Wednesday, April 25, 2007

the collective wisdom of ignorance

Monday afternoon I passed within 2 feet of James Carville on the street while walking back to my office from a quick snack break. I'm still giggling about it. While some individuals mock my fascination with my DC people sightings, I feel nothing but childlike glee when I see people in my daily life who I'd ordinarily only catch glimpses of on Sunday morning talk TV. Between The Ragin' Cajun Sighting and my incredible tan, it's been a fabulous week. I love my life.

While my gut instinct is to introduce you all to my jackass landlord today, I think I'll save him for the month of May when I get closer to moving out and he actually does fray and break my very last nerve. After all, I'm sure he'll wander into our house unannounced and catch one of us in a towel at least one or two more times before our lease is up.

Rather, I think I'll discuss Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the inflamatory anti-Muslim feminist without a country. She lives under the constant eye of bodyguards who protect her from death threats just short of the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie, which she supported as a teen and young adult. She has defied her family and walked away from two husbands. She lives with the twisted emotion of survivor's guilt since the death of her friend and associate, Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered after producing the anti-Muslim screenplay she wrote. She has denounced her religion and had the intestinal fortitude to openly call Muhammed a pervert.

While I won't be so naiive as to take Ali's point of view as the Rosetta Stone for all modern Muslim women, I am intrigued by her life story and the events of her past that have led her to her present day opinions about religion and current affairs. Her recent autobiography Infidel not only discusses her life, but also brings perspective on Muslim society. She makes comparisons between the fundamentalist religion she found while living in Saudia Arabia, her lax religious upbringing in Somalia, and the present day rise of fanatical beliefs in Africa. If Ali's own experiences are not poignant enough, she also narrates the story of her younger sister Haweya. A graphic description of the female circumcision ritual performed on both women during their childhood paints a backdrop for the remainder of Haweya's conflicted and tragic existence, a life that almost provides a textbook prototype for the abused and manipulated Muslim woman.

Beyond any emotion I felt while reading Ali's memoir, I was most moved by her selflessness in speaking out. I'm beginning to understand the personal and professional ramifications that can present themselves anytime a person decides to voice their opposition to an injustice, no matter how big or small. To do so on the far reaching scale that Ali has astounds me. She has given up a good measure of freedom in her personal life to raise awareness to the situation of oppressed Muslim women around the world. In return, she has been publicly scorned for her divisiveness, no more than by those she has sacrificed so much for.

It takes courage to acknowledge the things that matter. It is much easier to allow daily events to pass by unnoticed, or at least unmentioned. People's feelings don't get hurt, tough decisions don't have to be made, and everyone can stay in their own undisturbed comfort zone just a little longer. And things never change, because everyone is too busy pretending not to notice.

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