After spending her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, Ayaan Hirsi Ali eventually fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage. There she became an advocate for the rights of Muslim women, an avocation that made her the target of so many death threats that she sought refuge in the United States. Brian Stewart reviews her latest book, and considers the scorn it has received at the hands of those Western liberals who in other contexts imagine themselves opponents of the oppression, harassment, and violent treatment of females at the hands of males:
This manifest betrayal of feminism, and the jeopardy in which it has placed multitudes of women, is the theme of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s provocative new book Prey. Hirsi Ali’s subject is (as the subtitle says) “immigration, Islam, and the erosion of women’s rights,” but the negative reviews of the book and its author in civic society and the prestige press offer a microcosm of the crisis roiling the West. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim groups do not even want the book to be read.
The old continent became the cockpit for this story after the hasty decision in 2015 by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to do away with restrictions on the number of asylum-seekers who could come to Germany—and, thanks to the EU’s Schengen Agreement that dissolved internal borders, much of the rest of Western Europe. The result was a chaotic scramble for Europe’s frontiers, which quickly produced a spike in sexual harassment and violence in Europe’s streets and squares. “It is one of the rich ironies of early-21st-century history,” Hirsi Ali writes, “that the single decision that has done the most harm to European women in my lifetime was made by a woman.”
In the very recent past, [according to Hirsi Ali], the feminist mission has been challenged, and undermined, by issues of racism, religion, and intersectionality. “Liberal feminists today care more about the question of Palestinian statehood,” she writes, “than the mistreatment of Palestinian women at the hands of their fathers and husbands. In the battle of the vices, sexism has been trumped by racism.”
The inability of the French judicial system to prosecute or punish the brutal murder of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman, at the hands of a Muslim man of immigrant extraction—as clear a case of violence against women as one could find—seems to typify the very problem Hirsi Ali identifies.