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Revisiting Hell Upon Somalia PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Saturday, 20 May 2006 02:10
Revisiting Hell Upon Somalia

AG
- Tom Porteous - Today Somalia is suffering from the worst bout of violence in more than ten years. It has become a new front in the war on terror as a coalition of warlords backed by the United States battle with Islamists for control of the capital, Mogadishu. The fighting -- in which scores have been killed in recent days -- is the culmination of years of failed Western policies and neglect, and deliberate destabilisation on the part of the United States' regional ally, Ethiopia.

www.agenceglobal.com

Two Tragedies:
Hirsi Ali and Somalia

Tom Porteous

Agence Global
May 20, 2006

Copyright ? 2006 Tom Porteous / Agence Global
[republished at PEJ News with permission of AG]


Ayaan Hirsi Ali appears on her way to the United States (and tenure at the American Enterprise Institute) after her immigration scandal erupted in the Netherlands. Tom Porteous compares her celebrity and attacks on Islam to the struggles of those seeking reconciliation in her native Somalia.


If Ayaan Hirsi Ali lied to speed up her asylum claim in the Netherlands, then good for her and shame on her former political allies who are now hounding her out of office and country for having done so.

Hirsi Ali's home country of Somalia in the early 1990s was (as it remains) one of the most violent places in the world and the source of a vast wave of desperate refugees. Asylum seekers often have to tell lies to get what they want, just as they have to part with hard earned money to get to Europe or North America across heavily guarded borders and coastlines.

What makes Hirsi Ali special is that within a few years of getting her Dutch citizenship she had carved out a successful career as a media personality and the world's most famous Dutch politician -- and good for her for achieving that too. Hirsi Ali is clearly an enterprising, ambitious and passionate young woman.

But do her shrill criticisms of Islam and much that Islamic culture stands for -- criticisms which are given ample, incessant and often uncritical airing in the Western media -- make her morally courageous, as her many supporters in Europe and North America claim? I think not.

This is not to say that Hirsi Ali does not have guts. She would never have achieved her present celebrity (and earning power) had she not gone out on a limb to criticise not just Islamic radicalism but Islam itself. It takes guts, not to mention a certain recklessness, to call the Prophet Mohammed a tyrant and a pervert. But moral courage?

Hirsi Ali's controversial film Submission famously led to the brutal murder by a Moroccan immigrant extremist of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who helped her to produce it. That gruesome event shot her to international fame. She subsequently received numerous death threats which ever since have forced her to live a semi-clandestine life with 24-hour police protection.

That is a terrible story and it must be hard for Hirsi Ali to live with it. But the fact that one's political/artistic collaborator has been murdered, that one has received death threats, and that one has to live under constant armed guard does not automatically make one a person of moral integrity and courage.

Hirsi Ali does not speak truth to power. She does not stand up for the weak against the powerful. Her main enemies are a minority of extremists among the Muslim immigrant communities in Europe. They may be wrong, bigoted and murderous. But powerful? No.

On the contrary, it is Hirsi Ali who has aligned herself with power against the weak -- with those European and American movements and organisations which have lobbied for and supported the bombing, invasion, cooption and domination of weak Muslim nations by the most powerful military machine the world has ever seen, on the dubious grounds that they are spreading an ideology which will overtake the world unless it is checked by brute force.

Hirsi Ali has fed that argument. As a black, Muslim woman she has given it a credibility and authenticity that its mostly white, male proponents badly need.

Perhaps the poorest and weakest of those beleaguered Muslim nations is the country of Hirsi Ali's birth. Today Somalia is suffering from the worst bout of violence in more than ten years. It has become a new front in the war on terror as a coalition of warlords backed by the United States battle with Islamists for control of the capital, Mogadishu. The fighting -- in which scores have been killed in recent days -- is the culmination of years of failed Western policies and neglect, and deliberate destabilisation on the part of the United States' regional ally, Ethiopia.

The battle for Mogadishu signals a new aggressive U.S. approach to Somalia. But, typical of the whole U.S. strategy in the war on terror, this is an approach that will set back even further Somalia's chances of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction; make Somalia's Islamist movement more influential and more extremist; and, make Africa's poorest nation more, not less, vulnerable to exploitation by local and foreign terrorists.

There are men and women of real moral courage in Somalia who are standing up to warlords, religious extremists and external manipulation alike. They are risking and sometimes losing their lives in pursuit of dialogue and reconciliation, and in an effort to explain the Somali situation to a largely indifferent outside world.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (now headed, it is reported, for a job at the influential neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C) is not one of these people. Like the Islamic extremists she and her supporters condemn, she has framed the clash between Islam and the West in terms which pre-empt compromise and brook no dialogue or reconciliation. In the name of freedom of expression and democracy she serves power, and the perpetuation of conflict and injustice on which that power depends.



Tom Porteous
is a syndicated columnist and author, formerly with the BBC and the British Foreign Office.

Copyright ? 2006 Tom Porteous / Agence Global

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Released: 20 May 2006
Word Count: 820
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Advisory Release: 20 May 2006
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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation and The American Prospect, as well as expert commentary by William Beeman, Richard Bulliet, Juan Cole, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 May 2006 02:10
 

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