Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book, Prey: Immigration, Islam and the Erosion of Women’s Rights, was published in February.

Hirsi Ali is certainly well-fitted to examining the issue. In 1992, she fled from Africa to escape an arranged marriage, and was granted asylum in the Netherlands, where she was later elected to parliament.

Following the grisly assassination of her colleague Theo van Gogh (who worked with Hirsi Ali when directing the anti-Islamist film Submission), she eventually relocated to the United States.

In this book, she describes how women are becoming almost invisible in a growing number of neighbourhoods in Europe’s cities, especially where Muslim immigrants form a majority.

Those women who are present in such communities often wear Islamic garb, and women and girls who do not dress like this are increasingly falling victim to verbal or non-verbal intimidation, and occasionally sexual assault, a problem which has worsened in the last decade as immigration increased.

Though she acknowledges the difficulties in comparing statistics across countries, the evidence she cites show that rates of rape or sexual assault went up between 2014-2017 in every European country where data is available.

In Germany, which adopted the most liberal stance on immigration in 2015, the number of victims of rape and sexual coercion increased by over 40 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Additional data suggests that migrants are responsible for a disproportionate amount of this violence: for example, asylum seekers were suspects in 11 percent of all reported rapes and sexual harassments in Austria in 2017, despite making up less than 1 percent of the population.

The author’s painstaking examination of similar evidence sheds light on why women feel increasingly unsafe on European streets, a fact demonstrated by polling data from the EU and OECD.

High-profile incidents such as the mass sexual assaults mainly perpetrated by Arab and North African migrants in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015 have drawn attention to this, as did the revelations that grooming gangs had exploited thousands of British girls in Rotherham and elsewhere.

As with Cologne, the crime was so large-scale that it could not be ignored or written off as a localised incident. Nor was it possible to ignore the fact that the culprits were predominantly Muslim men.

A key question which Hirsi Ali poses is why Western feminists who have driven the #MeToo movement forward have been so reticent when it comes to asking questions about what is happening to women in poorer parts of Europe’s cities at a time when immigration — legal and illegal — has increased greatly.

In 2015, almost two million people arrived in Western Europe from countries with large Muslim populations. Over the past decade, there were around 3.5 million illegal border crossings, with many others coming legally and claiming asylum, confident that they will not be deported even if their applications are turned down.

As a result of this enormous influx, Europe’s Muslim population increased from 19.5 million in 2010 to 25.8 million in 2016. 

These immigrants are disproportionately young males, from a cultural background which is deeply uncomfortable with the level of social freedom which women enjoy in the West.

In considering why this process has accelerated in spite of the serious problems it has caused, Hirsi Ali is very perceptive in her description of how the “integration industry” – bureaucrats, NGOs, non-profits, lawyers, etc – often benefit financially from their participation in a process which has failed to assimilate recent newcomers.

Interestingly, Hirsi Ali rejects the populist solution of stopping the inflow by beefing up security and deporting those who are here illegally.

Drawing on her own experience as an asylum seeker, she suggests alternative policies:  replacing the existing asylum framework with one which favours those who are willing to integrate; addressing the push factors which contribute to the outflow from the Muslim world; and limiting the pull factors by trimming Europe’s generous welfare states.

Some of this is commendable, but there are difficulties too.

Her suggestion that Europeans “should send military and civilian forces to help build institutions and the rule of law” in the immigrants’ homelands ignores the record of recent Western interventions. Compared to this, the populist/conservative policy of increasing security in border regions and in the Mediterranean appears far more achievable.

On the broader point about the ability to make large-scale Islamic immigration work, she appears uncomfortable with some of the evidence she cites, as when she points to the divergent experiences of Christian and Muslim Lebanese refugees who left their war-torn homeland for Australia in the 1970s.

There, and though starting from the same base, the Lebanese Christians easily outperformed their compatriots when it came to educational and occupational achievement, just as Hindus and Sikhs have outperformed Muslims in the UK, where the participation of Muslims in the labour force remains low, particularly when it comes to women.

Given the enormous challenges we face, a much more restrictive approach to immigration from the Muslim world is now called for — but that is not a call which Hirsi Ali is prepared to make.

Her analysis is lacking in one other area, when compared to the book which her friend Douglas Murray wrote some years ago, The Strange Death of Europe.

In her glowing admiration for the Europe which took her in, Hirsi Ali speaks the language of the classical liberal in her emphasis on individual rights and concludes with a quote from John Stuart Mill.

Murray’s book was also intended to sound the alarm when it came to the cultural threat facing Europe.

Though a non-believer, he went to great lengths to highlight the Christian foundations of Europe’s humane and enlightened culture and concluded by suggesting that Europe’s future would rest upon the attitude of its people towards the churches and other great cultural buildings which surround us: “Around the questions of whether we hate them, ignore them, engage with them or revere them, a huge amount will depend.”

While Hirsi Ali praises the fruits of European civilisation, Murray went further in recognising and defending the roots which allowed them to blossom. So should all who care about the future of Europe.

James Bradshaw works for an international consulting firm based in Dublin, and has a background in journalism and public policy. Outside of work, he writes for a number of publications, on topics including...