Continuing her long night’s journey into light, the brave, brilliant, charismatic, and controversial New York Times #1 bestselling author of Infidel and Nomad, Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a powerful plea for a Muslim Reformation as the only way to end the horrors of terrorism, sectarian warfare, and the repression of women and minorities. Her latest book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now proposes a powerful idea about what the West can do. The following is an excerpt from Heretic, page 218:
A Unique Role for the West
Whenever I make the case for reform of the Muslim world, someone invariably says: “That is not our project — it is for Muslims only. We should stay out of it.” But I am not talking about the kind of military intervention that has got the West into so much trouble over the years.
For years, we have spent trillions on waging war against “terror” and “extremism” that would have been much better spent protecting Muslim dissidents and giving them the necessary platforms and resources to counter that vast network of Islamic centers, madrassas, and mosques which has been largely responsible for spreading the most noxious forms of Islamic fundamentalism. For years, we have treated the people financing that vast network — the Saudis, the Qataris, and the now repentant Emiratis — as our allies. In the midst of all our efforts at policing, surveillance, and even military action, we in the West have not bothered to develop an effective counter-narrative because from the onset we have denied that Islamic extremism is in any way related to Islam. We persist in focusing on the violence and not the ideas that give rise to it.
History points to only a few possible counter-narratives — I’ll show two and propose a third. Whether you see the East-West crisis as a clash of civilizations, or of cultures, or of religion, it is ultimately a battle of ideas.
First: We have been here before — this place is familiar — in the battle of ideas during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali points out (p. 219-220), the Cold War was not merely won by force or a show of force. She writes:
The Free Europe Press mailed numerous [translated] books to dissidents in Eastern Europe, sneaking their materials past the censors wherever they could. By the end of the Cold War, “it was estimated that over 10 million Western books and magazines had infiltrated the Communist half of Europe through the book mailing program.”
Second: For almost a thousand years, when the Catholic Church had all Europe’s power and glory, we called it the Dark Ages. This period of faith and filth endured almost a thousand years until a counter-narrative we called the Renaissance brought light to darkness. And the Renaissance was fueled by the Greek classics — Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, etc. — translated into Latin. Life is always a battle of ideas.
Since the ideas of the ancient Greeks were largely responsible for dethroning the Catholic Church after the Dark Ages, it is exceedingly curious that the great Renaissance artist Raphael painted The School of Athens in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican. Obviously, Raphael knew what he was doing while Vatican officials were clueless.
It is astonishing that Raphael’s School of Athens depicts the glorification of science and the search for truth in an institution that respected neither, not then, not now. Among the 50 or so men in this painting, stands a single woman, Hypatia of Alexandria. She was the first noteworthy woman in mathematics as well as philosophy and astronomy in late Greek times. The most famous quotation attributed to her was: “All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.” For this reason, the local bishop, Cyril, hated her. He had a group of his thugs skin her alive with oyster shells on the steps of the Library of Alexandria, and the Catholic Church later made him a saint. The Dark Ages effectively began that day — the year was 415 AD. Yet, here she is wrapped in pure white robes, the only figure in the entire painting looking directly at the viewer (located at 7 o’clock from Plato). And after more than a thousand years, she declares, “freedom, reason, and truth will win the day.” Such is the power of her counter-narrative that Raphael recognized and painted.
Third: A New Counter-Narrative
We live in a very special time; a time when the despotic rulers of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Indonesia and other such countries cannot, I repeat cannot, block PDF downloads onto computers, tablets, iPads, or smartphones. Muslims young and old can safely read these without the knowledge of their religious or political authorities.
My counter-narrative proposal rests on the premise of a receptive audience in the Muslim world. Fortunately, this has already been confirmed. An Iraqi called Bassam Al-Baghdadi, who now lives in Sweden, has translated Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion into Arabic. It’s reception has been phenomenal. What follows comes from the Huffington Post (05/09/2016):
To say that Bassam’s work has been well received would be an understatement. The PDF was downloaded ten million times, with 30 per cent going to Saudi Arabia. Bassam said that there were over 1,000 downloads on the very first day after he uploaded it, and the numbers only climbed as the translation was picked up and shared on the blogs, websites and forums of prominent Arab atheists.
In the battle of ideas, this is reason to hope. Since Saudi Arabia has only 31 million people that means at least one person in ten has an Arabic copy of the The God Delusion — a completely unexpected outcome. Only the intentionally blind will not see this as the way forward to save us from killing each other. The USA has wasted between 5 and 7 trillion dollars destroying Iraq leaving death and destruction in its wake while creating numerous terrorist groups. The chaos of war has left many in the East open to the worst form of Islam, the radicalism of Wahhabism, Arabia’s main export. The time has come for a new counter-narrative. Click the book cover at the left to download a free PDF of this transformative book in Arabic.
I propose that the West flood the Islamic world with secular books, not bombs. As the old adage says, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and a lot less bloody. Every other “solution” involves guns, bombs, and death. Following in the footsteps Bassam Al-Baghdadi, a book I wrote called Allah, Jesus, and Yahweh: The Gods That Failed, is being translated into Arabic.
Prof. James Alcock, York University, one of the founders along with James Randi and Martin Gardner of the Skeptical Inquirer wrote the following blurb for my book:
This an extremely impressive book, one which should enlighten any open-minded reader,theist and non-theist alike. Harrison transports the reader from the ancient battle at Marathon across two millennia, following the march of civilization to the present day. He shows in a clear and engaging manner the moral corruption that is inherent in the ancient texts that continue to serve as the scriptural foundations of modern religions. His compelling mixture of philosophy, theology, astronomy, psychology and physics, presented always in a very accessible and entertaining style, persuasively demonstrates how science illuminates and promotes understanding while religion ossifies thinking patterns and all too often produces intergroup conflict. I highly recommend this book to all. This was a most enjoyable read.
How Can You Help? You can help this campaign by donating something — large or small. Get involved. As a free person, this is your chance to stand and delivery. The cost of translation is $?????, all monies, every cent, will go toward the translation. For every donation, I’m giving away a free PDF of my 380 page book Allah, Jesus, and Yahweh: The Gods That Failed in English.
Thomas Jefferson well understood that “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” A seminal struggle between an enlightened people and the Army of the Night first occurred in September of 490 BC on a sea-side plane in Greece. The Persian hordes were invading, and then as now, freedom and democracy confronted slavery and dictatorship. Although incredibly outnumbered — perhaps 6 to 1 — the Greeks triumphed over Xerxes’ army losing only 192 soldiers while thousands of Persians perished.
The Greek dramatist Aeschylus and his brother fought that day. And after pursuing the fleeing Persians to their ships his brother was slaughtered on the beach. The dramatist wrote 90 plays — several on freedom. But he thought more of his stand against slavery and dictatorship than all his plays combined for when he died his tombstone mentioned nothing of them. It simply said, “I fought at Marathon.” May we have something of equal power and purpose to record!