These days it's not so wise to say you have heroes, they're sure to let you down sooner or later. Some dirty little secret is almost certain to emerge, or they turn out, after a trailblazing start, to be a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Notwithstanding this caveat, Ayaan Ali's journey to date can be described as nothing short of heroic. In some ways her journey reminds me of that taken by Malcolm X, a journey that was cruelly if predictably cut down by America's forces of reaction. Ayaan Ali also faces, on a daily basis, such a fate, but she is far from cowered. We will never know just how far Malcolm X would have travelled had he been spared the assassins bullet, but we do know that towards the end of his short but spectacular life he was meeting with the likes of Fidel Castro and other radical nationalist world leaders. As for Ayaan Ali, her journey from impoverished village life in Somalia to that of leading spokesperson for an Islamic reformation is truly inspirational.

Her latest book outlines the specifics of that reformation and t

hat puts her right in the firing line of every Jihadist`` reactionary across the planet, of which there are aplenty. Her arguments are extremely coherent and persuasive and 'Heretic' needs be widely circulated. If I have one reservation concerning her thesis, it is that it may be too late in the day for such a reformation. What the world is crying out for these days is not so much a reformation of the world's religions but rather a complete denunciation and transcendence of religion per se. It is patently obvious that as a species we now need to transcend our superstitious, irrational and tribal past. A reformed Islam still leaves over a billion citizens with an irrational mind-set in the same way that Christianity is still stuck in its 'flat-earth' mentality despite the so called Protestant Reformation dating back to the seventeenth century.

Any rational thinking person would certainly welcome a more secular, reformed version of Islam but I have this nagging suspicion that a reformed Islam would all too quickly re-sprout its own fundamentalist mentality in the way that Christianity has done across the Americas. Fundamentalism is in the DNA of all religions because they are all fundamentally irrational. My god is always right, your god is always wrong, and anyone who dares disagree with me is a heretic!

I spoke earlier of Ayaan Ali's inspirational journey. This journey has not limited itself to a reformed Islam. Ali herself has travelled so much further. From a young girl indoctrinated into the tribal and heavily patriarchal ideology of Islam, Ali is now a professed atheist. That is an inspirational journey for any young person from any religion to make, but coming from a religion that denounces heretics and preaches the barbaric concept of apostasy, this is a truly heroic journey. Ali announces her atheism with pride and defiance;

'Finally, after much agonizing, I resolved my inner conflict by rejecting the claim that God is the author of the Qur'an; by rejecting Muhammad as a moral guide; and by accepting the view that there is no life after death and that God is created by mankind and not the other way round.  P44

In those wonderfully simple few lines Ali throws down the gauntlet not only to the diktat of the Islamic mullahs but to all irrational religious thought across the planet. And without wanting to sound condescending, these few lines are as powerful and profound as anything that has been delivered by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. To declare ones atheism from the comfort of western academia is one thing, to reach that self-same point of enlightenment from the depths of Islamic subjugation is quite another.

Further into the book Ayaan Ali again expresses her secular universalism and thereby elevates her thesis to an even higher level.

'Nor is my dream of a Muslim Reformation a matter for Muslims alone. People of all faiths, or of no faith, have a great interest in a changed Islam: a faith that is more respectful of the basic doctrines of human rights, that universally preaches less violence and more tolerance, that promotes less corrupt and less chaotic governments, that allows for more doubt and more dissent, that encourages more education, more freedom, and more equality before a modern system of law.' P75

Now it would be very easy to be cynical about this passage, accusing Ali, as many have done, of a certain naivety when it comes to Western democracy. After all, the West have managed, since the conclusion of World War Two hostilities, to murder some ten million people world-wide, people who had the temerity to demand national independence and freedom from European and US imperialism. Three million Vietnamese alone were savagely slaughtered by the US military industrial complex for the crime of wanting to break away from French colonialism. It has been a similar bloody story across most of the planet. And still the slaughter goes on.

Yes, there may well be a certain naivety about Ali's new found world view. But for me none of this detracts from her work. She may be the darling of Harvard University and of Time Magazine but for me she is definitely in the vanguard of contemporary thought. The planet is crying out for a radical extension of the European Enlightenment and Ayaan Ali is right there on the front line. She has a well- researched sense of history and if she is guilty of a touch of blindness when it comes to the virtues of the West she has plenty of time to make the necessary corrections, providing of course that she is not cut down by the mindless violence of one of Islam's mindless jihadists.

Ali's call for an Islamic reformation is well timed. I now hope that her next work calls not just for religious reformation but for a wholesale reformation of human thought, East and West. A reformation based not just on the principles of the European Enlightenment but a reformation that takes that Enlightenment right into the globalised age of the 21st century - a reformation of human thought free not only from national and racial prejudice but one free from all dogma, irrationality and superstition. From what I've read from her so far, Ayaan Ali is more than up to the task.

End JPK Copyright

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Last Updated ( Monday, 21 May 2018 06:29 )