Ayaan Hirsi Ali urges oppressed Muslims to become Christians

August 10, 2011 • 9:13 am

On her website, Maryam Namazie highlights a somewhat distressing 15-minute interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Ali, of course, is a famous atheist and a tireless crusader against Islam—especially its oppression of women.

In the video, Ali urges both female and male Muslims to turn to Christianity if they either find their religion oppressive or live in Western countries where Muslims are stigmatized.

This is distressing because although Ali is an atheist, she says that for those people who must have a God, Christianity is a good exchange for Islam. No matter that such conversion is, under Islamic dictates, punishable by death.

And yes, Ali is affiliated with a conservative organization (the American Enterprise Institute), but I still admire her tremendously.  As a Muslim apostate, she lives in hiding, protected by guards.  But if she’s going to recommend a religion swap, couldn’t she have touted Buddhism?

Namazie notes:

As an atheist herself, Ayaan must know full well that all religions are misogynist. How can one advocate for others what one does not want for oneself?

Also as I have said a million times before, Christianity only seems tamer because it has been dealt with by an enlightenment. To the degree it has been weakened – that is the degree to which people and women have more freedoms and rights. It’s not because of Christianity but because of the resistance against it.

A minimum precondition to safeguard women’s rights is secularism – the separation of religion from state, educational system and judicial system. But then I guess Ayaan can’t really say that because that would be like advocating Marxism amongst her friends.

On another note, read Namazie’s transcript of the speech she’ll give today at the World Founding Congress of Free Thought in Oslo:

Ironically, whilst the far-Right appears to target Islamism, they have similar ideologies, characteristics, tactics, and aims. Islamism is also an extreme Right movement. Both rely on religion. Both use a language of hate. They are extremely xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. Both rely on indiscriminate violence and terrorism to intimidate the population at large. They are dogmatic and punish free thinkers and dissenters. Both use threats and scaremongering to push forward their agenda. Both are vehemently anti-working class and the Left. They believe in the superiority of their views and culture and deal harshly with anyone who transgresses. The world they have in mind is equally bleak, segregated, hateful and inhuman.

What we need today is a renewed anti-fascism that is against the far-Right and Islamism and puts people – real live human beings – and not cultures, religions, nationality, race, ethnicity at its centre.

Only a renewed anti-fascist movement that stands firm against both, and unequivocally defends citizenship and universal rights, freedom, equality and secularism can hope to win. In the face of regression and abomination, its banner must be a humanity without labels. It must hold the human being sacred and nothing else.

58 thoughts on “Ayaan Hirsi Ali urges oppressed Muslims to become Christians

  1. Quite simply the easiest route out of Islam for someone is to switch to a non-Trinity form of Christianity.

    They keep their one god, their theism, their historical characters, and so on; and all they have to do is dismiss Muhammad as a false prophet.

    Suggesting Buddhism is simply a silly suggestion 🙂

  2. I have a great deal of respect for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but I have to disagree with her on this point. Personally, I tried converting to Christianity after leaving Islam; it’s didn’t work out, because I tried reading the Bible.

    Thank you for the link to Namazie’s speech.

  3. Christianity is Not a good exchange for islam. Both are based on the same horrid book. They are merely different interpretations of an ancient myth.

    1. I agree that it’s no use to leave one religion only to fall for another, but I wonder how you can write that both religions are based on the same book. These books happen to share names, not characters. As for the ancient myth, which one?

  4. Her views are not surprising considering she has received death threats from Islamists and, by contrast, has been treated kindly by Christians. This is a natural human reaction. Of course, one hastens to point out that her enthusiastic welcome in the West is mainly due to her anti-Islamist views. If the average Christian read the text of the speech she’s giving today, that good will might evaporate quickly.

    1. The speech is being given by Maryam Namazie, not Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who is the one advocating a switch from Islam to Christianity).

  5. Hey you! Heroin junkie! Yes, you with the needle in your arm. Why don’t you stop chasing the dragon and have a drink instead. Have three, or six, or twelve… oh hell, just down the whole bottle. Become an alcoholic instead. At least booze is legal you know…

  6. I have to assume that Ali understands a certain mindset in the Muslim women who are being urged to convert. I think that such mindset would require another Western monotheism as a substitute and not Buddhism which would be quite alien to them. In that case, it’s either Christianity or Judaism, but on historico-political grounds it’s hard to see how a Muslim could comfortably convert to Judaism.

  7. She’s touting Christianity because that’s who pays her bills now. (It was either Christianity or Judaism and I guess suggesting Muslims become Jews sounded too implausible.)

    She’s a proven liar and an opportunist of the highest order. I can’t understand why any liberal atheists look up to such a right-wing hack. Can’t we leave the Ayaan Hirsi Ali admiration to Anders Behring Breivik?


    1. His “manifesto” cited the works of many people, including George Orwell and Thomas Jefferson (and Charles Darwin?).

      I’ve heard that experts have been poring over the text for a hidden meaning. Then, I remember the following exchange:

      Buck Turgidson: We’re still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.

      President Muffley: There’s nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. The man is obviously a psychotic.

    2. Say what you will about the American Enterprise Institute, but they did offer Ali protection from Muslim death threats while the “liberal atheists” in Holland abandoned her to her fate.

      She did lie on her Dutch asylum application, you set the bar quite high here, as a western male it would be interesting to see how you would behave in a similar situation.

      Your link between Ali and Breivik is beneath contempt, while I do not agree with all her ideas, the one under discussion in this article being a major one, there is no basis in fact for your allegation.

      I would have to say the only hack in the immediate vicinity is you.

      I have read her books and watched her speak and there is more honour and courage in Ali than you could ever hope to have.

      1. Yeah. You’ve read her books, and therefore have HER version of how honorable and courageous she is. That’s hardly a reliable source.

        I’m just pointing out that she’s part of a environment built by Wilders, Fortuyn, and Hirsi Ali which treats Muslims like a hostile plague. If she keep company with right-wingers, she should expect that some of them will kill. It’s their nature.

        1. Yes, I have read her books.

          Something I suspect you have not bothered to do.

          You come across as one who’s opinions are formed in an echo chamber of political correctness, or as Pat Condell would put it, heavy concentration of middle-class, left-wing, pricks.

          By the way, Breivik lists his favorite comedian as Pat Condell in his manifesto. Work that into your right wind conspiracy theories.

      2. I read that as American Empire Institute, and now I can’t seem to shake it. Still, it is to my shame as a liberal that Ali could not find refuge in any leftist organization if that truly was the case.

        I don’t know much about the personal experiences of apostates to Islam, so I can’t really comment on whether Christianity is a good intermediate step for any society, but it does seem like the lesser of two evils when compared to Islam.

        It is an empirical question though, and it would be nice to see some data on whether focusing conversion to Christianity is more effective at secularizing a population than focusing on deconverting people directly to atheism.

      3. Opinions vary on Hirsi Ali, but just for information, she chose to “abandon” the Netherlands, not the other way around.

        1. Christopher Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali “choosing” to abandon the Netherlands:

          After being forced into hiding by fascist killers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali found that the Dutch government and people were slightly embarrassed to have such a prominent “Third World” spokeswoman in their midst. She was first kept as a virtual prisoner, which made it almost impossible for her to do her job as an elected representative. When she complained in the press, she was eventually found an apartment in a protected building. Then the other residents of the block filed suit and complained that her presence exposed them to risk. In spite of testimony from the Dutch police, who assured the court that the building was now one of the safest in all Holland, a court has upheld the demand from her neighbors and fellow citizens that she be evicted from her home. In these circumstances, she is considering resigning from parliament and perhaps leaving her adopted country altogether. This is not the only example that I know of a supposedly liberal society collaborating in its own destruction, but I hope at least that it will shame us all into making The Caged Virgin a best seller.


          1. Apart from the spin, what this says is that Hirsi Ali had to deal with 24/7 security. This is unfortunate, but not something for which there is any good solution.

    3. “She’s a proven liar and an opportunist of the highest order.” So you do not like her & do not agree with her views?

  8. “….if she’s going to recommend a religion swap, couldn’t she have touted Buddhism?”

    Why not the Church of FSM? Dem buddists ain’t got no god. The C of the FSM has one….. and he’s got a gazillion noodely appendages… that’s real control of the world!
    ~Rev. El

  9. “It must hold the human being sacred and nothing else.”

    This will not work because of the ambiguity in definitions of “human being” and “sacred”: a problem that have not been resolved to date and has no scientific resolution on the horizon.

    Much better approach would be for scientists not even bother with “human being” and “sacred” altogeter but instead get together and act to make sure that “science” governs “all phenomenon and things human”: a process that is under way whether we understand it or not.

    Soon humanity will have no more time to waste “talking nonsense”.

    The Sixth Extinction (http://www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/eldredge2.html) is approaching fast and cannot be wished away. Its momentum is getting bigger and bigger.

    And what do we do?

    We talk about economic growth and quibble which brand of nonsense is “god given truth”

    The people of reason remain scattered all over the globe, unorganized and applying their energies to projects that will have no effect on slowing down the momentum of Six Extinction

    Sooner or later scientists will have no other choice but face the fact that time of warnings about doom and gloom is gone. Then they will use their understanding of human condition to re-arrange the human institutions in such a way that would be in line with the planet’s deep (evolutionary) time equilibrium.

    The longer we keep putting our heads in the sand the more people will eventually have to be converted to soylent green (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green)

    1. ###
      While I agree with what you say generally about the 6th extinction & the need for rationalists to push harder…

      In my view that does not mean that activists like MN should cease their efforts to secure women’s rights by promoting “secularism – the separation of religion from state, educational system and judicial systems”

      MN wrote: “It must hold the human being sacred and nothing else”

      You claim: This will not work because of the ambiguity in definitions of “human being” and “sacred”: a problem that have not been resolved to date and has no scientific resolution on the horizon

      What ambiguity is that ? The MN line that you quote makes perfect sense in the context that MN intended. She is saying that people must be freed from the oppression of poisonous ideas. The term “sacred” could be replaced by “precious” with little loss. Is that better ?

      Also, nowhere is she saying (for example) that people come before tigers


  10. When I read this in her book ‘Nomad’ some tome ago, despite the caveats that she gives for prescribing christianity as the religious methadone or gateway drug to atheism, I was shocked and disturbed that she of all people would make such an asinine suggestion.

    Part of me thinks that she is acquiescing to pressures from the current company that she is keeping, namely the neo-cons. I agreed entirely when Hitch said at the 2009 Atheist Alliance International Conference that the three most beautiful words in the new secular dictionary were “Ayaan Hirsi Ali”.

    Well , I’ll be honest and say that I’m beginning to question that a little now. Facepalm!


  11. I’m confused.

    Who is going to hear an atheist’s exhortation to convert from Islam to Christianity because they can’t handle the truth without concluding that they’re being condescended to?



  12. Buddhism doesn’t really have anything to say about God, so I don’t see how converting to Buddhism would work “for those people who must have a God.”

  13. I am kind of surprised to hear the opposition to Hirsi Ali here. She has clearly expressed the target audience to whom this advice applies, and I suspect that she means this as an intermediate step to Atheism. Havent we encountered people who cant really “take the truth” in one go (or at least we dont have the ability to make them see it that quickly), and hence we settle for incremental improvements? Even though she says “any religion” elsewhere in the interview, maybe she suggests Christianity specifically because of good amount of watered-down versions practiced in the west?

  14. This isn’t news to me, she frequently mentioned it when she was doing publicity for her book ‘Nomad’ and also discusses it in the book itself.

    It is the one area that I disagree with her on, but her motivation is clearly an attempt to find some sort of practical alternative for God-fearing Muslims who might look for a gentler alternative to their religion if they emigrate to more secular Western nations.

    She has been very much influenced by her experiences first in the Netherlands – her dismay at seeing how so many Muslim immigrants there refused – and were indeed enabled by the authorities in this refusal – to integrate with Dutch society. Secondly she was influenced by what I can only describe as more moderate Christian communities she encountered on first arriving in the United States.

    Unfortunately she is not particularly familiar with Christianity and hasn’t fully appreciated that in the hands of conservative people with a parochial background her vision of a liberal and tolerant replacement religion would most likely back-fire horribly as it is only too easy to justify most of the worst illiberal practises in Islam with the Christian bible.

    She is very wrong in this particular suggestion of hers – very wrong; nevertheless there is nothing in her writing that could justify describing her as right-wing.

    1. I found it a little difficult to follow exactly who would be targeted by Hirsi Ali’s proposal of conversion, but I think the only people to whom she is making the suggestion are not those who would be wont to pursue illiberal practices under Islam or any religion.

    2. Well, she says in her book that the immigrants who converted through the efforts of the Dutch Reformed Church (a branch of Calvinism) where much better off than those who kept practicing Islam. This might be true, but the Dutch Calvinist are also very conversative, to the point that she herself could not have become a politician if she had joined them (because they don’t allow women to run for office). So it is hard to say she doesn’t know what she is talking about. That is another reason I’m uncomfortable with her advice though I believe her intentions are good.

      1. The Dutch Reformed Church is fairly broad (or to be more exact was as it merged with a couple of other denominations in 2004 to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands though the former groups still have some distinctions). Those on the liberal side in the current church ordain women and bless same-sex couples (and apparently 1 in 6 of its ministers are either agnostic or atheistic).

        Though I think if Muslims are looking for a half-way point, a liberal Islam would be easier (and there are groups that are far more liberal than the Islam that Hirsi Ali grew up in).

          1. Similar name between the church in South Africa and that in the Netherlands but I think they’ve been separate denominations since about 1800. A google search shows that Johannes Jacobus Buskes, a Dutch Reform minister (The Netherlands church not South Africa), was a prominent and early anti-apartheid figure (though I’m certain others in the church were neutral or even supportive [South Africa was anti-communist during the Cold War]).

  15. I see where she’s going, but there’s something deeply disturbing about this idea of adopting the majority religion of where you live just because, you know, it’s the majority religion and isn’t quite as awful as some other religion. It just feels deeply wrong to me on so many levels.

    And as Ben Goren points out, an atheist suggesting that if you can’t handle the truth of a godless universe maybe you should convert to Christianity… yeah, um, has that worked on ANYONE, EVER?

    1. I don’t know, because I can’t think of any prior examples of where it’s been tried.

      Furthermore, I would doubt that Hirsi Ali would have been so blunt in her presentation of the alternatives to those Muslim individuals with whom she discussed the matter. She may well have presented herself as an example of one path to pursue, the path away from religion altogether, but it’s not clear from the interview that she would have suggested that switching religions was necessarily a poor alternative for somebody other than herself.

      It appears that she discusses this in more detail in Nomad, a book which I have not read, so I’m making an inference solely on the basis of what she said in the interview.

  16. Upon reading her book Nomad, the impression that I got was not that making this recommendation was a way to keep her employers happy. What she actually recommends is conversion to “mainstream Protestant” Christianity, not fundamentalist Christianity. And the reality is that neocons like the AEI and mainstream Protestants are not friends.
    As a former Muslim I can see where she comes from, but I can’t endorse it. I tend to think the best answer to the problem of religion is secularization. If you have to have “some affiliation” at least go to one that is not so much based on doctrine, like the Unitarian church.

  17. “Only a renewed anti-fascist movement that stands firm against both, and unequivocally defends citizenship and universal rights, freedom, equality and secularism can hope to win. In the face of regression and abomination, its banner must be a humanity without labels. It must hold the human being sacred and nothing else.” This is an ultimate truth and realize this is an ultimate goal because without these goals in mind you don’t see the reality of fascism.Fascism is the ideology of the ultimate leader who can’t be wrong and lead His people to the imaginary land (popes,führers and Jezus are here the best examples of this disease). In the christian religion fascism is the base of prayer to their imaginary God who is always right (see the sick reasoning of crap like Craigh). Pitty that the goal shall not be reached before we have gone through several wars which one of them shall be a war against the teaparty who has the possibility to dominate American politics. Religious wars are always the cruelest.

  18. It sound like good advice.
    Some people will not **TAKE** the best advice, so she offers something they might try. As has been pointed out before. Islam and Christianity are not that different at the core. There has just been much more influence from the enlightenment on Christianity. If a person wants to fit in and become accepted, then Christianity is a good choice.

    It seems to me that if a person switches religion once, they might be more open to eventually dropping it altogether.

  19. “And yes, Ali is affiliated with a conservative organization (the American Enterprise Institute), but I still admire her tremendously.”

    The reason this is the case is because the political parties with which she used to be affiliated in the Netherlands made a mistake which many “liberal” or “leftist” or “enlightened” people make: out of fear of being put into the same camp as neonazis and so on, or perhaps out of ignorance, they refused to discuss problems which arise as a result of immigration (mainly of people from Moslem countries). Let’s face it: the pseudoscientific racism in the style of the Nazis is simply wrong, from a biological standpoint; speaking out against FGM is not wrong from any sensible standpoint.

    Geert Wilders is often portrayed in the media as some sort of right-wing kook, but if one actually examines his viewpoints in detail, he’s not that far from Ali. (The fact that the Norwegian gunman namechecked Wilders no more discredits Wilders than social darwinism discredits Darwin.)

    1. Wilders is a right wing kook — or at least plays one on TV.

      Regardless of whether or not he personally is or is not a racist, he plays to the racist audience (while being careful not to be explicit) and condemns Islam while giving a free pass to right-wing Christians.

        1. It’s not that simple. Two quotes from the article:

          “Dutch tolerance has shaped the Party of Freedom to be quite unlike most European Right-wing movements: its election campaigning championed the victims of gay-bashing gangs of Moroccan youths, and Mr Wilders talks often about the threat from Islam to women’s rights.

          His success is a sign of how the political landscape has changed. Even Dutch left-wingers now have to admit that there is a problem with Moroccan street gangs are a problem, and liberals wring their hands about the failure of immigrants to integrate since the first were admitted during the 1960s and 70s”

          “Hopes for harmony on the streets have been invested in a new mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, a member of the Dutch Labour Party whose parents came from Morocco.

          He has broken with multiculturalism by urging immigrants to learn the language and fit in, or get on a plane out. He has also pledged to crack down on Moroccan criminals, using language which Right-wingers say would get them branded as racists if they used it. “

  20. I greatly respect and admire Hirsi Ali but I think it is important to deal with ideas separately from the individual. Nobody should be free from all criticism.
    I greatly respect and admire Hirsi Ali but I think it is important to deal with ideas separately from the individual. Nobody should be free from all criticism.
    In the current question I speak from experience of knowing both Christians and Muslems who have ‘lost faith’ in their religion yet didn’t give up on the idea of a God (which, I presume is the kind of target group Ayaan is speaking about.)
    The idea that you can switch from Islam to a moderate Christianity is an interesting hypothesis but my own experience is that the most usual route taken is to a form of deism.
    The former believer still holds a vague faith in a God and an afterlife but accepts that the official dogma is essentially a story, a historical myth.
    This is not a new idea to the Muslem world – Omar Kayyam used this idea as part of his Rubáiyát.
    The way one promotes this sort of switch in beliefs seems to be similar to the way you promote atheism – gradually introduce the idea that it should be acceptable to ask the question “what is the evidence for that?”

  21. Christianity has had a violent past. The key word is past, but we must consider the possibility that it could in the future, if Christianity were to gain power, become violent again. Nevertheless, because Christianity is presently in a somewhat sedate mode where violence is concerned, it is better to have Muslims convert to Christianity than remain Muslims, as Islam is presently experiencing a violent mode for it has power in several countries, most notably, Iran.

  22. I can’t find the original source for this but according to the Times of London (and many Christian websites) Richard Dawkins said:

    “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”


    It would be nice if somebody pointed out to Richard Dawkins what Namazie said – that it’s the tempering factor of the Enlightenment (and I would add, all the techological/sociological factors that fostered and continued Enlightenment values) that prevents Christianity from being as violent as some portions of present-day Islam.

    Instead, like Ali, he gives Christianity far too much credit. I would suggest this is due to Dawkins intense anti-Muslim bigotry which prompts him to do other objectionable things – like tout female genital mutulation as a commonplace and exclusively Muslim practice – or to suggest that unless you are a Muslim woman, you don’t really have problems.

    1. I think Dawkins knows this stuff. The man’s not a moron. He was speaking in the present tense, not addressing the entire history of Christianity.

  23. This might be good advice, depending on the society in which the person lives. This might be practical advice, not religious advice.

    Converting to Christianity would allow the person to avail themselves of Christian social groups and organizations, who might provide more support and protection for the recent convert. Buddhism or atheism might not have enough of a local population to provide this kind of support and protection.

    Later on, the convert might move on to something other than Christianity, once they’ve got their new life in order.

  24. Do you remember how in the early days of psychiatry Freud and his friends would prescribe cocaine for heroin addiction?

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