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Global Viewpoint

America should not apologize for values that clash with hostile Islam

In an interview, 'Infidel' author Ayaan Hirsi Ali says violent protests against an anti-Islam video stem from a religion and culture with no room for criticism. 'Westerners should quit the moral relativist posturing and get down to the hard work of defending their values,' she says.

By Nathan Gardels and Ayaan Hirsi Ali / September 18, 2012

Muslim demonstrators burn US flags during a protest against a film they consider blasphemous to Islam, in the southern Indian city of Chennai Sept. 18. In an interview, Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks of an irreconcilable clash of civilizations: 'The First Amendment in America will not be compromised, and the Muslim world will not accept that people who supposedly insult their icons will go unpunished.'

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the author of “Infidel.” She was forced into hiding in Holland after making a film on Islam and women called “Submission” with Theo van Gogh. Mr. Van Gogh was killed on the street in Amsterdam by extremist Muslim activists. Ms. Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States. She was interviewed last week by Global Viewpoint Network editor-in-chief Nathan Gardels. 

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Nathan Gardels: One is tempted to say “here we go again,” yet another episode of worldwide violence and protests against an insult to the prophet Muhammad. There was the Salman Rushdie fatwa, the Danish cartoon, and your own case in Holland, where your partner in a film about Islam and women was assassinated in Amsterdam. Now some marginal YouTube video disrespecting the Muslim faith has swept the world, inflaming the pious and mobilizing the militant.

Is there anything different this time around, or are they all of a piece?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I would say they are all of a piece in the sense that they all stem from the same thing: a political ideology embedded in a 1,400-year-old religion and culture that makes no room for any criticism of its foundational father and sacred texts. When it comes to the Koran and the prophet, Muslims are equally offended by any work they perceive as disrespectful of those two icons: from the current Quran project in Germany, which is a serious academic work, to the notorious film on YouTube. For the average Muslim it is all an attack on the faith.

Gardels: One difference between previous episodes and this one, as you alluded to, is that it comes in the wake of the Arab Spring. Now the masses are free to speak their minds and have elected their own leaders such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The Islamists are now the mainstream – and they are as angry and insulted, as what used to be seen in the West as the militant margins.

Hirsi Ali: What we are seeing in the wake of the protests in the Arab world is an aversion to tyrannical rule whether it is a secular dictator or a religious monarchy. Where the dictators fell we saw – and I have always said this – a strong vote for a system of government informed by political Islam. The mainstream Brotherhood never made a secret of their commitment to a political and moral framework based on Islamic law. So it should not surprise us in the least that the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are insulted by unflattering depictions of their moral guide.

Gardels: The Muslim-majority country closest to the West is Turkey, a democracy and also a member of NATO. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, “Insulting the prophet cannot be considered as freedom of expression.” On this, there is no compromise.

Hirsi Ali: And here is what President Obama said when asked to qualify the initial statement made by the American Embassy in Cairo:

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