Cover Story

'A piece of sheep fat in the sun'

"'A piece of sheep fat in the sun'" Continued...

Issue: "'Infidel'," March 3, 2007

When she decided to run for office, she had to admit she had lied to stay in Holland. For fabricating her way into the country, the Netherlands stripped away her Dutch citizenship last year, but by then she already had decided to move to the United States. Here she said she discovered that American Muslims are better integrated, but she warns that radical Islamists have infiltrated universities, advocacy groups, and the justice system. Islamists in the United States are wealthier than their European counterparts, too.

She says she recognized many potential "Mohamed Attas," a reference to the lead hijacker on 9/11, a middle-class Saudi. "America contains more of these than Europe" she told WORLD. "The Saudis are here. There are no Saudis in Holland. . . . America is the No. 1 enemy. Here is the long-term agenda."

Islamic or Shariah law in many Muslim countries restricts women. In Saudi Arabia, a woman's court testimony is worth half of a man's. A Saudi woman cannot move publicly without a male guardian and escort. A court-ordered divorce at a woman's request is rare, but husbands who tire of their wives can obtain divorces simply by saying "I divorce you" three times.

Until last year, Pakistan's Islamic law required a rape victim to produce four male witnesses to corroborate her story. Changes came because Mukhtaran Mai, a once-illiterate woman who was gang-raped in 2002, lobbied hard with other activists. But women who fight Islam's injustices within Muslim countries soon hit their head against tribal culture, Hirsi Ali says.

"You never get to the point of taking an idea to its logical consequences," Hirsi Ali said. At best, a woman's family and community will disown her. At worst, she will face a violent backlash and perhaps death. Hirsi Ali last spoke to her father in 2004, before the release of Submission. You may challenge abuses of women, he told her then, but do not make it about Islam.

Hirsi Ali carefully explains that the lines blur between Islam and cultural practice, as in female genital mutilation. "It's not in the Quran, it's not in the Hadith," Hirsi Ali said. But, "Islam puts a lot of emphasis on the virginity of a girl. Sewing the labia of a girl is a practical way to ensure virginity. Imams refuse to renounce it because it serves a purpose."

Hirsi Ali's BlackBerry has been buzzing throughout the interview. She pulls on a heavily padded black coat that dwarfs her waifish figure. This time, though, she is not hiding herself from male eyes, not worried about causing mayhem. It's just cold outside.

Women in Islam: a reading list

  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi, Random House, March 2003
  • Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir by Marina Nemat, Free Press, May 2007
  • The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith by Irshad Manji, St. Martin's Press, January 2004
  • Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror by Nonie Darwish, Sentinel HC, November 2006
  • My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban-A Young Woman's Story by Latifa, Miramax Books, March 2002
  • Behind the Burqa: Our Life in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom by Sulima and Hala and Batya Swift Yasgur, Wiley, September 2002
  • Rage Against the Veil: The Courageous Life and Death of an Islamic Dissident by Parvin Darabi and Romin P. Thomson, Prometheus Books, February 1999

Sources: and

Hall of inflamers

Women journalists and dissidents who have fallen foul of Islam

April 2000: Iran imprisons lawyer Mehrangiz Kar as well as publisher Shahla Lahiji after they participated in an academic Berlin conference discussing reform in Iran.

June 2003: Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, 54, is arrested for photographing the relatives of detainees outside Tehran's Evin prison. Tortured, raped, and beaten, she dies shortly after while in custody.

February 2004: Nigerian Amina Lawal, who had been sentenced to death by stoning after the 31-year-old conceived a child out of wedlock, is freed by the Shariah Court of Appeal.

April 2004: Sumi Khan, a Bangladesh reporter for the Daily Samakal, is beaten and stabbed by three assailants after she wrote about the ties of politicians and religious organizations to attacks on minority groups.

April 2004: Rania al-Baz, a Saudi Arabian TV broadcaster, is severely beaten by her husband for talking on the phone. She uses the incident to draw attention to the plight of women in her country.

November 2004: Iranian journalist Fereshteh Ghazi is arrested after she publishes articles on women's rights.

November 2004: Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, the Iranian editor-in-chief of Farzaneh, is arrested under vague charges of "spreading lies" and having "relations with foreigners."

March 2005: Derya Aksakal of Turkey is detained by three masked men who question her about her political activities. They threaten her with rape and subject her to a mock execution before releasing her.

July 2006: Kurdish journalist Ayfer Serçe is killed by the Iranian army in Keleres after she went to the region to investigate the suicides of Kurdish women.

January 2007: Sanaa Al Aji, a Moroccan journalist, is put on trial for allegedly defaming Islam in an article published in the magazine Nichane.

February 2007: Zahra Kamalfar, an Iranian dissident seeking asylum in Canada, and her two children are trapped in Moscow's airport after living there for more than eight months. Kamalfar, whose husband disappeared in Iran and is presumed dead, escaped Iran with her children after she was imprisoned for taking part in a pro-democracy rally. They were en route to Canada when their fake passports were detected.

-compiled by Kristin Chapman


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