The letter below was sent to The Baltimore Sun. An edited version of the letter was published by The Sun online on Feb. 1, 2016 under the title, “Attacks on Somali feminist won’t end jihadist violence.”
Ad hominem attacks and omitted facts in Alison Kysia and Hoarya Ziad’s “Baltimore speaker promotes fear” (January 26) leave Sun readers with a distorted view of the threat of Islamic extremism and one of its opponents.
The authors charge speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, scheduled to speak in the city, is a “pundit behind the industry of fear.” But omit her advocacy for women’s rights and democracy. Ali—born under a Somali dictatorship and subjected to female genital mutilation and a forced marriage—escaped an Islamic fundamentalist culture to Holland where she worked in factories and as a maid, while studying in university, before being elected to parliament.
According to Harvard University where she serves as fellow, Ali has “defended the rights of Muslim women” and “campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation.” She came to international prominence when the director of her film about the oppression of women under Islam, Theo van Gogh, was assassinated by an Islamic extremist who then left a death threat for Ali pinned to the director’s chest. She has had to live under guard, in the Netherlands and United States, ever since.
Silent on this reality, the authors instead engage in character assassination. They falsely claim, without providing any sources, that Ali “has called for war against Muslims worldwide” and “urged our country to strip American Muslims of their civil rights.”
Citing individual attacks against American Muslims, Kysia and Ziad avoid mentioning the overwhelming victim of anti-religious hate crimes in the United States: American Jews, who according to FBI’s 2014 statistics are victims of nearly 57 percent of attacks. American Muslims account for approximately 16 percent. In proportion, the writers’ allegations of an anti-Muslim “industry of fear” fades.
They dismiss and minimize the threat of Islamic terrorism as “fear mongering.” But FBI Director James Comey has stated that the bureau currently has open investigations of suspected Islamic terrorists in all 50 states, including 900 Islamic state activists and sympathizers.
One wishes success to the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies in their intention to counter “rank bigotry” and “physical violence.” But one should note that the institute exists in Baltimore and not in Syria, Iran, or other Islamic lands. Worldwide, the bigotry and violence it claims to fight heavily comes from jihadists, as news from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, France, Belgium and yes, San Bernardino, Ca., Milwaukee, Wisc., and even Maryland periodically reminds us. Shooting the messenger, as Kysia and Ziad attempt polemically, won’t do.
CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America