Reuters Played Blame-the-Victim and Minimized Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Childhood Sexual Trauma

April 27th, 2007 2:09 AM
BBC photo of Hirsi Ali

Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali immigrated to the US from Holland in 2006 after her controversial views of Islam (she called it “backwards”) resulted in serious death threats and the eventual murder of a friend. An April 24 Reuters article by Alexandra Hudson (picked up by the Washington Post website) stressed the theme that the Muslim women of Holland were relieved that she left for America. It also engaged in a slick game of “blame-the-victim” and minimized the agonizing childhood violence she experienced by describing her flight from “an arranged marriage and abusive family who had her circumcised as a child.”

“Circumcised.” It may sound similar to male circumcision, but it is not. A more appropriate term is “female genital mutilation” or FGM. “Female circumcision” is what the practitioners call it. Reuters didn’t go into the details of this “circumcision,” but Hirsi Ali did in her most recent book, “Infidel.” Aussie newspaper, the Australian, excerpts the portion that describes what the local “expert,” who was likely a blacksmith, did to her with no anesthetic or disinfectant at the request of her own grandmother (emphasis mine throughout)[editor's note: graphic descriptions ahead]:

Then the scissors went down between my legs and the man cut off my inner labia and clitoris. I heard it, like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs, indescribable, and I howled. Then came the sewing…

Hirsi Ali’s legs were tied together to limit her movements to “facilitate the formation of a scar.” She described what happens after the incisions heal and explored the origins of FGM:

After the child's clitoris and labia are carved out, scraped off, or, in more compassionate areas, merely cut or pricked, the whole area is often sewn up, so that a thick band of tissue forms a chastity belt made of the girl's own scarred flesh. A small hole is situated to permit a thin flow of pee. Only great force can tear the scar tissue wider, for sex.

Female genital mutilation predates Islam. Not all Muslims do this, and a few of the peoples who do are not Islamic. But in Somalia, where virtually every girl is excised, the practice is always justified in the name of Islam...Imams never discourage the practice: it keeps girls pure.

Many girls die during or after their excision, from infection. Other complications cause enormous, more or less lifelong pain.

Male circumcision is usually performed on infants in a surgical setting with appropriate medication and professional care and results in no loss of sexual function and a regrettable, but largely unnoticeable loss of sexual pleasure. It is not the same.

According to the UN, FGM can result in death from severe bleeding or infection as well as short-term issues of severe pain, acute urine retention and shock. Long term issues can include painful intercourse, urinary problems, infertility, fistulae (holes between the vagina and bladder or rectum) and difficult childbirth.

Now, does all of that describe “female circumcision” or “female genital mutilation?”

In addition to minimizing FGM, the article passive-aggressively blamed Holland’s Muslim radicalism on Hirsi Ali. But it did so through a sly ploy that used quotations which were then remarked upon:

"I am glad that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is gone, because now the tone has softened, it has become less extreme and tensions have eased," said Nermin Altintas, who runs an education centre for migrant women.

Hirsi Ali is held responsible by many in the Muslim community for "Islamising" the Netherlands' migrants, polarizing communities and diverting attention from those trying to boost integration in what they see as a more constructive approach.

That’s like claiming Martin Luther King was responsible for racist violence or Charlton Heston is responsible for gun crime. Come on. That kind of “blame the victim” mentality was drummed out of the media in the 1980s, but the Post resurrected it for this article. One outspoken woman somehow “Islamised” Muslims in the Netherlands? She angered them so much with her views, that their logical course of action was to…run out and prove her right?

A 2006 poll revealed that 40 percent of British Muslims want to institute strict sharia law in the UK. One fifth have sympathy with the “feelings and motives” of the7/7 London subway suicide bombers. Thirty-seven percent believe British Jews are a “legitimate target.” One percent believe the 7/7 bombers were “right.” With 1.6 million Muslims in the UK, that’s 16,000 who think fellow Muslims were “right” to bomb the UK. Did Hirsi Ali somehow “Islamise” them too?

In 2002, “Time” magazine declared, “Sexual assault is rampant in France’s crumbling housing projects... violence against women is especially acute in the [housing projects] because of cultural attitudes toward women.” Those attitudes include "increased insults of young women wearing jeans, a rise in forced or arranged marriages, more young women obliged to drop out of school and a greater incidence of polygamy."

Neither the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal nor “Time,” listed Hirsi Ali as the cause and attributed the rise to what “Time” called “the spreading influence of Islamic fundamentalism” and activity of the Hamas-affiliated Muslim Brotherhood and the misogynist attitude of the young men in the slums. French gang rape is so prevalent, it spawned a word—“tournante,” which means “take your turn.”

Worldwide, Muslim religious figures have made “extreme” statements. In France, an Algerian-born Imam was arrested and deported for advocating wife beating. In 2004, the BBC reported European governments trying to combat “militant Islamic extremism” and “the spread of extremist messages,” and a Danish mufti said that say immodest women are “asking for rape.” In 2006, Australia’s senior Muslim cleric directly blamed rape victims:

…in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

"The uncovered meat is the problem."

The sheik then said: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."

But Dutch radicalism is because of Hirsi Ali's statements?

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