"It makes no sense to differentiate between Islam and Islamism. One, sympathetically, probably tries to say that Islam is a normal religion, but the point is that Islam by its nature is a political movement, and that the religious dimension is cosmetic."
Danish MP Søren Espersen met Ayaan Hirsi Ali an hour before her guest speech at the annual grand meeting of the Danish Peoples' Party.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks quietly, pronouncing each word carefully, and a friendly sense of perfection. Sensible for what she is: An intellectual, who had the good fortune to have studied at a school still dedicated to the good, solid education still provided in what used to be called "British East Africa".
I am talking with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the suite at her hotel, an hour before she is to give her long speech to the delegates of the Danish Peoples' Party in Herning Congress Center.
And I notice that she is nervous for holding the speech. Sure, there is an audience of 800, and the entire Danish press will be present, but still I had expected that she was used to similar large events in the Netherlands, in the US, Great Britain, France, and sort of had gotten used to it. Suddenly I realize that this is not really nervousness, but rather a humility for the upcoming major speech, a humility typical of the genuinely great.
And Ayaan Hirsi Ali truly is one of the genuinely great. The evening before, when I received her along with Pia Kjærsgaard and chief of staff Jeanie Nørhave, Jeanie asked, halfway joking, if she should perform curtsy on the arrival of the guests? We agreed that this probably would not be necessary after all, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not a queen. But I recall getting a glance of Jeanie performing curtsy after all.... Well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali might not be a queen, but she does possess this undefinable as if she were the Queen of Saba causing people meeting her to seriously consider, if not a bow or a curtsy would be appropriate.
Her main cause is the written and spoken showdown with Islam. That showdown is put forth in a quiet manner, friendly and smiling, and without ever losing her temper. An impressive show of psychological strength, which makes her opponents curse her yet another time.
"I see no hope of changing the imams," she says, "my hope is that I primarily will reach the Muslim woman, who is kept in ignorance, and make her understand that there is a much richer life outside of the Shariah," says Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
"I have a hard time understanding why I do not, as a matter of cause, am receiving help from everyone in the West. It would seem strange that in particular the Western, intellectual elite quite obviously does not understand the danger that Islam poses to the entire Western way of life."
It also surprises me that Christians are not making a greater effort to convert Muslims to Christianity. One may wonder why I, being an atheist, would say this. But I know that for millions of Muslim women and men, a life without some spiritual dimension would be unthinkable. To live a life without God would not be possible. That is a step too far for them. Many would not be able to live without a belief and a congregation, and here Christian mission would constitute an attractive alternative to Islam.
Our politicians are in the process of whitewashing Jihad, just as they speak of Islam as a 'Religion of peace' some sort of meditation or yoga... But this is an illusion. For if one adheres to Islam, one has submitted to the law of Islam, Sharia.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is focusing on the woman as key to the showdown with Islam even though exactly the women of her own childhood, the mother and the grandmother, were exactly the opposite: The ones desperately holding on to Islam.
It was my father who wanted me and my sister to attend school, and my mother who warned him: If they attend school and start to learn, they will change they will leave our traditions, she said. And she was right. In order to keep Shariah in place in Muslim families, one must not send the girls to school... But we are increasingly seeing a development, in the Islamic world as well as in the West, where more and more girls are getting educated and thus it becomes increasingly difficult for the men to keep them ignorant.
But how does this fit with the many educated female Islamists in the West, I ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
Well, she says, there is education, and there is education... These women, whom I know perfectly well from my public meetings in various places, have consciously signed up with a political movement, and have utopian imaginations of a paradise-like Shariah society and these are the missionaries. On the other hand, the education that I talk about is the education to become an independent and free human being,, which you will become by necessity if you gain knowledge and start asking critical questions also to the Quran.
Those women and men who come to the West, are told by the Muslim Brotherhood through their imams: You are now a believer among infidels. Now you must make an effort to make the true faith gain a foothold. For these imams, this is about making the newcomers hate the lifestyle of the country they have arrived in. And what kind of resistance are they meeting in the West? Unfortunately not much. Instead they are met with 'understanding' from the rulers when they want to erect mosques. One believes that in this way we will win their love but among Muslims, this approach is perceived as a weakness.
Instead we have to tell them: If Shariah means justice and truth why then have you come here? Why do you not travel to a place where Shariah is already implemented, which should be a paradise for you? When some then say this, they are called 'Islamophobes', while in reality these people are freedom fighters. For they are not resisting a religion they are resisting a political movement. And just as it was legitimate for a liberal to speak against communism, it is similarly legitimate to speak against Islam.
Thus, I consider the distinction between Islam and Islamism to be purely cosmetic. This is done only for strategic reasons, unfortunately supported by Western leaders from the presidents Bush and Obama to the politicians of Europe. The are even working to whitewash Jihad, just as it is being said that Islam is a religion of peace some sort of meditation or yoga... But this is an illusion. For once you adhere to Islam, you submit to the law of Islam, which is Sharia, says Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Islam is submission.
I then inquire if, from the point of view of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there is still hope for Europe amid this massive Islamic advance:
Five years ago, when I left the Netherlands, I was disillusioned. But yes, now in 2010 I see hope ahead for Europe, she says. I see new hope, when the Swiss vote against minarets, when Geert Wilders becomes supporting party for the Dutch government, when people mobilize against the Ground Zero mosque, when France bans burqa and niqab, and when even the very cautious Germans are starting to discuss loudly. I feel that people are waking up. And we must never be afraid of telling things the way they are. We have to bring back politics to what it used to be not change our systems in order to accommodate Islam.
In brief, we must already now make the definite decision if we want Shariah or democracy, says Ayaan Hirsi Ali, do we want the same set of rules to apply to all, in freedom or will we submit to Shariah. That exactly is the question.