In our mission to bring our Founder’s ideas into practice, this October, in cooperation with the Hoover Institution, we hosted the Coalescing Networks to Combat Islamist Ideologies Seminar at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. The event was the first step in building a network of ex-Muslims, Muslim reformers, human rights activists, academics, and practitioners to combat Islamism—a dangerous ideology that threatens Western society and Enlightenment values.
Ayaan devised the idea for the seminar over two years ago after writing extensively on Islamic reform and Western responses to radicalism. In her opening statement for the seminar, she shared:
When I wrote my book Nomad and this was in 2010, I believed that Islam was beyond reform, that maybe the best thing for religious believers, for Muslims, was just to go and pick another God. Of course I was juvenile. I was juvenile because I was so certain of it….I was certain that no conversation on Islam would ever begin.
But then, of course the Arab spring came along and I watched four national governments fall, Egypt’s twice. I watched the protests like you did, the uprisings in another 14 nations, I came to the conclusion very, very quickly that I was wrong. Muslims were ready to change and ready for change…and since then… I believe more and more Muslims are open to reconcile their faith with modernity.
The starting point for the conversation centered largely around the five-point framework for Islamic reform. Derived from Ayaan’s latest book Heretic, it suggests re-evaluating the semi-Divine status of the Prophet Muhammad and the literalist reading of the Quran the supremacy of life after death, adherence to outdated tenets of Sharia law, the individual mandate for Muslims to enforce Islamic law, and the imperative to wage a holy war, known as jihad, against non-Muslims.
This seminar was the first step for AHA Foundation to connect the voices of reformers and enlightenment thinkers, and build a network that will unify and amplify their message. This is how Ayaan described her idea:
These activists, the ones here and the ones out there…these people are all shouting at the wind and the idea was, how do we bring them together? We also realized—I’ve experienced that myself—that we are threatened, we have financial constraints, we have personal constraints, we are usually deplatformed, so we are not only speaking to the vision that we want to realize but we are also speaking to the experiences we’ve had…
At the conclusion of the seminar, the attendees felt like they were no longer lone voices, shouting into the wind, but rather, more connected to each other, focusing not on their differences, but on their shared goals and values. This affirmation will propel these brave visionaries to stand arm in arm to raise their voices together, even louder, to promote human rights and modern ideas.
Interested in more? Read our Founder. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s op-eds on combating Islamism here.