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Ayaan Hirsi Ali says Islam is not exactly a religion of peace, as President Obama says it is (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 22, 2015: It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Evidently, Ayaan Hirsi Ali believes that this is true -- or at least she hopes that it may be true.

As progressives and liberals know, President Barack Obama for understandable reasons likes to say that Islam is a religion of peace. Of course he does not want to upset the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world today, including many in the United States. (Recent news reports say that certain radicalized Muslims in Minneapolis, Minnesota, are leaving the U.S. to join ISIS.)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book may not upset all 1.6 billion Muslims around the world today, even though in theory it could. As she understands, it will predictably upset a certain number of Muslim fundamentalists, Medina Muslims as she styles them, and perhaps even some Mecca Muslims as well. So in her own way, she is risking martyrdom at the hands of some of her former co-religionists -- perhaps from Minneapolis.

In her new book HERETIC: WHY ISLAM NEEDS A REFORMATION NOW (2015), Ayaan Hirsi Ali discusses three groups of Muslims in the world today:

(1) Medina Muslims (scriptural fundamentalists);

(2) Mecca Muslims (by far the largest group);

(3) Muslim Dissidents (so-called heretics like herself).

As Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains, when the Prophet Mohammad lived in Mecca, where there were a lot of competing religious shrines, he attempted to persuade other people there to join his small but growing group of adherents to what became known as Islam. However, when he subsequently relocated in Medina, he became a political ruler there. "Unbelievers were still invited to submit to Allah, but after Medina they were attacked if they refused. If defeated, they were given the option to convert or to die. (Jews and Christians could retain their faith if they submitted to paying a special tax.)."

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Now, in the United States, political and social conservatives have for years now strengthened their ranks by denouncing the 1960s, as Philip Jenkins shows in his book DECADE OF NIGHTMARES: THE END OF THE SIXTIES AND THE MAKING OF EIGHTIES AMERICA (2006). But most anti-60s American conservatives do not tend to be as inclined toward violence as certain Medina Muslims tend to be.

I see the historical emergence in the Islamic world of the Medina Muslim group as parallel with the historical emergence of the anti-60s American conservatives. For further information about contemporary American conservatives, see Damon Linker's book THE THEOCONS: SECULAR AMERICA UNDER SIEGE (2006).

Ayaan Hirsi Ali poses an important question about the three groups she has constructed and then proceeds to give an answer to the question:

"How many Muslims belong to each group? Ed Husain of the Council of Foreign Relations estimates that only 3% of the world's Muslims understand Islam in the militant terms I associate with Muhammad's time in Medina. But out of the well over 1.6 billion believers, or 23% of the globe's population, that 48 million seems to be more than enough. (I would put the number significantly higher, based on survey data on attitudes toward Shariah in Muslim countries.)"

Ayaan Hirsi Ali clearly sees the Medina Muslims as the most problematic group. She spells our why in the following statement:

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"According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflict around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims. In 2013, there were nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks world-wide. The lion's share were in Muslim-majority countries, and many of the others were carried out by Muslims. By far the most numerous victims of Muslim violence -- including executions and lynchings not captured in these statistics -- are Muslims themselves."

For a relevant anthropological study of certain psychodynamics involved in Muslims' tendency toward violence, see Philip Carl Zalzman's book CULTURE AND CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST (2008).

Of course, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali points out Samuel Huntington discusses the tendencies toward violence in Islam in his controversial book THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER (1996). Partly in reply to Huntington's controversial thesis about certain kinds of cultural conditioning around the contemporary world, not just in Islamic cultures around the world, I wrote my article "The West Versus the Rest: Getting Our Cultural Bearings from Walter J. Ong" in the journal EME: EXPLORATIONS IN MEDIA ECOLOGY (2008): pages 271-282.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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