Yesterday I bought Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel which I plan to read once I get through The Caged Virgin that has sat on my shelf for a month or two now. One may question why I am taking the time out to read the works of a woman that is so passionately hated within the Muslim world. I would answer their question the same way I answer questions about why I bought The Satanic Verses. I would answer the question with a question; how can you criticise a book you haven’t read?

I remember an argument I had with an acquaintance who insisted that she didn’t need to read The Satanic Verses in order to know that it contained negative things about Islam; that she didn’t need to form her own opinion; that she was perfectly comfortable adopting Islamic scholars’ views as her own. I, on the other hand, felt that I had to read the material for myself before I was authorised to criticise or dismiss it.

I’m pretty sure I will disagree with a lot of what Hirsi Ali has to say in her book. I recently read an interview with her and was left reeling by her strong views against Islam but that didn’t mean I wanted to immediately boycott anything she produces. In fact, I think Submission Part I is quite a beautiful film. It is bold, original and involving. See, that admission itself will anger some of the people that read it. What I ask is why can’t we engage in civilised discourse without resorting to violence? If I get vicious hate mail simply because I wrote a sexually overt book, Hirsi Ali must get it a hundred-fold because of her views. Any sort of criticism of Islam is likely to incite anger because Islam is so deeply ingrained into us but does that mean we have to respond with violence and threats, effigies at the ready? Surely we’re more intelligent than that?

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