study comparing and contrasting Islamic and Christian sexual morality.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was raised as a devout, fundamentalist Muslim in Somalia, Saudia Arabia, Ethiopia,and Kenya. When she was a teenager she came across western books, including Jane Austen and Danielle Steel, that awakened in her heart a desire for love. When her father arranged for her to marry a man she didn't know and didn't care for, she gathered the courage to flee to Holland. While there, she began working as a translator among immigrant Somalis, and grew increasingly concerned about the condition of women in Islamic life and society. She advocated publicly for intervention and reform, accusing the Dutch welfare system of turning a blind eye the abuses against women endemic in the immigrant population. Eventually, she was elected to the Dutch parliament, where she became a lightening rod and a thorn in the flesh of the of the PC elites and tolerance mongers. She wrote the screenplay for the film, Submission, which led to the murder of film-maker, Theo Van Gogh.
Ayaan's experiences, including the contrast between the violence, fear, and misery she had lived and witnessed in Muslim countries, contrasted with the order and peace and tolerance she found in Holland, led eventually to her renoucing Islam and embracing secular liberalism.
Ayaan does not put Islam and Christianity quite on the same level. When someone once asked her whether she was worried about the rise of fundamentalist Christianity in America, her response (paraphrased from memory) was, "When Christians ask me if I'm a believer and I say no, they don't try to kill me; they say they'll pray for me." But she does view "religious extremism" as the problem. Western society, in her schema, was saved by the Enlightenment. The hope for Islamic societies lies in their likewise putting away religion and embracing liberalism.
Last week I came across this video testimony of another former Muslim. Kamal Saleem was raised by "a zealous mother" to be a jihadist. As a boy, he dreamed of killing Jews and Christians. He was recruited by jihadist leaders to infiltrate the west, to report on its condition and to wage civilizational jihad from within. His main impression: "America is asleep."
Then he got in a car accident and was nursed back to health by a baptist surgeon and his wife. For the first time in his life, he encountered love and service. He saw before his own eyes the possiblity of having a personal relationship and friendship wtih God. Now he preaches with all the ardor of an old-time evangelist, "Do you know how to change a terrorist? Introduce him to Jesus!"
I am all in favor of defending the principles and institutions of the democratic, pluralistic west from the threat of Islam (as well as creeping statism). But I have little hope that we will succeed unless and until we recover the Faith that is their true source. False faith should be met by stronger true faith.