BY ASHE SCHOW
…Millions of young girls in East Africa are treated as property and forced into marriage in exchange for wealth or status. Women who refuse to marry a husband selected by their familiescan be slain by their own parents and siblings in an “honor killing.” In some cases, the man she prefers is slain as well.
These situations are not isolated but are, rather, spreading into Western cultures. Between 25 and 28 honor killings occur in the United States each year, according to Hirsi Ali’s human rights organization. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 honor killings occur worldwide each year and that 800 million women and girls live under the constant threat of such violence.
“Wherever [Islamists] gain power, you see exactly what they do: The first thing they do is they chase women out of the public space, force them to cover up, beat them up, rape them, sell them into slavery,” Hirsi Ali said.
Such violence against women needs to be exposed, and Western liberals need to “review their thinking,” she said.
That will prove difficult. In her speech to the dinner guests in Washington, Hirsi Ali recalled meeting Vice President Joe Biden. He informed her that “ISIS had nothing to do with Islam.” When she disagreed with him, Biden actually responded: “Let me tell you one or two things about Islam.”
“I politely left the conversation at that,” Hirsi Ali said, to laughter. “I wasn’t used to arguing with vice presidents.”
In trying to educate Americans about the dangers of radical Islam and its encroachment on Western society, Hirsi Ali created the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation in 2007. Focusing specifically on honor violence, genital mutilation, and forced marriages, the foundation lobbies Congress, trains law enforcement officials to handle these kinds of domestic abuse cases, and connects women to crisis centers. The foundation’s main goal, according to its website, is to “help protect and defend the rights of women in the U.S. from religiously and culturally instigated oppression.”
Hirsi Ali expanded on comments the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States made in September, when he likened Islamic extremism to a “cancer.”
“Do you know how cancer comes in stages — stage one through four?” Hirsi Ali asked. “ISIS, Boko Haram — they have now achieved the stage of mayhem. But the earlier stages [are] sometimes undetectable. That is what we have here in the U.S. We have it in the UK. We have it in the rest of the Western countries. We have it all over the world.”
She wants Americans to understand how the cancer can spread in just a few years and “lead to something you really don’t want.”
“And we need to engage them and we need to argue with them,” she added. “I want, through this foundation, to achieve that awareness and then also to protect the rights of the women who come to us.”
Part of that awareness comes from a lobbying campaign working to eradicate genital mutilation in the United States. Female genital mutilation is illegal under federal law, but just 22 states have their own laws barring the practice. Hirsi Ali’s foundation is working with the remaining states to enact their own laws. So far, Louisiana, Kansas and New Jersey have passed laws based on language provided by the foundation, and Pennsylvania legislators are working on a similar bill.
The foundation also worked with Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., to introduce the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act, which amended existing law to include punishment for “vacation cutting,” the practice of sending a girl back to a home country to undergo the procedure.
The foundation trains police, teachers and social workers how to understand and combat such violence against women and girls from abroad, and to ensure authorities recognize that this type of violence is distinct from other kinds of domestic violence.
“Everyone we’ve been in touch with — prosecutors, lawyers, people in the government, activists — they now understand what honor violence is, what female genital mutilation is, that it is a special type of domestic violence,” Hirsi Ali said. “It is ideology-driven. It is founded on this religion, or the abuse of this religion.”…