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I couldn't agree with you more. For some reason, I expected better from Kristof. I have been noticing an unsettling trend in his writing recently.

the chaplain

Well, you know, violence against women almost always happens because women have it coming to them. They're too sexy, too smart, too outspoken, too independent.... But, to Ali's credit, even though she's an overgrown teenager (read: immature, silly female), all the other dinner guests fall all over themselves to get the seat at the table next to hers. /snark

I don't think Ali's verbal hand grenades will be hitting Kristoff on the ass anytime soon; you've already torn out big chunks of it with your own well-aimed grenade. Kristoff got exactly what was coming to him.


"...its members never learned to bite their tongues and just say to one another: “I love you.”"

That statement really bothers me. It sounds like he's arguing in favor of repressing justified emotional reactions in order to keep the peace - silent submission as a virtue.

"But if those were the only faces of Islam, it wouldn’t be one of the fastest-growing religions in the world today. "

When everybody in a particular region is forced to show deference to a religion on fear of ostracism or even death, I'd say that might just be one cause for that religion's growth.

"“I don’t want to create the impression that all people from Muslim countries or tribal societies are aggressive,” she writes — and then she proceeds to do just that."

Ok, I haven't read the book, so maybe she does - but if that is what she does, the part he goes on to quote certainly doesn't support the point. Nowhere in the quoted statement does she refer to the individuals as being by nature violent, rather she talks about Islam as a cultural, educational institution. It's a distinction that regularly seems to fly over the heads of detractors of people openly critical of religion.

Oh, and a quick aside Greta - I really wanted to come to the SF meeting last Saturday and couldn't make it. If anyone recorded your presentation and will be posting it please let us know.

Alan Eckert

Didn't she have her entire vagina sewn shut to be able to prove that she was still a virgin on her "inevitable" wedding day? It just makes me sick the things people do, especially in the name of "morality."


This kind of ignorance is all the more infuriating because Nick Kristof has written so many good, important things about Third World poverty, about feminism and women's rights. Yet he seems to have this blind spot when it comes to religion - an instinctive desire to excuse any evil that religious groups do, because not all religious people are like that.

As for Ayaan Hirsi Ali being a "provocateur", it's clearly just because she likes to stir up trouble. It's completely unrelated to the fact that her own family had her genitals mutilated; beat and tortured her on countless occasions; taught her to be silent and subservient to men; and tried to send her into a slave marriage to a perfect stranger, and disowned her when she stood up for herself. It's completely unrelated to, say, her growing up in Saudi Arabia where every night she heard the screams of women in neighboring buildings being beaten by their husbands, or the fact that a close friend of hers was shot to death in the street because he shot a movie that made some people unhappy. Nope, all this is her fault and could have been avoided if she had just been nicer to everyone. Do these people even listen to themselves?


Kristof cut her just a little more slack than your review lets on and seems to focus his requests for moderation to preserving internal family feeling. In several places, he says she's right.

But he lacks empathy and his appeal to the possibility she hasn't grown up remains inexcusable.

It's a conflicted review.


Addendum: In the part you put in boldface, it's actually unclear to me if the mandate to "bite your tongue" is being directed (by Kristof) to AHA or her parents or both!!! For this reason, it is not quite as damning to me. Am I cutting NK too much slack? Am I wrong?


I'd go further than Ebonmuse in saying that Kristoff has several blond spots. About 2 years ago when the Spitzer scandal was taking place, Kristoff jumped on board with the whole "sex industry = sex trafficking" crowd and used his bully pulpit to repeat the distorted statistics coming from this group. Like Chris Hedges, he seems to be one of several "liberal" pundits and public intellectuals absolutely committed to making asses out of themselves on subjects like sexuality and religion. It seems like this is part of a larger trend toward a new social conservatism among at least some boomer liberals.

Greta Christina

Jon: Yes, this was a mixed/ conflicted review -- and that's irrelevant. It does not excuse the patronizing, condescending, dismissive tone.

And the mandate to "bite your tongue" seemed very clearly to be aimed at the entire family, i.e. both Hirsi Ali and her mother. Which, again, does not excuse it.

Yes, IMO, you're cutting him too much slack.


It's the "rebellious teenager" bit that got to me most.
As for the "hospitality" spiel: maybe they're hospitable to men, but I've yet to hear of predominantly muslim countries being all that "hospitable" to women.


One female genital mutilation is a tragedy, a thousand is statistics.

I think that's part of why people are able to bursh aside Hirsi-Ali's experiences as so much teenage rebellion. I mean, if everyone does it, that must just be how they roll in Those Places, right?

And of course, you can substitute FGM with any of the other horrendous things experienced by women in Muslim countries. Yes, women in other countries experience horrendous things too, but that's beside the point. There really, really is a culture of rape and victim-blaming in these theocracies. Honor killings are not an urban myth.

Anyway, if her family loves one another but have been unable to say it, that's part of the problem too. Consider a similar situation in the culture of the Southern or Midwestern US. When a man is unwilling to say he loves his son because his son is gay, that man is simultaneously a culprit and (to a smaller extent) a victim of homophobia. The whole thing needs to come crashing down.

Regarding the conversation which prompted that comment on Kristof's part…

"You are my child and I can't bear the thought of you in hell."

"When I die I will rot."

Isn't it amazing how the second one initially sounds "harsher" to our ears than the first? It did to me, anyway. Then I remembered what "Hell" is supposed to mean. I don't think that religious people always remember.

Theists keep telling atheists, "Don't say that it all ends at death. That's awful! People need to be comforted!"

Even putting aside whether that's a good argument, it misses an extremely crucial point: Only one worldview, one mindset, is capable of convincing people that there's a very, very real risk that they and the people they love could suffer and suffer and suffer forever and ever after they die. Atheists didn't contribute that concept to the conversation.

By contrast to such a fate, "I will rot" is a beautiful thing to contemplate. If her mother had said, "Ayaan, I worry that after you die, your body is going to rot", that would, by definition, have been an infinitely more loving thing to say.

Kristof might be one of those people who doesn't think anyone really takes the notion of Hell seriously. I dunno. All I can say is, out of the mouths of most believers, it's a threat. Ayaan's mother, herself a victim of the fear that the threat induces, is perpetuating the threat.

The whole thing needs to come crashing down.

Judy Weir

Kristoff's language is unbelievable. How dare she stand up against her abusers?
And how dare she try and stop it's continuation? is what his tone implies. I myself am a survivor of the
Assembly of God cult and it tears me up inside that little children are going through the same thing I went through - the isolation, the shame, fear, constant dread of death and hell. I can't even imagine the trauma of an arrnaged marriage to my cousin, or being woken out of my sleep in the night to have my clit cut off at age 5 - by the power of all that is good, I hope she continues to challenge and outrage the religious and make them think.
What happenened was abuse, and we all want it to stop.

James M. Martin

It has probably dawned on Hirsi-Ali that the reason her mother still lives in a dirt floor shanty in Somalia is that she was but chattel to her late husband, unable to do better for herself because condemned by faith to second class citizenship. And Hirsi-Ali's Islamic father? Not much better off. Islam means submission. Submission thwarts self-reliance; indeed, makes self-reliance itself anathema. This is almost always exploited by the ruling class of imams and ayatollahs, or did you really think bin Laden was only in it for Allah?

Bruce Gorton

What pissed me off with that wanker was how he dismissed beatings being dished out to kids.

My brother used to beat me up - basically in a manner which amounted to a long campaign to destroy my social instinct (I could never visit friends, they couldn't visit me, if I borrowed anything it got stolen etc...)

And that utter prick trivialized it. Just so he could jack off to how mean and nasty those atheists are.

After all it can't be all that bad, it isn't like I go around blowing people up do I?


sic 'em

Joshua Zelinsky

That someone throws verbal grenades does not mean they should be afraid of actual grenades. If Kristof can't understand that then that's his problem, not hers.


"Let's hope that one of them hits Kristof squarely on the ass."

No, let's hope one hits him squarely in the balls. If he has any. What an asshole.

Inquiring Lynn

Yes to the new atheism- the virulent anti-theism! I ever note religion as the scam of the ages along with its twin superstition the paranormal, what Paul Kurtz, my hero,calls "The Transcendental Temptation."
Pope Ratz, Rev. Billy Crackers, Keith Ward, haughty JOhn Haught and Alister Earl McGrath are on level with Sylvia Brown[e] and all other paranormalists. Their verbiage is different but as stupid!


Virulent is overkill, so I mean fair,tough talk.
Kurtz reveals that magical thinking involves itself in both elements of the temptation.
There is another book from his Prommetheus showing the link betwixt the two with the title about the occult and the Bible.
Some of us write the Bye-bull or the Buy-bull and Sky Pappy. Os that too tough,folks?
Thanks Greta!


Or is that too tough? Preview has the edit function.So no to typos!
Inquiring Lynn

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