Keep the “free” in “freethinking”

This isn’t really directly related to etiquette, but I’ve been thinking a little about former Muslim and current atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who supports the Swiss in banning minarets and who says Muslim women must renounce Islam even if it means embracing Christianity. I should note that I’m no student of Ali’s works or views, so my take is kind of a surface-skimming, Maureen Dowd-style impressionism. But here goes:

I think Ali’s perspective is valuable, because she’s a product of a certain culture, and has thoroughly rejected that culture. But that perspective carries a danger of the “zeal of the converted” — I have to wonder whether her policy recommendations are the result of a rational and principled analysis, or merely the product of her (understandable) antipathy toward the Muslim world.

And I also wonder whether she’s really rejected the Islamist view as much as she thinks. I find myself wanting to say to her, I really appreciate how you’ve rejected the Islamist worldview in favor of the Western one, but here’s the thing — in the West, we don’t react to things we dislike by trying to ban them, we don’t use the law as a club to beat ideas into submission.

Ali reminds me a little of Orson Welles’ Nazi character in “The Stranger,” who tries to pose as a non-Nazi by claiming Nazis are so evil that the only solution is to exterminate them all.

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