Leaving Islam




Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks Out 


BERLIN : I am here to defend the right to offend. It is my conviction that the vulnerable enterprise called democracy cannot exist without free expression, particularly in the media.  

I am of the opinion that it was correct to publish the cartoons of Muhammad in Jyllands Posten and it was right to republish them in other papers across Europe .  

Shame on those papers and TV channels who lacked the courage to show their readers the caricatures in ‘the cartoon affair’. Shame on those politicians who stated that publishing and republishing the drawings was “unnecessary”, “insensitive”, “disrespectful” and “wrong”. Shame on those European companies in the Middle East that advertised “we are not Danish” or “we don’t sell Danish products”. This is cowardice. Nestle chocolates will never taste the same after this, will they?  

We have been flooded with opinions on how tasteless and tactless the cartoons are — views emphasising that the cartoons only led to violence and discord. What good has come of the cartoons, so many wonder loudly.  

Well, publication of the cartoons confirmed that there is widespread fear among authors, filmmakers, cartoonists and journalists who wish to describe, analyse or criticise intolerant aspects of Islam all over Europe .  

Today, the open society is challenged by Islamism, ascribed to a man named Muhammad bin Abdullah, who lived in the 7th-century AD and who is regarded as a prophet. Many Muslims are peaceful people; not all are fanatics. As far as I am concerned, they have every right to be faithful to their convictions. But within Islam exists a hard-line Islamist movement that rejects democratic freedoms and wants to destroy them.  

I am a dissident. I was born in Somalia , and grew up in Saudi Arabia and Kenya . I used to be faithful to the guidelines laid down by the prophet Muhammad. I used to hold the view that Muhammad was perfect; the only source of, and indeed, the criterion between good and bad. Now I don’t.  

I think that the prophet was wrong to have placed himself and his ideas above critical thought. I think that he was wrong to have subordinated women to men. I think he was wrong to have decreed that gays be murdered. I think he was wrong to have said that apostates must be killed.  

He was wrong in saying that adulterers should be flogged and stoned, and the hands of thieves should be cut off. He was wrong in claiming that a proper society could be built only on his ideas.  

I am not the only dissident in Islam. There are more like me: here in the West, in Teheran, in Doha and Riyadh , in Amman and Cairo , in Khartoum and in Mogadishu , in Lahore and in Kabul .  

The dissidents of Islamism, like the dissidents of communism, don’t have nuclear bombs or any such weapons. All we have are our thoughts; and all we ask is a fair chance to express them.  

Things may seem difficult and confusing today. But I am optimistic that the virtual wall, between lovers of liberty and those who succumb to the seduction and safety of totalitarian ideas, will come down one day.


The writer is a member of the Dutch lower house parliament for the Liberal Democratic Party. In 2005, she was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. This article is excerpted from a speech she gave in Berlin last week.  







Articles Op-ed Authors Debates Leaving Islam FAQ
Comments Library Gallery Video Clips Books Sina's Challenge

  ©  copyright You may translate and publish the articles in this site only if you provide a link to the original page.