Oceania

Threats force cancellation of Australia tour by critic of Islam

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has called Islam a “nihilistic cult of death’’.

One of the world’s most prominent opponents of Islam is canceling a trip to Australia over security concerns, according to Church Militant, a conservative Roman Catholic website.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali announced Sunday she was canceling a speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand after threats to planned venues and their insurers.

Though local police forces were not aware of any specific threats, Hirsi Ali, who lives under 24-hour security protection owing to threats from Islamists, canceled the events after her planned venues could not ensure her safety. The 47-year-old activist had been scheduled to give talks in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and then Auckland, New Zealand.

Some Muslim activists and leaders have responded to Hirsi Ali’s cancellation with triumph. Hana Assafiri, an activist out of Melbourne, had campaigned against Hirsi Ali’s appearance, and told The Guardian Australia she was being held accountable for her “divisive discourse,” and hoped the cancellation would serve as “an opportunity to rethink her position … which peddles hate towards people.”

Another Australian Muslim, Syed Murtaza Hussain of the Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia, contacted many of Hirsi Ali’s venues, warning that protesters were prepared to disrupt her events, and claiming there would be 5,000 protesters to meet her in Melbourne. It remains unclear if it was the numbers that dissuaded Hirsi Ali. Before canceling her tour, the Change.org petition against her appearance had only 400 signatures.

Interest in the tour had been robust, and more than 2,000 ticket-holders now await refunds.

Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born and a former Dutch MP with Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamist Freedom Party, relocated to the United States in 2006. She first gained international fame in 2004 after her collaborator, Theo van Gogh, was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam following the release of their film Submission documenting the brutal treatment of women under modern Islam.

Van Gogh was stabbed to death, and attached to one of the knives left in his body was a death threat to Hirsi Ali. She has lived with round-the-clock security since, and has not backed down from her criticism of Islam, which she calls a “nihilistic cult of death.”

Hirsi Ali has also been a critic of the churches: “If you look at Western civilization, at the institutions [and movements] that were engaged in changing people’s hearts and minds — the Christian Church, humanists, feminists — they are doing next to nothing in these Muslim communities. When I was in Holland [recently], I heard about a Christian mission that had been proselytizing in Morocco. The government kicked them out and sent them back to Holland. I thought, “You don’t have to stop proselytizing — just go to the Muslim community in Amsterdam west and carry on there.”

Hirsi Ali was one of the most prominent Western voices to call attention to Muslim persecution of Christians throughout the world. In a 2012 cover story for Newsweek, she described the threats to safety and diminution of rights faced by Christians in Muslim-majority countries.

Yet she noted the mistake of thinking Muslim bigotry could be localized. “No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency,” she clarified. “In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions and ethnicities.”