Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Ayaan Hirsi Ali at JHU in Baltimore, April 5th, 2011

Last night my wife and I attended the talk given by Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Johns Hopkins University for their Foreign Affairs Symposium series.

We brought a copy of Infidel in case she would be signing books, and though the announced she would at the beginning of the talk, at the end they cancelled it.
The talk was enjoyable, though slow to start, and she is generally soft spoken and showed a sense of humor at times. The auditorium at Mudd Hall was pretty packed, and she received a rather nice round of applause at the beginning and end. I saw a few atheists from the local community, and stopped Bill Creasy from the Baltimore Secular Humanists to say hello as I was packing my camera up by the exit.
At points, I saw my wife daubing tears from the corners of her eyes, and others a large smile on her face. In the Q&A part, one Jew (two people who stepped up to the mic made sure to identify themselves as such, so I use their identification) made some rambling statement about god, the torah and Ayaan "trying to make believers reject god". Her reply began "First of all, I find god to be very boring." to which my wife burst out in uncontrollable clapping. Ayaan took pause, smiled and thanked her (and the few others that joined in).
Another questioner, who stuck in my craw, decided to try to take a smarmy potshot at Ayaan. In her talk, she stressed the importance of questioning things, and he said "Given the theme of your talk, I want to know what things you've been hesitant to question at your place of employment?" He was referring to the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute. It wasn't even a real question, it was a childish political swipe... he might as well have stood up and said "I'm a liberal, I don't like conservatives." Then adjusted his diaper and sat back down.
Her answer was terrific, starting with "I have never hesitated to question anything." The day she joined, at lunch, she asked "Is it a problem that I believe that homosexuals should be able to marry?"
"No." was the response.
That same response was given when she stated she believed in euthanasia and a woman's right to have an abortion.
"Those are all fine, they are your beliefs." her fellows said.
"Then what am I supposed to believe?" she jokingly asked.
The questioner, not satisfied, decided that if she hadn't hesitated before, that he needed to tell her not to hesitate in the future. His hatred for the conservatives at the think-tank seemingly taking precedence over.. oh, I dunno, discussing women's rights in Islam - the topic of the conversation.

All the the quotes above are from memory, as I did not record the event.

I just recently purchased a new camera, and tried not to be annoying while taking photos. There was a professional there, and others, so I didn't feel it was out of line.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Well the allegation that she is trying to make people turn away from god is just not true, whoever it comes from. In her most her book "Nomad", she recommends proselytization by liberal Protestant churches among Muslim immigrants to help them assimilate. I can see where she comes from and it may not be such a bad idea, given that going directly to secularism among deeply religious people likely won't work. But either way she is only trying to turn people away from fundamentalist Islam.
PS An awful book like the Torah is about the worst reason anyone can give for believing.

Unknown said...

(Hos, your comment was posted twice, so I deleted one of them)

One of the Jews, a college kid, discussed how parts of the Torah were "difficult", but yet Jews have learned to interpret these "difficult parts" in ways that ... make them not so difficult (he was stumbling a bit trying to find the best euphemistic language).

Yes, there are parts that any reasonable person may find _euphemism for deeply disturbing_.

Don Wharton said...

Kevin, thanks for a wonderful thoughtful review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's talk. I think many of our "liberals" don't understand how important it is to have secularism in any of its various forms visible and accepted within "conservative" social groups. My view is that ethical and reasonable action follows organically from the facts objectively considered. You and Ayaan are doing wonderful work in building visible channels of communication between the liberal/conservative divide.

lucette said...

Don, Do you care to give at least one example to illustrate this statement. I believe it needs explanation. Thanks.

Don Wharton said...

Lucette, it is not clear which position of mine you would like to be illustrated. Is it the value of visible secularists increasing the acceptance of secularism in conservative communities or ethical actions emerging organically from an objective understanding of the facts?

leah williams said...

I know AHA probably has difficulty with liberals for her association with the conservative American Enterprise Insitute. When she spoke at the AAI (atheists) Conference here in DC several years ago, she was in need of guards and security. Her associate Van Goch (sp?) had been assassinated for his role in working with her to film "Submission". She had to flee Europe. I wonder how much AEI is paying for her security? How much are liberals/secularists willing/able to pay for her security?

Don Wharton said...

Theo Van Gogh was her associate in the making of the movie Submission. The murderer stated very explicitly that he was killed because of religion.

My recollection is that the AAI had to pay over $5,000 for security at the 2007 convention so that Ayaan could come without fear.