This is part one of a two-part report on the American Enterprise Institute’s growing involvement with Islamophobic ideologues. Part two is here.
In a speech earlier this month, a scholar at an influential think tank and flagship of contemporary Washington conservatism, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), gave voice to one of the justifications for Norwegian anti-Muslim terrorist Anders Breivik’s attacks, explaining that Breivik said “he had no other choice but to use violence” because his fringe views were “censored.” While accepting a prize this month from the German multimedia company Axel Springer, Somali-born Dutch AEI scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke on the “advocates of silence” — those she admonishes for purportedly stifling criticisms of radical Islamic extremism.
In the speech, flagged by the website Loonwatch, Hirsi Ali noted that she herself appeared in Breivik’s 1,500-word manifesto (Breivik reprinted a European right-wing article saying Hirsi Ali should win the Nobel Peace Prize). While she denounced Breivik’s views as an “abhorrant” form of “neo-fascism,” she then postulated that Breivik was driven to violence because his militant anti-multicultural views were not given a fair airing in the public discourse.
After speaking about how the “advocates of silence” repress discussion about radical Islamism, Hirsi Ali said:
Fourthly and finally, that one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America — myself among them — but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.
Watch a clip of the speech:
Hirsi Ali’s exclamation that the “advocates of silence” stifle discourse so effectively that Breivik was driven last July to kill 77 people — 69 slaughtered at a summer youth camp — is contradicted even by her own speech. In closing, Hirsi Ali said, “The good news is that recently the leaders of established conservative parties in Europe have broken the pact of silence,” citing comments against multiculturalism by the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Hirsi Ali has herself been a Dutch parliamentarian, a frequent contributor to mainstream U.S. and international publications, and author of a New York Times best-selling autobiography. Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders enjoys considerable success in Hirsi Ali’s own Netherlands. Views against multiculturalism don’t get censored, though some of the most bigoted ideologies are often driven to the margins in free societies.
Neither AEI nor Ayaan Hirsi Ali replied to requests for comments about her talk. But a public affairs official at AEI wrote to ThinkProgress, “AEI does not take institutional positions on policy issues. When our scholars speak, they speak for themselves.”
In her speech, Hirsi Ali said that “to speak out against radical Islamism is to be condemned as an Islamophobe.” But as detailed in the Center For American Progress’s report on Islamophobia, “Fear, Inc.,” the Islamophobe label applies not to those who rail against “radical Islam,” but rather against Islam as a whole. Not surprisingly, Hirsi Ali is herself in this latter category — yet another indication that Islamophobic views are not censored. In a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine, Hirsi Ali called for Islam to be “defeated.” The interviewer asked: “Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?” Hirsi Ali replied bluntly: “No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.”