HIRSI ALI, Ayaan
Reconnecting with my extended family – cousins and my own half-sister – who live in the US, the UK and elsewhere, I found them tragically unsteady on their feet. One has Aids, another has been indicted for attempting to murder her husband, and a third sends all the money he makes back home to Somalia to feed the clan.
They all claim to be loyal to the values of our tribe and of Allah. They are permanent residents and citizens of western countries, but their hearts and minds lie elsewhere. I believe that the dysfunctional Muslim family constitutes a real threat to the very fabric of western life. It is in the family that children are groomed to practise, promote and pass on the norms of their parents' culture. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we understand the dynamics of the Muslim family, for they hold the key to the susceptibility of so many young Muslim men to Islamic radicalism. It is above all through families that conspiracy theories travel from the mosques and madrasas of Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the living rooms of homes in Holland, France and America.
I see three main barriers to the process of Muslim integration. The first is Islam's treatment of women. The will of little girls is stifled by Islam. They are reared to become submissive robots. They are required to comply with their father's choice of a mate, and after the wedding their lives are devoted to the sexual pleasures of their husband and to a life of childbearing.
The second is the difficulty many immigrants from Muslim countries have in dealing with money. Islamic attitudes toward credit and debt, and the lack of education of Muslim women about financial matters, means that most new immigrants arrive in the west wholly unprepared for the bewildering range of opportunities and obligations presented by a modern consumer society.
The third obstacle is the socialisation of the Muslim mind. All Muslims are reared to believe that the Qur'an, as "revealed" to Muhammad, is infallible and must be obeyed without question. This makes Muslims vulnerable to indoctrination in a way that followers of other faiths are not. Moreover, the violence that is endemic in so many Muslim societies, from domestic violence to the incessant celebration of holy war, adds to the difficulty of turning people from that world into western citizens. I can sum up the three obstacles to the integration of people like my own family in three words: sex, money and violence.
The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons. The veil sets women apart from men and apart from the world; it restrains them, confines them, grooms them for docility. A mind can be cramped just as a body may be, and a Muslim veil blinkers both your vision and your destiny. It is the mark of a kind of apartheid, not the domination of a race but of a sex.
I would not have put it this way in those days, but because I was born a woman, I could never become an adult. I would always be a minor, my decisions made for me. I would always be a unit in a vast beehive. I might have a decent life, but I would be dependent—always—on someone treating me well.
I knew that another kind of life was possible. I had read about it, and now I could see it, smell it in the air around me: the kind of life I had always wanted, with a real education, a real job, a real marriage. I wanted to make my own decisions. I wanted to become a person, an individual, with a life of my own.