“Has Ayaan Hirsi Ali Fully Rejected Religion?”
To the Editor:
In his review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Nomad (TOS Fall 2011), Joseph Kellard expressed disappointment that Hirsi Ali “promotes Christianity as a means to bring Western ideas to Muslim minds,” and he suggested that she might instead have advocated adherence to Enlightenment philosophy, especially as she identifies Enlightenment thinking as the source of the good aspects within current Christian teachings.
In a June 2010 interview in the Washington Examiner, Hirsi Ali provided an explanation for this seeming inconsistency. Perhaps it will please Mr. Kellard as it does me:
[Washington Examiner:] Mark Steyn and Oriana Fallaci say that Christianity is the best bulwark against militant Islam, but Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others say atheism—or at least secularism—are the best. How do you fall down on the question?
[Hirsi Ali:] I agree with both. For those militant Islamists who find themselves falling away from their faith, I welcome them to atheism. But I get many letters from Islamic people who say they cannot live without spirituality, without God, and Christianity is a good answer for them.
Mr. Kellard cites several passages from Nomad that seem overly tolerant of religious positions and thus raise the possibility Hirsi Ali may not have fully rejected religion. But her remark that “I welcome them [ex-Muslims] to atheism” suggests that she is an atheist, that she regards Christianity as false, but that she also sees it as less bad than Islam and as a possible waypoint on the road to a free mind.