Friday, August 30, 2013

As We Blunder Into Syria

There really is no excuse. And I apologize.

I should have read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel years ago when it first came out.

You remember Ayaan.  She's the strikingly beautiful Somali-born woman that went into hiding after the assassination of her collaborator Theo van Gogh by an Islamist fanatic.

Why should I have read her memoir? Because if you want to understand the Muslim world, it's a really good place to start.

And that might be a good idea as the Obama administration leads from behind into a stumbling, bumbling Syria intervention.

Want to know about Saudi money and the madrassas? Want to know about the Brotherhood? Want to know what it is like growing up in the Third World as traditional ways of life are snatched up and whirled into the modern age like houses caught up in a tornado? It's all there in Infidel.

Ayaan's grandmother was a Somali nomad, telling terrifying stories about babies carried away by hyenas, and drilling her grandchildren in their parentage, generation after generation.

Because in the nomad world you have to be on your guard all the time against sudden and unexpected danger, and you have to know your exact place in the web of clans and tribes and family.

But Ayaan's mother wanted to be a modern woman. She settled in Mogadishu, in a house, and so Ayaan and her sister and brother grew up as rambunctious kids in the city. That was before the family followed their political father to Saudi Arabia, to Ethiopia, to Kenya from where he fought a war of resistance against Somali dictator Siad Barré

In each place the kids have to start from scratch in school. In Saudi, of course, no female can go out of doors unless accompanied by a man, and education is centered on the Koran. In Kenya, it's the British system, in English, leading up to "O" Levels.

All the way it is major culture clash, with clans against the new nationalist idea, with the market economy clashing against tradition. And with swirling religious purification as the young people struggle to find their place in the new world.

There is grandmother still rooted in the spirit world of djinns; there is mother corroded by father's desertion. There are movies, TV soaps, English language classic novels, trashy romance novels. There is the question of traditional female subservience, the new Muslim Brotherhood mosques and madrassas trying to purify the old faith. There are Christian friends at school that object to being prosletyzed.

And there is sex. Grandmother arranges circumcisions all round while mother is away on a black-market trip. And is sex dirty? Are the lady parts an abomination unless cut away? What about sex with your husband on that first night when he is trying to break through a sewn up vagina?

For the West, the ferment in the Middle East is at best an irritating distraction, a summer storm whipped up by ignorant people that are missing the point. At worst it's a worldwide totalitarian movement trying to blow up everything that the West has learned and achieved in the last half millennium.

But perhaps it is better to understand the turmoil in the Middle East as a future trying to be born, millions of young people emerging from traditional agriculture and nomadism into an utterly different world, trying to understand the new meaning of life, as young people always want to do, and trying to find their place in it.

Ayaan's place turned out to be Holland and university and politics and apostasy and expulsion from her family and clan. And eventual flight to the United States to escape the avenging sword of radical Islamism.

No comments:

Post a Comment