Ayaan Hirsi Ali has visited Australia at least five times as far as she can remember. But this time, her lecture tour starting this week to discuss the dangers of what she calls radical Islam, or political Islam, is receiving far more scrutiny. A group of prominent Muslim women, from playwrights to human rights campaigners, from conservative Muslims to the most progressive, don’t want this tour to proceed unchallenged.
They have organised a petition expressing their “utmost disappointment” that Hirsi Ali was invited by Think Inc to Australia, due to what they say is the “hatemongering and bigotry” she espouses. Her views, they argue, serve to “increase hostility and hatred towards Muslims”, and ignore the day-to-day work of many to improve social cohesion and to champion women’s rights within their faith.
The incident highlights the complexity, confusion and emotion around the way Islam is now discussed in the west. Populist parties in Europe and in Australia such as One Nation, call for Muslim immigration to be banned, and for no new mosques to be built, with Pauline Hanson declaring that “Islam is a disease”.
Radical Islamists, citing Islamic texts as their inspiration, continue their brutality against civilians – the majority of whom are Muslims. An estimated 30,000 foreign fighters have joined them, including more than 100 from Australia.
Every day Muslims are harassed and abused, particularly if wearing visible signs of their faith such as the hijab head covering. They are weary of the demands to defend their faith and prove their patriotism whenever an atrocity occurs, when their understanding and practice of Islam is the polar opposite of Islamic extremism.