Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the incredibly courageous, Somali-born author, has written a new book, Heretic, in which she calls for "nothing less than a Muslim Reformation."
Her Muslim critics may spew vitriol at her, but they cannot take away from the unflinching resolve she has demonstrated — in the face of death threats — as she critiques Islam, the religion of her childhood that she has abandoned.
She is reaching out to Muslims, but I feel her gesture will resonate only with those who have already abandoned Islam, not those who remain inside its cauldron.
Hirsi Ali identifies her audience as "Mecca Muslims", her label for non-radical, religious Muslims, a category few Muslims will understand unless they read her book.
She writes: "I hope to engage (Mecca Muslims) ... in a dialogue about the meaning and practice of their faith. I hope that they will be one of the primary audiences for this book."
No Muslim will pay heed to someone who has referred to the Prophet Mohammed as a "pervert" and a "tyrant."
Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen. I say this because no Muslim will pay heed to someone who has referred in the past to the Prophet Mohammed as a "pervert" and a "tyrant."
Of course, Hirsi Ali has the right to pass judgment on any historical figure, and I support her right to her opinion, despite disagreeing with her.
But Hirsi Ali today identifies more with the American literati than with the secular dissidents dying in Bangladesh or Pakistan, jailed in Turkey and Iran, or the persecuted Rohingya Muslims adrift in the Bay of Bengal.
As she acknowledges to the reader:
"I am now one of you: a Westerner. I share with you the pleasures of the seminar rooms and the campus cafes. I know we Western intellectuals cannot lead a Muslim Reformation. But we do have an important role to play."
As for a "reformation" in Islam, if religions could be reformed through reason and logic, then the biblical belief that God appeared in the form of a burning bush on Mt. Sinai to talk to Moses would at best be considered a fairy tale, not a fact. Similarly, the story in the Bible and Qur'an of God asking Abraham to slaughter his own son (Jews say this was Isaac while Muslims insist it was Ishmael) as an act of sacrifice can only be believed if one has blind faith in one's religion, not because of any rational thought process.
Yet, hundreds of years after the Reformation, Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, this reported encounter on earth between God and man is considered an indisputable foundation of not just Judaism and Christianity, but Islam.
Christians believe a snake in the Garden of Eden could speak to a human. Hindus are convinced a monkey once flew holding a mountain on the palm of his right hand. Muslims are certain Mohammed flew on a winged horse (undoubtedly inspired by Pegasus).
The difference between Muslims and other religious believers is that many Muslims still believe in the mixing of religion and politics, whereas the rest of the world now uses faith mainly as a moral compass, rather than a basis for legislation.
Hirsi Ali misses this point completely in her latest book. She is right in her call for Muslims to abandon sharia, but guilty of invoking that very sharia to pass judgment on Prophet Mohammed as a pervert and tyrant.
She can't have it both ways.
Tarek Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, and a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two award-winning books: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.