The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hitting a Nerve

In an age of women's empowerment, where bold, courageous women are lionized throughout our society, this woman's story would be the stuff of a feature film or an Emmy award-winning series on HBO. It's the story of a young, Muslim Somali girl, raised in poverty, who escaped when she was promised as a child to an older man, became one of thousands of immigrants who fled to Europe, got a university education, rose to a position of influence in the Dutch parliament, got death threats because she spoke truth to power, and was forced to flee to North America where she again became a voice of reason and intelligence.

You'd think Hollywood producers would be breaking down her door. You'd think she'd be a regular guest and/or commentator on NPR or any of the Alphabet networks.  You'd think women's groups would laud her in  the same way they elevate pampered lightweights like Greta Thornberg, Ayssa Milano, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Nope. This bold, courageous woman of color with an uplifting story has the wrong politics—she isn't "woke" to the leftist narrative, so she's persona non grata. She's Ayann Hirsi Ali.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Hirsi Ali begins by discussing the dark world that Islamists want for us all. A world of absolutism, where free speech is stifled, and opposition is met by condemnation and violence. Where the prevailing 'religion' trumps common sense, economic clarity and individual freedom. Then she pivots:

It never occurred to me that free speech would come under threat in my newly adopted country. Even when I first encountered what has come to be known as “cancel culture”—in 2014 I was invited to receive an honorary degree at Brandeis University and then ungraciously disinvited—I didn’t fret too much. I was inclined to dismiss the alliance of campus leftists and Islamists as a lunatic fringe.

But the power of the illiberal elements in the American left has grown, not just on campus but in the media and many corporations. They have inculcated in a generation of students an ideology that has much more in common with the intolerant doctrines of a religious cult than with the secular political thought I studied at Holland’s Leiden University.

She goes on to discuss the manner in which Western intelligensia made the usual excuses for Islam's violent offspring in the years immediately after 9/11. Poverty, lack of education, lack of democracy—what Hirsi Ali called "materialist explanations." But in reality, the problems with Islam are structural or as the Left likes to say—"systemic."

But there's more to all of this. Hirsi Ali argues that the Left and Islamists are different in many ways but in a sense, kindred spirits:

Nineteen years on, we see a similar dynamic, only this time it is within our borders. Naive observers explain this summer’s protests in terms of African-Americans’ material disadvantages. These are real, as are the (worse) socio-economic problems of the Arab world. But they aren’t the main driver of the protests, which appear to be led mainly by well-off white people.

Their ideology goes by many names: cancel culture, social justice, critical race theory, intersectionality. For simplicity, I call it all Wokeism.

I am not about to equate Wokeism and Islamism. Islamism is a militant strain of an ancient faith. Its adherents have a coherent sense of what God wants them to achieve on earth to earn rewards in the afterlife. Wokeism is in many ways a Marxist creed; it offers no hereafter. Wokeism divides society into myriad identities, whereas Islamists’ segmentation is simpler: believers and unbelievers, men and women.

There are many other differences. But consider the resemblances. The adherents of each constantly pursue ideological purity, certain of their own rectitude. Neither Islamists nor the Woke will engage in debate; both prefer indoctrination of the submissive and damnation of those who resist.

The two ideologies have distinctive rituals: Islamists shout “Allahu Akbar” and “Death to America”; the Woke chant “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.” Islamists pray to Mecca; the Woke take the knee. Both like burning the American flag.

Both believe that those who refuse conversion may be harassed, or worse. Both take offense at every opportunity and seek not just apologies but concessions. Islamism inveighs against “blasphemy”; Wokeism wants to outlaw “hate speech.” Islamists use the word “Islamophobia” to silence critics; the Woke do the same with “racism.”

Islamists despise Jews; the Woke say they just hate Israel, but the anti-Semitism is pervasive. The two share a fondness for iconoclasm: statues, beware.

Both ideologies aim to tear down the existing system and replace it with utopias that always turn out to be hellish anarchies: Islamic State in Raqqa, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle. Both are collectivist: Group identity trumps the individual. Both tolerate—and often glorify—violence carried out by zealots.

Hirsi Ali's words speak truth to the growing power of the Left whose adherents in entertainment, academia, the media, and the corporate world will react with outrage (their operative state) when presented with her analogy. Maybe they're outraged because Ayann Hirsi Ali has hit a nerve.