- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This is almost certainly an accidental implication, but in his review* today of “Infidel,” Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s memoir of growing up in the shadow of antimodern tribalism and Islamism, William Grimes makes it sound like Ali’s association with a conservative think tank is the worst fate of all:

Death threats have since driven Ms. Hirsi Ali to the United States, where she has accepted a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group.

This is a pity. As a politician, she focused Dutch minds on a subject they steadfastly ignored. In her brief career, she forced the government to keep statistics on honor killings, in which enraged family members murder sisters or daughters believed to have brought shame on the family or clan. Much to the surprise of the Dutch, it turned out that there were a lot of them. Unfortunately, Ms. Hirsi Ali is no longer in the Netherlands to point out these things.

Like I said, an accidental implication. But I can’t help but suspect that among bien pensant metropolitan liberals, Ali’s story is more potent because it is easily filtered through a prism of Western feminism. She can be claimed into their sisterhood as another victim of patriarchy - a particularly sinister and cruel variant of patriarchy, but a patriarchy all the same. This is a blinkered view of the true, totalistic threat of Islamism; it’s like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each thinks he feels something familiar, but between them they’ve missed the whole of the beast.

If this partial recognition of the threat brings on board the likes of New York Times book critics, that’s well and good. But we are not, to say the least, fighting a war to end genital mutilation.

* Anyone who clicked through the above link will have noticed I’m in error: William Grimes, not Janet Maslin, wrote the review of “Infidel.” Certainly in Grimes’ case, the larger point about liberal critics being more receptive to a story about Islamism’s effect on women, still holds. In any case, mea culpa.

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