Ayaan Hirsi Ali nurtures a dream of making a muslim "Life of Brian" with all the juicy details of the prophet Muhammed's life as a conqueror and womanizer - and if possible in Denmark. All they have to do is call
Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali
It's Your Life or Your Thoughts
By Helle Merete Brix and Lars Hedegaard
Disturbing questions about the massive muslim presence in Europe are becoming more urgent by the day: It it possible to integrate muslims to become part of Europe? Will we have a liberal version of islam? And if not, what is there to look forward to? Civil war? Dissolution? An islamic take-over?
If your head is full of such nagging thoughts, it is a solace to meet Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the liberal Dutch politician and originally muslim immigrant from Somalia. Since the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, for whose strongly islam-critical film "Submission I" Ms. Ali wrote the script, Hirsi Ali between the two journalists Lars Hedegaard and Helle Merete Brix she has been under constant police protection. That was also the case when Sappho.dk interviewed her during her recent visit to Copenhagen.
But in spite of death threats and constant vilification the slender woman has by no means lost heart. She still waxes eloquent when she talks about the issue that concerns her the most: The defence of European civil rights and particularly freedom of expression.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali comes across as a genuinely European intellectual of the kind that is becoming increasingly rare as our home-grown cultural personalities and opinion leaders are buzily discarding our intellectual heritage.
The strength of art
Why does this thoroughly political person with her background as a political scientist express herself through an artistic medium?
"Because sometimes art is much more powerful than words. Art is accessible to many more more people than if you write a piece on an op-ed page. To understand art you don't have to know how to read and write," says Hirsi Ali, who then turns to the international furor caused by the twelve drawings of the prophet Muhammed recently published by the Danish national daily Jyllands-Posten.
"It is absolutely necessary for liberal European countries like Denmark to protect free speech. I've been in Holland for 13 years, and in a very short time I have learned how Europe came to be what it is today. And part of that was a huge conflict of religion. It started with the Reformation and reached its climax during the Enlightenment. If you refrain from making cartoons of Muhammed to accommodate Islamic intolerance, then you will go back to the time of Christian intolerance."
- Have you had any support among Dutch artists for your position?
"Yes, most of them do not agree with the style of what I have to say, but they find that I have the right to say it. I'm going to make a film called "Submission II", and the people who want to help me make it think that it is my decision what I want to say. I'm so happy about that. It's a big relief because at first I was afraid nobody was going to help me. The next challenge will be who is going to broadcast it. Which TV-channel, which cinema? But we will cross that bridge when we get to it."
A muslim "Life of Brian"
- You have said that you would like to make a muslim "Life of Brian".
"Yes, Muhammed is a much more colourful personality than Jesus. Such a film could be a learning instrument for muslims. There are some islamic films but they don't show the image of Muhammed and they are not really about him. They are more about how islam was established. I would really like to make a critical film about him. I could write a script very quickly."
Hirsi Ali speaking with Lars Hedegaard. - Would you dare to put in some of the details of his life such as the affair with Aisha, who Muhammed married when she was six and had sex with when she was nine?
"Oh yes. When I say colourful, Muhammed was of course a messenger of God like you read in the Bible about Noah and Moses, and you could make a beautiful film about that. But it would be much more interesting to describe that he was also a conqueror. He was superstitious. Every time he would need the support of his people, he would go to the cave to listen to the angel Gabriel. Putting that in a film would be very colourful, because whose voice is it going to be? Who could act as Muhammed?"
"Muhammed had many wifes. He was a sensuous man. He talked lot about sex and sexuality, about women. You can read that in the Koran and in the Hadith. They are very detailed on the sexuality business. For the Americans it might be too much but I'm sure that the Europeans would find it very colourful. I would put all of that in there in graphic detail, but also the moral dilemmas. Muhammed had adopted a son who was married to Zaynab. He fell in love with Zaynab and wanted her, but morally, of course, he could not demand to have her although his adopted son said that he could have his wife. So Muhammed had to go the cave and came back with a message that it was all right."