Ayaan Hirsi Ali on “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now”

Islam has not gone through a reformation,
it hasn’t gone through the enlightenment process. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Author, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now What is the most significant misconception the West holds about Islam? I think the biggest misconception is
that Islam is a religion of peace. Islam, of the three monotheistic
religions, it’s the youngest. It is not a religion
of peace because it’s unreformed. Why does Islam need reformation? The idea that society should be based on Sharia law, or divine law,
There are at least one-fifth of humanity that are convinced of that. What can be done to facilitate reform? There’s nothing you can do, or any other
non-muslim can do to tweak the theology. That is going to come
from Muslims. But what we can do is we can catalyze
that. We can give those who want to tweak the theology hope that it is a worthy investment. A worthy investment
of— because these people are risking their lives, the lives
of their children, they’re risking their livelihoods—and you’re
going to say it’s a worthy investment. It’s going to make the world better for
Muslims and non-muslims in the next generation. What gives you hope for the future of Islam? I watched the lynching, which is just… it is so horrible, the lynching of a woman
who is a pious Muslim. She was accused of burning the Koran. She did not burn the Koran, in fact she was arguing for
something even more pure. You know, practice Islam at its purest don’t be selling amulets. And a man was selling the amulets
cried “she burned the koran!” and a mob of men ran at her and lynched her. That’s not an
extraordinary phenomenon in that part of the world. What was
extraordinary, and what gives me hope, is that the reaction of the Afghani women
who then demonstrated on the streets, carried her coffin—again not allowed in Islam, that’s
in your face when it comes to Sharia law— and screamed for their rights. That gives me
hope. What is the first step? Now is the time to find the right kind of
alliances. And those kinds of those voices disparate
and diffuse and all over the place disorganized, but
they’re there. And I want to show, in Heretic, that there is a group of people that weren’t there before in the Muslim world who are asking questions about the core texts of Islam. Who are questioning their own traditions,
whether they’re tribal, whether they’re cultural, or whether they’re religious, whether it’s all of that how that all works together,
and who are ready for change. ‘For more on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Heretic’ Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs


  1. Dear Ayaan,

    I applaud your insight, and courage. And ask you to dig deeper. The prophet Muhammad was historically an extraordinary peace-maker. We should not only ask why young Muslims can now be persuaded by their elders to make war, but why do Western nations anathematise those who are killing, and kill them in turn? The answer, I suggest, is that homo sapiens is not capable of surviving unless an emergent species supplies the intelligence it lacks. Successful peacemakers are of this emergent genus. Here is my introduction to this idea:


    Being uniquely directed to achieve conscious survival, natural selection has driven homo sapiens – cautious and judicious man – to evolve an emergent species, homo aeternens – eternal and audacious man.
    Modern examples of homo sapiens are mainly concerned to sustain societies culturally adapted to raise young homo sapiens requiring social discipline; in which women are subordinate to men; in which all accept being told what to think; in which death may be required to prove social loyalty, and may be welcomed as the final end of disorder. 
    In contrast, homo aeternens may be recognised as the first to conceive of personhood generally transcending death; later requiring freedom from tradition to be individually selected by the G-d of all religions that they know intuitively; in which lives are necessarily, and incorrigibly, individual.
    Young and adult homo aeternens are disputatious; dislike routines, rituals, discipline; become explorers, inventors, mystics, iconoclasts, feminists; their progeny continue this evolutionary course. 
    Past and present major conflicts, secular and religious, can therefore be understood as instances of homo sapiens attempting to prevent homo aeternens from disturbing social order; or caused by individual homo aeternens challenging the traditions, beliefs and the social ambition of homo sapiens.
    A common response by the higher ranks of homo sapiens is to persuade young homo aeternens that it is necessary for them to make war, to kill others and die.
    This removes them as a threat to the status quo, and to the higher ranks.

    Easy to understand. Easy to apply!

    Colin Hannaford, Oxford.

  2. Huge fan of the brave Ayaan Hirsi Ali! My own recent post elsewhere:

    Ya know what? It would be so refreshing if Muslims could stop the incessant navel-gazing and self-absorbed focus on "assimilation", vs. "retaining identity" vs. "traditionalism" vs. "radicalism" vs. "reform" and probably so many other choices of protest!  ENOUGH ALREADY!! 
    Muslims  need to stop over-thinking every conceivable and petty issue under the sun in terms of right vs. wrong/halal vs. haram,  and how all the minutiae of existence jives or does not jive with ISLAM! Instead Muslims, and everyone else, should start thinking about right vs. wrong in terms of how humans across the planet are challenged by needless poverty, and how that jives with our own internal concepts of human justice and the good of the planet.
    Islam has indeed attempted to imbue its followers with a sense of supreme justice,  justice which should avail itself during every single moral decision, large and small, INSTANTLY. Valid decisions should be possible WITHOUT the time consuming process of weighing them against Islam's sacred texts. Texts which today are a bit difficult to digest, perhaps they could have been more easily internalized were they not so frequently gruesome and freakishly self-righteous.  
    How is the average Muslim, the overwhelming majority of whom are illiterate, supposed to understand these issues?
    A "good" person knows instinctively their own moral decision — religious dogma not always the best underpinning of that which is "moral". The question becomes: is the answer according to Islam the only valid moral choice?  As a dedicated agnostoic — I care first about morality and second about the awesome possibility there is something divine and loving governing us all.
    The moral ambiguities of the modern world are difficult even for the most liberal of us, atheists, humanists, artists, journalists (like me), etc. At some point, we all need to stand on our own two feet, and stop deferring to the sometimes faulty wisdom of the ancients, and start relying on the wisdom of our own hearts and minds as morally digested over our own lives and over the centuries.
    More importantly, we need to stop arguing about what is "moral", and stop pretending any one of us is more "moral" than the next person, and start realizing the only thing that will move this world forward is love and acceptance. Sadly, that is hard to do when the people with whom you need to share acceptance, want you to burn forever in hell.  And that's Islam as understood today.
    Muslims? Your solution?

  3. You need to know that one day you will die . No boday will help u exept ur deads you know more about Islam you grow up in Islam . talk and de pate against Islam will never help u . My allah give u

  4. You cant apply a religion that is a bout 1500 years old now witch hasnt had a reformation or adjustment to the time we live in now to the western world you just cant.

  5. This is a very refreshing and observational view. It's a shame that are regressive liberals who would rather call it racist to criticize Islam in the hopes that that criticism brings peace to the Muslim world and the the globe.

  6. finally someone says "it's not a religion of peace". I was born in a family of muslim and I always want to laugh when I hear people says it's a religion of peace. Please go read the quran,there is blood and punishment and sexism and pedophily in every page. Other religion ain't that bloody even tho I am not christian, the bible is way more easy to accept that quran

  7. Islam needs to reform like a motherfucker ASAP, Or islam will find itself at war with the rest of the planet within a generation or two. And islam will lose BIG TIME. non-muslim people love their freedoms too much to lose that battle.

  8. Even though, I respect this woman, I strongly disagree with her. Islam doesn't need a reformation, it needs counter-reformation and it does need help from non-Muslim countries. As one religious scholar stated v

    "Dagli said calls for Islam to have a Reformation-type event were inapt, given that Christianity’s Reformation was followed by an age of extremism, with massive slaughters of Christian against Christian, all justified in the name of religion.
    “What do people want? A return to Calvin’s Geneva?” he said, noting that the famed Christian reformer introduced a harsh legal regime by reviving the long-defunct Mosaic Law and its punishments.
    The problem, Dagli pointed out, is that Islam has already had its Reformation event: Salafi Islam, an anti-intellectual variant of Islam that arose in the 18th century, rejecting more than 1,000 years of Islamic religious development, and gave birth to the even more extreme Wahhabism, the official Islam of Saudi Arabia and the only version of Islam allowed to be practiced there.
    “What we need is a counter-reformation,” he said."

  9. I had the pleasure of meeting Ayaan ten years ago when she autographed my copy of her book, "Infidel," at an Atheist Alliance International convention.

  10. Aas ayaad u mahadsantahay kanin AF somali ku hadal si lagi fahmo waxa tahay gabar qaali åh ok somali åh wan ku jecelnahay walal

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