Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the newly released Heretic and who recently appeared on The Daily Show, brought her courageous message to Traverse City’s National Writers Series stage on Oct. 11, 2012. Her message over two years ago resonates as strongly now as it did then. Her observation during those hopeful days of the Arab Spring, was that Muslims began to question absolute authority in all its forms – in the dictatorships and monarchies, and even in daily life, is still relevant. But now, with the failure of the popular movements across the Arab world, young Muslims are grasping for the ultimate absolute authority – Islam – to rescue them from a world they see as hopeless and dominated by outsiders and non-believers. The religious principle of absolute submission to Allah; the ultimate form of absolute authority – has replaced, for many young Muslims, the hoped-for abstract western ideas like “freedom” and “democracy” that the Arab Spring promised.
Ayaan’s call for a reformation of Islam itself is as radical a demand as one could make, particularly in today’s world. With Muslims grasping for an outlet to their frustration and seeking it in the form of strict adherence to fundamentalist Islam, Ayaan has placed herself directly at odds with the trend across the Muslim world. Having seen her on-stage, here in Traverse City, her brave stance comes as no surprise, but it also carries great risks for her own safety. Ayaan has accepted these risks to convey the critical message; that a great conflict within Islam may well be forming, and that it is essential to the future of Islam.
As radical extremists like ISIS have begun to trigger opposition, many Muslims are looking for a way to bring calm and order back to their lives. They, like Ayaan, stand in the way of the radicals. Where confrontations have occurred, as in Syria and Iraq, and now in Yemen; where radical Islam confronts a more moderate version of the faith, extreme violence has been the result. Ayaan predicted this in her earlier books and speeches. Her prescription, nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of the basic tenets of the Muslim faith, is certain to propel her again into a leading role as Islam’s most prominent and courageous critic.
About Jack Segal
Diplomat, columnist, lecturer – Jack Segal’s career on the world stage has spanned nearly 50 years and as many countries, placing him at the crossroads of today’s most pressing, and dramatic, events. Jack, with Karen Puschel, his wife and a former State Department Soviet expert, is a host of Northwestern Michigan College’s esteemed International Affairs Forum, which features some of the world’s most interesting policy makers. From 2002 to 2010, Jack was the senior political adviser to the NATO Commander overseeing the Afghanistan conflict. He also played a critical role in the opening of Russia to the west after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is presently a senior fellow at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington D.C.