Activist and FGM Survivor: Islam Is ‘Not a Religion of Peace’

Barbara Boland | March 23, 2015
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“Islam, unreformed today, is not a religion of peace,” said well-known Somali-born activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who said on ABC’s “This Week” that the Muslim religion needs reform. In the interview, host Martha Raddatz charged that Ali’s views “incite people to be anti-Muslim,” but Ali held her ground.

Ali suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young girl in Somalia. She eventually escaped to Holland and participated in a documentary about the abuses that girls suffer in Muslim countries.

The documentary’s producer, Theo Van Gogh, was killed in broad daylight in Holland – the killer’s note was a threat for Ali. 

Ever since, Ali has used her notoriety to shed light on what she believes are the problems with the religion of her youth. Ali has had a fatwa issued against her and travels with bodyguards at all times.

In the interview, Ali says that modern Muslims belong to one of three groups: Medina believers, Mecca adherents or dissidents.

Medina Muslims are those that apply the Koran literally and “anything and everything” that Prophet Muhammad did after he moved to Medina. Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS fall into this category.

The second category, Mecca Muslims, include the vast majority of the world’s Muslims and its members are “peace loving.”

The third group includes Ali and Manal Omar from the United States Institute of Peace, who also participated in the interview. They are “dissidents” because they challenge believers. Omar is a practicing Muslim while Ali is now an atheist.

“All of us who are born into Islam, the minute we start to criticize religion within we’re labeled heretics, apostates. We’re condemned to death,” she said. “Change is going to come from the heretics.”

Ali argues that dissidents must work to convince Mecca Muslims to embrace change in the faith.  

On the other hand Omar argued that Muslims, properly-viewed, most hold each other to account. “It is not letting the clerics define your religion, but you, as personal responsibility,” she said.

Omar notes that the first word of the Koran means “read,” and finds it noteworthy that the first word is not pray, cover, fast, etc. “I think that was a direct command from God” in the Koran, she says.

“I take issue with that,” Ali responds. “Yes, the Koran says read, but the Koran also says kill. And there are Muslims who take that literally.”

Ali went on: “Yes the prophet Mohammed preached peace in Mecca, but later on...”

Host Martha Raddatz jumped in and interrupted Ali, “There are examples in the Bible, and in the Torah as well… Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord, shall surely be put to death…”

“But where are the Christians today who are forming movements like the Islamic State, who want to introduce Sharia Law, and apply it?” retorted Ali. “And look what happens when Sharia Law is applied! Wednesday, just this Wednesday, Muslims killed 100 other Muslims…”

“Should it be such a broad brush?... Doesn’t this incite people to be anti-Muslim?” interrupted Raddatz again.

Ali defended her message: "The message of this book isn't to attack Muslims... it's to say we need that courageous step, and that is to reform the religion from within."

Watch the interview below: