Pixel Tracker

Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 4:03 pm | A Few Clouds 61º

 
 
 
 

Human Rights Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Bring Message of Islamic Reformation to Santa Barbara

Amid escalating violence by Muslim extremists, author and free speech champion calls on West to wage ‘War of Ideas’

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born human rights activist, points to the Arab Spring as an encouraging sign of a potential move toward secular governance in the Islamic world. She will be speaking at The Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on May 23.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born human rights activist, points to the Arab Spring as an encouraging sign of a potential move toward secular governance in the Islamic world. She will be speaking at The Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on May 23. (AHA Foundation photo)

A Somali-born women’s rights activist and free speech champion who has been a high-profile and vocal critic of Islam will be in Santa Barbara next month to talk about her new book.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, best-selling author of Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, is herself a former Muslim who left her faith for atheism. In her latest book, she outlines the need for Islam’s reform so the religion can exist peacefully in the modern world.

Ali will be speaking at The Granada Theatre on May 23.

As a young child, Ali was subjected to female genital mutilation, and she later sought political asylum in the Netherlands after her father arranged for her to marry a distant cousin.

She eventually was elected to the Dutch parliament, where she worked on issues central to preventing violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation, which persisted in the Netherlands’ Muslim immigrant community.

Ali was thrust into international headlines after the 2004 assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had worked with her on a short film called Submission, which was critical of Islam’s teachings about women and their mistreatment.

Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamist, and a note pinned to his chest with a knife declared that Ali would be next.

Ali documented Van Gogh’s assassination and her prior life in the book, Infidel. The death threats against her as a result of her work mean she must live with a constant security presence.

Noozhawk spoke with Ali last week about her newest book, which is less about her personal journey and more about a global idea that Islam is in need of reform.

People are asking whether Islam can be a religion of peace, she said. Ali, 45, has been more critical of the faith in the past, but witnessing events such as the Arab Spring have helped her envision a move toward secular governance as a possibility.

In her book, Ali identifies five key precepts that could help accomplish this on a wider scale, one of which is abandoning the idea of jihad altogether and doing away with a literal interpretation of the Koran, which Ali maintains justifies violence against women.

As an example, she pointed to the horrifying case of a 27-year-old Afghan woman who was beaten to death by a mob last month in Kabul after she had allegedly burned Islam’s holy book.

“I’ve concluded that, no, you don’t necessarily have to leave it,” she said of Islam, but that treatment of women and girls is something that must be addressed by reformers.

Ali said her message is important now because “it’s a message of peaceful change.”

She cites the “obscene violence” by extremist groups such as ISIS, which are pursuing an Islamic caliphate amid a lack of leadership in the Muslim world.

“You have to ask yourself what options are on the table right now?” Ali reasoned.

“For the U.S., it’s military options,” she said, as well as a “very incoherent framework” to deter Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

“A lot of Americans say, ‘Let’s get out of the Middle East, let them sort it out,’” she noted.

Ali opined that, perhaps, there’s a third way moving forward.

“We haven’t reached a War of Ideas,” she said, suggesting that the United States engage in one as it did with the then-Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Hirsi said she’s visited Santa Barbara before, and called it “the kind of place that makes you forget that the world has problems.”

She added that dialogue is key right now.

“We have to start talking about it, because it’s escalating,” she said of Islamic extremism.

Sheridan Rosenberg, chief operating officer of Santa Barbara Aviation, is working to coordinate Ali’s appearance in Santa Barbara. She said her work addresses a reality that is often painful to think about.

The abusive treatment of women and girls — and attacks on Christians and other religious groups like the recent massacre at a college in Kenya — is something the Santa Barbara community is largely unaware of, she said.

“It’s a community of activists who don’t have any information,” she said.

Rosenberg said the idea to host Ali emerged from a conversation with like-minded friends around her kitchen table.

“We said we have to do something,” she recalled. “It is a humanitarian crisis.”

She said she began reading Ali’s work, and called it important “because she’s making room at the table for Muslims who want to be heard.”

Rosenberg pushes back on the assumption that people questioning the Islamic faith are bigoted or biased, and said that a conversation about human rights needs to take place.

“This is not about right and left, it’s about right and wrong,” she said. “Right now, there is a lot of anxiety and suffering in the world, and confusion and obfuscation around the subject. I think it’s a good start to get people more involved in the issue.”

Ali’s talk begins at 7 p.m. May 23. Tickets range from $28 to $58 and can be purchased at The Granada Theatre box office at 1214 State St. Click here to purchase tickets online.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >