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Posted in: Jihad & Terrorism, Islamism/Muslim Dissidents

Published on Oct 12, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

Is Jihad Winning in Holland and America?

An Interview with Abigail R. Esman


Holland is on my mind right now, partly because Geert Wilders is, unbelievably, still on trial for the "thought crime" of telling the truth about Islamic jihad but partly because a new study has just been released which shows that half the victims of honor-related violence in Holland (this means Muslim girls and women) who sought shelter through the social service network, Fier Fryslan, were also sexually abused by their own family members.

Of the sexually abused girls, 52% were abused by a cousin, 22% by a brother and 20% by an uncle. 8% were abused by their father, 2% by a stepfather, and 2% by an acquaintance.

But, I am mainly thinking a lot about Holland because I recently met with and interviewed the most amazing woman, the author, Abigail R. Esman, who has just published a very important book, Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West.

Esman is American-born, but she has lived in Holland for the last 20 years. She is reluctant to leave—but leave she must, given that Holland has so totally failed to integrate an alarmingly separatist, radicalized, and hostile Muslim population—and given the amount of anti-Semitism that also exists there.

Esman's book deserves a full court review and I will do so at a later time. It is far more personable and reader-friendly than Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West. Both books address the same subject, but Esman's is beautifully, personally written; one feels as if they now almost "know" Esman's Holland just as she herself does. She describes the country's enormous charm and customs, its art, ideas, history, landscapes. She is also intimately involved with its politics.

Esman interviewed the late Theo van Gogh, befriended and worked closely with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and she knows the leading Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents in Holland such as Afshin Ellian. Here is part of an interview that I did with her over a brief period of time when she was in New York City:

Q: Clearly, you love Holland and feel at home there. If Holland does not solve its Muslim immigrant problem, will you leave?

A: I do not love Holland anymore, and I no longer feel at home there, and I fully intend to leave. And the Muslim immigrant problem — or rather, both the far right and the far left responses to it — is the reason. Jews are not welcome in Holland. Foreigners of all kinds are not welcome in Holland. The resentment and anger between the two groups have made the country entirely unmanageable; the general incompetence and laziness, which have little to do with this issue, make it, for me, unlivable.

Q: Can Holland solve these problems?

A: You want this in a brief answer!? Yikes. But generally speaking: The main thing involves education, which is what I believe is the solution to the problem everywhere — arts education, in particular, which instills the ability to think abstractly — and to have compassion, one must be capable of abstract thought. Education in literature teaches something equally important: to interpret texts, to understand the difference between fact and metaphor—a concept critical to the proper reading of religious texts. That principle is really at the core of all my work.

That said, I agree with Afshin Ellian that borders must be closed temporarily (and only temporarily) until we figure out what to do about the conflicts already in place. One thing that Holland has done in recent years is set up task forces to investigate honor killings and forced marriages, and these have definitely helped the situation. We need to see those programs replicated throughout Europe.

These are the measures that I think are most urgent. Of course, they won't solve the problems in and of themselves—but I think they'd make a huge difference.

Q: Do you see democracy under siege in America in the same way? In other ways?

A: Absolutely the same way. And the same way that Holland refused to see what was really happening, preferring to cling to an idealistic vision, a dream of what the world should be, so, too, does America—and we need to be very careful we don't end up in the same situation.

Q: How do you think Holland should deal with honor-related violence and honor killings?

A: That's a complicated question, because Holland barely acknowledges that domestic violence exists even in non-Muslim circles. So the first thing is for them to start to address domestic violence of all kinds, and to make the public more aware of what it is. But in terms of honor-related violence: as we discussed, the Dutch have tried a number of possible solutions, and so far, have not been terribly successful, including a program in which young girls were placed in prisons for their own safety—appalling but possibly necessary.

These days, police are being trained to identify honor killings (and to distinguish them from the "suicides" they are often reported to be); but not much is happening in terms of preventive measures (education, for instance, or programs that would encourage girls and women to report threats — and protect them when they do). What I do know is: what Holland is doing is nowhere near enough; and what it is doing is much more than America is doing, because America won't even admit the problem exists.

Q: Do you believe the Wilders will become the next prime minister and that the pending criminal charges against him will be dropped?

A: I don't believe he will become the next Prime Minister. As of today, in fact, the coalition government seems to be in place and most likely then next Prime Minister will be Mark Rutte. But I am certain the charges against him will be dropped, as similar charges against two other figures, also highly publicized cases, have been dropped in the past month or so. And if the charges against Wilders prevail, the outcry will be so enormous that that decision will inevitably be reversed. He is enormously popular in the Netherlands and in the USA.

Q: Which Muslim dissidents do you most admire?

A: American-based M. Zuhdi Jasser does not get enough attention. As an orthodox Muslim he is extremely impressive in how he has been able to reconcile Islam with modern, democratic values. He manages to commit so strongly to his faith while at the same time he is able to show that his faith can do things that we who fear that it can't—I find his work very moving.


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