'Prey: immigration, Islam and the erosion of women's rights', the latest book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Few women in the world are at the centre of so much hostility and accusations of hypocrisy as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She denounces Islam for its absolutism and intolerance, discredits the religion of more than a billion people by calling it ''the religion of a billion people''.nihilistic death cult'.. Her story perhaps makes her antagonism understandable: she was forced to undergo genital mutilation as a child in Somalia, she fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage and as an adult she saw her life threatened by Muslim extremists so many times that she had to travel with an escort. But she herself refuses to describe this as sexist and presumptuous.

She calls herself an 'infidel', while many Muslims say she is just an Islamophobe. It has been included in a list of targets of Al Qaeda and has been described as an anti-Muslim 'extremist' by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Praises Western liberalism and suggests that Islam is so incompatible with it that Western democracies should consider suspending their core values for their own self-preservation. She is a refugee calling for an end to asylum as we know it.

His latest work raises these inconsistencies. In "Preda: immigration, Islam and the erosion of women's rights'.Hirsi Ali argues that immigration from Muslim-majority countries endangers the hard-won rights of European women.

The Muslim men -which according to Hirsi Ali are accustomed to segregated societies, where female modesty is imposed and women are harassed in public life- arrived in Europe en masse during the migration crisis of the previous decade, bringing with them old orthodoxies - with their violent application - to their new homes in the North. As a result, he says, theew women in Europe face endemic sexual harassment and violence. Worse still, in an attempt not to be seen as xenophobic or to feed the growing right-wing nationalism, liberal Europeans are complicit in their own growing oppression, rejecting misogyny as mere multiculturalism even as Western women are assaulted, forced to cover their bodies and chased off the streets of their cities. Hirsi Ali calls for a new feminist movement in which the true feminists are "willing to defend the rights of all women', and unite around the issue of 'the safety of women from predatory men'.".

These are certainly laudable goals for the feminist movement, and it is precisely for this reason that one might ask: isn't this what the feminist movement is all about? feminists have been doing all this time? It is. Feminists around the world have been fighting for more freedoms for women, putting the right to be free from male violence at the centre of their efforts, and consistently rejecting the argument that patriarchal abuse is excusable in some cultures. So it is rather strange to see Hirsi Ali claiming that feminists have created a quasi-paradise of liberalism for women in the Western world, and then accusing them of not caring adequately about women's rights because they want their homelands to open their doors to safe haven seekers, regardless of religion. But this is the double right hook of "Prey"that swears allegiance to Western liberalism, and then pursues ideas and policies that would undermine it. It is a dizzying rhetorical style and only succeeds in knocking out men with straw tails.

In an attempt to point out that hordes of sexually violent Muslim men are rolling back women's rights in Europe, Hirsi Ali digs into crime data, newspaper articles and social science research. She talks to a handful of law enforcement officials, people working on the integration of immigrants and average citizens. She commendably admits that the data is extremely limited, but that doesn't stop her from insisting that it still supports her claims. She shares horrific reports of women and girls being harassed, assaulted and raped by Muslim asylum seekers to bolster her argument. If readers did not know better, they would be convinced that most sexual crimes in Western Europe are committed by Muslim migrants against unknown European women. They are not. The men who pose the greatest threat to European women are the same category of men who pose the greatest threat to women all over the world: the men women know.

Hirsi Ali realises he is generalising, he writes; he is not saying that all Muslim men are rapists. He is saying that young men from conservative Muslim societies come to Europe - and most of the newcomers are young men - having been previously steeped in deeply misogynistic cultures and subject to laws that offer women fewer rights than men. This affects their behaviour, he argues; something Western liberals, who pray at the altar of cultural relativism, do not want to acknowledge. "When it comes to migrants and minorities"writes "providing cultural explanations for their behaviour towards women is taboo'..

But is it? In the same book, Hirsi Ali rightly criticises a German judge for acquitting a rapist "due to lack of understanding by migrant sex offenders of the sexual self-determination of Western women". Is it taboo to talk about cultural factors driving sexual violence? Or is the problem rather that too often European authorities justify sexual violence at the hands of Muslim immigrants by pointing to cultural factors? In Hirsi Ali's narrative, the answer changes according to what suits her. And any attempt to truly explore the complex factors that explain entrenched poverty, educational segregation and higher crime rates in immigrant communities - any attempt, that is, that goes beyond simply blaming religion and culture - is relegated to what she calls "The Playbook of Denial".

This instinctive oversimplification is particularly frustrating, especially coming from a woman of steel and great intelligence. Hirsi Ali is right that Europeans and North Americans are grappling with the moral complexities of immigration law, in a world where conflict and crisis have driven so many people from their homes that the stakes of tough anti-immigration laws are high (just ask the families of the tens of thousands of souls who drowned in the Mediterranean); and that European welfare states are both generous and easily endangered, and that we are increasingly aware that our opportunities and basic physical security often depend on the random luck of where or to whom we are born. He is right when he says that a well-intentioned commitment to tolerance can easily be exploited, and that women's rights are often the first to be sacrificed in the service of cultural relativism. But an interested reader will not find a thoughtful analysis in this book.

Even a reader like me - a reader who revels in a bit of happy blasphemy, yearns for greater secularism and unrepentant atheism, and welcomes the mockery of misogynistic fundamentalists of any religion (taboos and tolerance be damned) - could not find much to applaud. Like the fundamentalist religious views that both you and I detest, "Prey"is too absolutist to be credible. One could also say that it is cut with a certain bigotry.

Hirsi Ali seems to cling to the stereotype of black men threatening virtuous white women -a particular kind of fear with a long and ugly history. European colonisers emphasised the idea of African and Arab men as sexually aggressive and uncontrolled, and white women as their desired victims. European colonisers were concerned about the 'black danger' of African rapists, which was also used to justify colonialism and the pervasive racist violence that resulted. During the French occupation of Germany after the First World War, German newspapers gave the (false) alarm of a 'black plague' of mass rapes and murders by Senegalese troops in the French army. Hitler blamed the Jews for bringing in the Africans. And Hirsi Ali, who stresses the importance of assimilation and now lives in the US, is certainly not ignorant of this country's history. "Make any list of anti-black terrorism in the US, and you will also have a list of attacks justified by the spectre of black rape."Jamelle Bouie wrote in 2015 after Dylann Roof killed nine people in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and told the black congregation: 'You are raping our women, and you are taking over our country: you have to leave'. Donald Trump, the most xenophobic American president in living memory, has often used the threat of white girls being raped by immigrant men to justify his draconian immigration policies.

Instead of being virtuous because of their submission, motherhood or innocence - the usual surrender of white women in need of protection - European women in "Prey"are virtuous because of their liberal feminist values and are also vulnerable because of them. But this is where Hirsi Ali reveals the game. After spending much of the book presenting herself as a defender of these same values, she is ultimately prepared to give them up if it means keeping certain immigrants out. Proposed solutions include increased police forces, harsher criminal sanctions and invasion of privacy. Although he says he has "thought deeply about the apparent paradox of using illiberal means to achieve liberal ends"In the end, it decides that the ends do indeed justify the means. Even the "privacy-obsessed Germans" states could be persuaded to accept the use of video surveillance, artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology in "neighbourhoods in difficulty".

Hirsi Ali suggests abolishing the current asylum programmewhich offers a safe haven to those who are persecuted, and proposes instead that European nations adopt immigration policies in which "the main criterion for granting residence should be the extent to which one is willing to respect the laws and adopt the values of their host society". According to Hirsi Ali, this means assessing whether migrants have the skills to work for a wage - a requirement that could limit the granting of legal status to many female asylum seekers and refugees, who tend to be less educated than their male counterparts. It is unclear whether Hirsi Ali herself, who wore the hijab as a teenager and supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, he would be granted asylum under his own rules. Yet this is where his illiberalism really shines through. "All liberal institutions are based on this idea". writes that "the individual, whether male or female, is recognised as a decision-maker responsible for his or her behaviour". At the heart of this concept of liberal individualism is a 'liberalism'.opposition to collective punishment, and an idea that individual responsibility means that a person's wrongdoing does not involve his or her family, race or religious group. There is no such concept of individual rights and responsibilities in the Muslim world, he says, where group identity takes precedence. That is why, he writes, Muslims have a "victimhood complex"when sex crime laws, which they do not recognise as valid, are applied against Muslim men: "Since the individual is inextricably linked to the group, the condemnation of the individual is considered a vilification of the group"..

It is Hirsi Ali, however, who does exactly that: she finds stories of individual Muslim immigrants committing heinous crimes, and by suggesting that those stories are broadly representative she uses them to justify limiting the opportunities available to the whole group. This is not, as she suggests, a feminism that fights for women's rights. It is a feminism of reaction, which would undermine those liberal values that Hirsi Ali implores feminists to protect.

Original article here (translation by Elisa Vilardo)

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