Rhonda Roumani at The Scoop asks why controversial atheist and denouncer of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is allowed by the American media to speak for all Muslim women. She writes, “She has slowly become the public face of ‘Muslim women,’ often to the exclusion of others who have compelling narratives of their own and who offer a more nuanced understanding of the debates taking place both within the Muslim community and outside it. In short, the real problem is that journalists often fail to place Ali (and a few others like her) in context for a general audience that has a limited understanding of Islam and Muslim communities.” Roumani recommends that news outlets and journalists include other Muslim women’s voices for richer, more representative reporting and she offers some suggestions.
But if Roumani won’t say it, allow us: Ali is attractive, articulate, and, most importantly, her story fits a narrative that is comfortable, particularly in post-9/11 America: Islam is bad (for women). Ali doesn’t ask us to consider the position of Muslim feminists and she doesn’t complicate our rudimentary understanding of Islam. That’s a quick and easy position to present in 60 seconds, or as Bruce Lawrence calls it in a very worthwhile recent book review at Religion Dispatches, “the polite Islamophobia of the intellectual.”