Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the Jesus Movement

There are differences between Christianity and Islam; there is no moral equivalence.

“My observation is yes, Christianity is different from Islam…The worst thing that a Christian has ever said to me, the rudest thing that a Christian has ever said to me, the thing that made me most uncomfortable that a Christian said to me was ‘I’m going to pray for you. I hope you will be safe. I hope you will be redeemed.’ But within my own family and my own community, when I say I’m in doubt about the Koran and Muhammad and life after death and all that, it is ‘well, you are to die.’

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial Muslim-turned-atheist, told a National Press Club audience last week some hard facts about Islam and its propensity toward violence. But her remarks about Christianity—about its capacity to soften sectarian hatreds—may prove an even tougher pill to swallow.

The New York Times best-selling author is promoting her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. For over a decade, Hirsi Ali has argued that Islam is not a religion of peace and tolerance. Although Islamic belief does not make Muslims naturally violent, she says, the call for violence is explicitly justified in the sacred texts of Islam. “This theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses,” she writes, “including but not limited to apostasy, adultery, blasphemy, and even something as vague as threats to family honor or to the honor of Islam itself.”

In her National Press Club talk, Hirsi Ali admitted that her initial hope for many Muslims was that they would convert—to Christianity. “Back then I was promoting the idea, if you’re a peace-loving, tolerant Muslim and you want to be religious, why not convert to Christianity?” She confessed to sending “a very naïve letter” to the Pope, imploring him to “capture the hearts and minds of all of these millions of people who are spiritual, in search of redemption.”

Hirsi Ali no longer believes that strategy is practical; it is not easy for people to reject the religion of their birth and their families. Hence her agenda for reform: what Islam needs now, she says, is a revolution akin to that which transformed Christianity in the sixteenth century.

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