Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a woman of courage.
She has not gone to ground even though al-Qaeda has a contract out on her life for reputed “crimes against Islam” – “A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away,” read a “Wanted” notice that appeared in Inspire, the English-language magazine published by the Yemen-based branch of the terror group.
Instead, the Somali-born activist and author, whom Time magazine in 2005 named one of the 100 most influential people in the world, continues to speak out against those who repress women and commit atrocities in the name of the faith of her youth.
Ali has authored a just-published book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.” In it, the naturalized U.S. citizen (in 2013) proposes five “amendments” to Islamic doctrine – “fundamental alterations” to its “core concepts” – to bring the faith out of the seventh century and into the 21st.
The first amendment would renounce the belief the semidivinity of the Prophet Muhammad as well as the literal interpretation of the Quran. The second would renounce the idea that life in the hereafter matters more than life in the here and now.
The third would reject Shariah law. The fourth would no longer confer upon individual Muslims the prerogative to enforce ideas of right or wrong on others. And the fifth would reject the supposed religious duty of Muslims to wage jihad (holy war) against those do not submit to Islam.
Several of Ali’s proposed amendments seem to apply as much to Christianity as Islam, including belief in the divinity of Jesus, literal interpretation of the Bible and the idea that rewards await vigilant Christians on the other side of the grave.
Indeed, President Obama last month drew parallels between Islam and Christianity during the National Prayer Breakfast. “Remember,” he said, “during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
But those deeds to which the president referred occurred many centuries ago. As Ali has said previously, Islamist extremists are committing atrocities in the name of Allah here and now.
“The Islamic vision is a caliphate, a society ruled by Shariah law,” she explained. “Anywhere where Shariah law is applied, as a woman, as a gay person, as a Christian, as a Jewish person, it’s impossible to live and be free and not fear for your life.
That’s why Ali takes issue with President Obama, who said last fall that “Islam is a religion that preaches peace.” On Fox News this week, she argued, “if, as a religion, you’re responsible for 70 percent of all the bloodshed in the world today, then you cannot possibly be a religion of peace.”
Yet, Ali is hopeful there will be a Muslim Reformation in coming years just as there was a Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. “I’m an optimist,” she said on Fox News.
She noted that the West finally defeated communism in 1989. And that the Troubles in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics ultimately gave way to peace.
Islam “could become a religion of peace,” she said, if it embraces the amendments she proposes.
The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are not monolithic, she explained. A minority are extremists, who share common cause with such terror groups as ISIS and Boko Haram. An even smaller minority are dissidents – like Ali – who risk their lives by questioning the Islamic orthodoxy. And a majority are observant, peaceable Muslims.
It’s that Muslim majority, said Ali, that can reconcile the faith with modernity; that can bring about an Islamic Reformation. Indeed, she said, “I think we’re in a time now where demand answers from Muslims and say, ‘Whose side are you on?’”