Q. You’ve said Islam cannot coexist with democracy. Is that a blanket condemnation of the religion?
A. Of the faith as a doctrine, not of Muslims. Islam is a set of beliefs, a way of life, that is opposed to freedom as we understand it in the West. But Muslims are people, very varied in their beliefs.
Q. Others, like Khaleel Muhammad, distinguish moderate from radical Islam. Why don’t you?
A. Islam does have values that allow followers to live in democracy, like prayer, fasting and the obligation to give to the poor. Muslims can practice those and live harmlessly in society. But they have a choice on how much doctrine they will practice.
Q. Yet you say Islam is evil?
A. It’s an enemy of freedom. It demands submission to the will of God, to an outside force. Allah’s will is expressed in Quran and Hadith. You’re not responsible for your behavior, past or future. A free individual assumes responsibility.
Islam says life, liberty, happiness, start in the hereafter, and in this life, people have to live by rules in Quran and the Hadith. Only those who have passed that exam will go to heaven. If you think this through, you have to die before you can live. Nothing is more opposed to liberty than that.
Freedom also says an individual can choose his own faith, or not to have a faith. Islam gives no freedom to the individual; it says we must follow the regulations in the holy book.
Q. Couldn’t you say the same of Christianity and Judaism?
A. I’m talking mainly in the context of Islam. Also, Islam refuses to acknowledge separation of church and state and the equality of men and women, and it divides the world between believers and unbelievers.
Q. Are Western countries too liberal?
A. You can’t be too liberal. But Western countries tell Muslims that they are free to retain their beliefs and habits and customs. I think that definition is wrong. You can’t keep your customs and habits if they interfere with others.
In Europe, men were starting to take daughters out of school at puberty. Some were sending their daughters back to their countries of origin, so that forced marriages or honor killings could be done. All of it was justified in the name of custom and religion.
Q. What of American Muslims, who seem to live in peace here?
A. That’s difficult to answer because of the American ideal of innocent until proved guilty. But we should just say that jihad and oppression of women are not allowed, that we separate church and state and don’t kill homosexuals. That may not be politically correct, but Muslims would know where they stand with the law.
Q. Don’t Muslims already understand that?
A. In Canada, in the summer of 2005, I was invited to help Muslim women protest the introduction of Sharia [Islamic law] into the arbitration system of family matters in Ontario. That would put women at a disadvantage. Fortunately, the government woke up at the last moment and said no.
Q. In a global poll by the BBC, most people said conflict between Muslims and the West is not inevitable. Most also said that the tensions were by politics, not religion and culture. Do you agree?
A. Conflict is not inevitable. But in Islam, politics and religion not separated. So a political problem is usually a cultural and religious problem.
Q. One journalist said your criticism assumes the West is rational and right, and that it feeds Islamophobia.
A. I deny that. What I always defend is Western culture as superior to Islamic culture. Human beings are equal; cultures are not.
Islam is not a race, it’s a religion. And you can criticize a religion. And criticism of ideas only helps improve them, and replace them with better ideas.
Commentary and analysis:
Ms. Ali is a growing voice in the world, and her views gathered from an intimate experience with elements of Islam are gaining traction, not just among neo-cons, but among the general population as well. She is despised of course by many, which is thoroughly understanadable, but her views are becoming more often repeated by those not just in neo-con circles but among the mainstream in Western society. While some voices, mostly liberal and some moderate, are inclined to distrust her views, her own experience with Islam, genital mutiliation a case in point, may give her voice authenticity.
Candidly an open dialogue, without fear of being labeled politically incorrect is needed about the basic tenets of Islam. This is saying that Ms Ali’s view lack credibility or are inherently correct. What is needed is for the population at large, particularly the American population as we are the enemy to many within Islam, to understand what their faith actually believes, and to consider its place within our Republic. Certainly Muslims are entitled to Constitutional protections, even if their views are inconsistent with Democracy. However, an honest look into their beliefs and how it effects their practices is a reasonable conclusion.
Ms. Ali seems to embrace many of the cultural context which our society rightly places with the role of religion being subordinate to the state. Many would take exception to her comments, and ask about the role of religious conservatives within elements of the GOP, and also of Black Churches historical alignment with Democratic politics. The views and content of this author are vital for all in our Republic to understand and analyze.
The final comment she gives about cultural superiority is a very worthwhile topic for debate.