“This is a trigger warning for the entire book. Reading it, you should be triggered.” (from the cover page of Prey)
I wasn’t triggered by Prey, but many readers have evidently been, not least Jill Filipovic who wrote a grossly inaccurate hit piece for the New York Times. Read Tunku Varadarajan from the Wall Street Journal for a worthy review of Prey. What follows is my review.
Prey is in fact Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s best book to date. Vilified for speaking truth, and castigated for her common sense, she now turns her guns on the problem of Muslim immigrants in Europe, especially since 2015, when more than a million migrants and refugees crossed the border and ignited the well-known crisis.
“The rape game [taharrush gamea] crossed the Mediterranean in December 2015. During New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne, more than a thousand young men formed rings around individual women, sexually assaulting them. And when the victims identified the perpetrators as looking foreign, North African, and Arab, they were pilloried as racists on social media.” (p 161)
The “rape game”, or taharrush gamea, is sexual harassment/assault in crowds, and the inevitable expression of many elements — religiously sanctioned misogyny, values of honor and shame, lack of sex education, and repressed urges. Far from being the reprehensible crime it is in the west, in many Muslim-majority countries the rape game happens openly. Immigrant Muslim men do not — contrary to the claims of some — use sexual violence to lash out at host societies because they feel disenfranchised. These men simply behave as they always have. If Egyptian men play the rape game on the streets of Cairo and then come to Germany and do the same thing, it’s not because they feel inferior or oppressed. It’s because of entrenched factors — religiously sanctioned misogyny, honor-shame values, lack of sex education, and repressed urges — and because they think they can get away with it, as they always have.
Until recently, sexual violence in public places — especially when orchestrated by gangs — had come to be seen as an aberration in most of Europe. Rape and sexual assault rates had been falling for decades, and it was widely known that most sexual violence occurred within established relationships. Europe was simply unprepared for what ignited on New Year’s Eve, 2015, and before long, women avoided going outdoors as much as possible.
It’s important to stress that Hirsi Ali’s book doesn’t demonize migrant men from the Muslim world. As she says, there’s no racial component to her argument at all. A certain proportion of men of all ethnicities will rape and harass women. But the rates are incredibly lower in some parts of the world than others — especially in places where men are raised to respect a woman’s autonomy — and I was particularly struck by the her analogy with the #MeToo movement, and the usual leftist/woke hypocrisy:
“As I was researching for this book, the #MeToo movement shone a light on sexual abuse and exploitation in the upper echelons of North America. I found myself wondering why an equally bright light was not being shone on the often more serious crimes against women in lower-income neighborhoods in Europe.” (p 9)
“I am not claiming that sexual harassment is a vice unique to immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. On the contrary, part of my reason for writing this book was to make sense of the changing attitudes of women toward sexual harassment, which have come to be associated around the world with the #MeToo movement. For me, it is a puzzle that in the United States and other Western countries, countless pages and copious airtime have been devoted to the misdeeds of a few hundred prominent figures in the entertainment industry, politics, education, and finance, but much less has been written about the far more numerous acts of rape, assault, and harassment perpetrated by recent migrants to Europe.” (p 61)
And one could of course expand this critique to swipe huger hypocrisies and misplaced priorities. Westerns, for example, will crusade over being misgendered or called by their non-preferred pronouns, but fall utterly silent about honor-killings and female genital mutilation in the Islamic world.
The Playbook of Denial
Another important point: Hirsi Ali was an asylum seeker and an immigrant (first to the Netherlands and then to the U.S.), and the last thing she wants are obstacles put up to those who want to escape religious oppression and have better lives in the west. She wrote Prey “not to help the proponents of closed borders but to persuade liberal Europeans that denial is a self-defeating strategy” (p 10). I’ll get to her proposed alternative to right-wing “closed border” solutions at the end of the review. For now let’s focus on denial — since leftists and wokes have made such a bloody art of it — of which Hirsi Ali identifies eight different types (see chapter 9):
1. The Brush-off. Police and politicians simply don’t take reports of migrant sexual assault seriously, because they fear the political ramifications.
2. Misdirection. People conjure up a smoke screen by universalizing the problem of sexual violence. They claim that it’s not immigrants who disproportionately rape women, but rather that “all men are rapists” and “every third woman experiences physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence”. While it’s obviously true that sexual violence is a universal problem, it is also true (just as obviously, to those living in reality) that such violence from migrant Muslims has been a disproportionate problem across Europe, especially in Germany and Sweden.
3. The Semantic Muddle. Suspects in police reports and media coverage are described as “southerners”, “men with dark skin”, or people with “poor German” language skills, deliberately obscuring their migration status. In some parts of Europe, the semantic muddle is officially imposed by media regulators. To suggest that an immigrants’ religion and culture may have anything to do with their attitudes to women can jeopardize a journalist’s career in Europe.
4. Bogus Research and Commentary. Manufacturing statistics and surveys debunk reality on the ground. Attitudinal studies in particular are designed in such a way to reflect the preferred conclusions of researchers. Such studies will conclude falsely that attitudes to immigrants in various European countries are highly stable and becoming more favorable, when that is not necessarily true.
5. Dismissal of Honest Academics as Bigots. Academics often reject evidence supplied by their honest colleagues that goes against woke agendas. False charges of racism are leveled against those who portray Muslim societies as far more patriarchal and oppressive than Western ones, and against those who explain the links between Islamic beliefs and the idea of women as commodities.
6. Appeals to Compassion and Platitudes. Virtue-signaling at the expense of reason or caution is also a common denial tactic. When politicians implore citizens to fulfill their moral duty to rescue migrant workers, they imply that any critics of immigration policies are automatically immoral, inhumane, and racist.
7. Bad Advice and Bogus Solutions. Police and politicians have engaged in victim-blaming. After the mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve 2015, for example, the mayor of Cologne suggested that women were afraid of being assaulted should keep themselves “at arm’s length” from strangers. Police have suggested that women wear comfortable shoes that are made for running so that they can flee fast if they need to. Instead of implementing measures to ensure women’s safety, they place the onus on women to protect themselves from predatory men.
8. Fear of Bigotry and Backlash. Probably the most powerful tool in maintaining denial about the religious and cultural aspects of sexual violence is to claim that talking about the facts will fan the flames of racism, empower right-wing populists, and further divide society. This excuse has been used repeatedly by the police, politicians, social workers, and the media. To avoid being perceived as xenophobic, people would rather cover up the problem and leave victims at risk.
The last is especially a problem, because right-wing groups can be very effective in exaggerating or fabricating anti-immigrant stories. Anyone who tries discussing the negative aspects of immigration is almost certain to be accused of legitimizing the alt-right. But we can’t let fears like that intimidate us. Hirsi Ali is right: openly honest books like Prey can provide far more effective arguments against the alt-right than strategies of denial and perverted woke multiculturalist agendas.
The unpleasant fact is that hard-won gains that women have made are being eroded in Europe by immigrants from places that don’t grant such rights to women. Women who walk outdoors (assuming they don’t stay shut inside at home) have adopted some of the mannerisms of women in the Middle-East and Africa — shrinking from men, being on guard, and avoiding drawing attention to themselves. The simple act of traveling or enjoying lunch in a cafe has become a thing of the past for many women, who no longer recognize their neighborhoods or feel safe.
Likewise, German public transit has lost its reputation for safety. Women and girls have been increasingly reluctant in recent years to take the subway lines alone where many young Muslim men are traveling. Sexual assaults from migrant men take place daily in certain subway lines. In a 2014 report (by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights), about half of the 42,000 women surveyed had restricted their movement out of fear of sexual assault. Street harassment is obviously not a new phenomenon, but only recently has it become so dramatically pervasive to make women change their behavior patterns.
What’s astonishing is that Chancellor Angela Merkel made her fateful decision (to welcome refugees fleeing the Syrian war in 2015) almost absent-mindedly. As Hirsi Ali explains, there was no decision. An official thirty-page order to close the German borders had been drafted, but no one had the courage to sign off on it. It wasn’t a policy change or a strategy; it just slipped through everyone’s fingers and happened. And at first a lot of Germans were (understandably) happy about the unrestricted welcome to immigrants. It signaled a humanitarian approach and made the German people look enlightened.
They changed their tune mighty fast, not only when women felt unsafe to go outside alone, but with the wave of jihadist attacks that followed in 2016: an Afghan asylum seeker stabbing five people on a train near Wurzburg; a Syrian refugee blowing himself up outside a music festival in Ansbach; a twelve-year old Iraqi boy planting a bomb at a Christmas market in Ludwigshafen; a Tunisian asylum seeker (who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State) who drove a truck into the crowd at a Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, killing twelve and injuring fifty-six others.
The Problem of Islam, and Collectivist Societies
And just as Islam mandates jihad (holy war) against unbelievers, it sanctions the treatment of women as inferior commodities, especially sura 4 of the Qur’an. While wife-beating obviously exists everywhere, only in Islam does it have divine sanction (4:34). Polygamy is sanctioned as well (4:3). The sexual enslavement of infidel women also has divine approval (4:24).
Hirsi Ali describes harrowing accounts of the survivors of sexual assaults. One victim of a gang rape in Rotherham said that her rapists said that she deserved to be raped because she was non-Muslim and dressed immodestly. As she was raped more than a hundred times, her attackers quoted the Qur’an to her (pp 173-174).
Accentuating the problem of Islam is the nature of group-oriented collectivist societies like the Muslim-majority nations which immigrants come from. Hirsi Ali points out that in our western world, “the individual, whether male or female, is recognized as a decision maker responsible for his or her behavior. In the Muslim world, by contrast, it is the group that is responsible. Whether it is the family, clan, or the whole ummah (community), the group makes decisions on behalf of individuals, and the condemnation of an individual is considered vilification of the group.” (pp 174-175)
So if the group doesn’t acknowledge the individual’s action as criminal (as in cases of rape), then the whole community feels victimized by the state. And this is what fuels Muslim communities to deflect individual responsibility for sexual assault by charging others with “Islamophobia” and the fear of a backlash — or, ludicrously, a “Muslim Holocaust”.
All of this dramatically reduces the chances for successful Muslim integration, and this takes us to the chapter on that subject.
Why Integration Hasn’t Happened
Muslims of course have been migrating to Europe since long before the 2010s. And it would seem logical, based on the history of other immigrants: the inherent superiority of secular democratic pluralism would be so attractive that migrant Muslims would eventually welcome it. The question of competing values would take care of itself as the migrants became employed and their children went to school. But that’s not what has happened with most Muslims; the values don’t rub off, and the cause comes down to religious (not ethnic) differences.
According to Hirsi Ali, Muslim immigrants take one of four paths (see pp 180-181):
1. The Adapters. Those who use the freedoms they find in Europe to learn, educate themselves and their children, find gainful employment, to start businesses, to vote, and to take part in society and thrive. Ayaan Hirsi Ali herself was an Adapter, in the Netherlands in 1990.
2. The Menaces. Those — mostly young men — who become a danger to their own homes and outside in public. Some drop out of school, some commit crimes big and small, and many spend time in prison. They’re often into alcohol and drugs, and most are unemployable. They tend to be neither religious nor morally driven. They take full advantage of welfare, and of criminal lawyers when they are charged with stealing, vandalizing, and sexual assault.
3. The Fanatics. Those who come to Europe driven by religiosity. They use the freedoms they find in Europe to spread Islamism and jihadism. They become language proficient in their host country and employed, and seek to work within the system to to destroy it and replace it with sharia law. They will use whatever means necessary to bring about the Islamic vision, using violence, threats, intimidation, blackmail, and peer pressure.
4. The Coasters. Men and women with little or no formal education who accept welfare benefits, live off them, and invite their families from abroad to come and join them. They see no reason to work because the jobs available to them are menial and pay little more than their welfare benefits. They attend mosque but also send their children to local schools. They are not criminal, but when enough of them live in close proximity they create ghettos, in which the Islamic way of life is replicated in the west. It is in these neighborhoods that children of the Coasters can either become Menaces, or find their way to the Fanatics.
Obviously these categories aren’t rigidly separate. A Coaster’s children can become Adapters; some Menaces clean up their acts; Menaces can turn into Fanatics; etc. The point is simple: If European officials and academics are honest with themselves, they would acknowledge that significant numbers of immigrant Muslims fall into one or more of the last three categories: Menace, Fanatic, or Coaster. The Adapters are there, to sure, but they are a minority (p 182).
What Holds Back Muslim Integration?
Italians, Irish, Jews, and Chinese integrated well into America, even though they faced they same obstacles as Muslim immigrants in Europe. They lived in crowded accommodations and ghettos, were unable to speak English well at first, began as unskilled workers, and faced worse bigotry and prejudices than Muslims do (Chinese immigrants were thought of as the “yellow plague”, Jews were exposed to intense anti-Semitism and discrimination, etc.). By the middle of the twentieth century, Italian Americans and Irish Americans were more or less fully integrated into American society, without repudiating their cultural heritage (even acknowledging the problem of mafia crime). Why haven’t Muslims done so after one or two decades?
The common answer is that Muslims come from countries with low education, poor protection of human rights, and societal trauma. But the history of Vietnamese integration refutes that argument. In the ’70s and ’80s many Vietnamese refugees fled war, communism, and poverty, and arrived in the west with a poor education and few language skills. Some relied on welfare but within two decades were thoroughly integrated. Many of them retain their customs, language, and religious beliefs, while embracing western values.
Hirsi Ali says that of all the forces holding back Muslim immigrants from integrating properly, the Islamic religion is the biggest. She’s right: Islam is a political religion that allows for no separation of mosque and state, and envisions a sharia-based society where unbelievers are subjugated (if not slain), and women kept firmly under the boot of oppression. In surveys comparing the attitudes of the children of migrant parents, it is only Muslims who do not develop more egalitarian views of women as they grow up in the west.
Many Islamic organizations advise Western governments on integration policies that encourage the respect of illiberal Islamic beliefs, and the further entrenchment of practices that keep Muslims segregated from the rest of liberal society. “It is paradoxical that in the name of freedom of religion, governments permit Islamist organizations to hamper the integration of communities and new arrivals. It’s trying to put out the fire with a flame thrower.” (p 190)
Two Alternative Solutions: Populism or Radical Reform
So what’s the solution? In the final two chapters, she considers two responses to the problems of migrant Muslims. The first is the right-wing populist solution, that favors expelling illegal immigrants and restricting future Muslim immigration — which Hirsi Ali considers neither wise nor practical — and the second is to radically reform the European systems of integrating immigrants.
Populism: The lesson of the past decade is clear. If wokes and leftists refuse to listen to citizens’ concerns about Muslim immigrants, or dismiss them as racist, right-wing populists will gain an audience. Populist parties do a great job of articulating voters’ grievances when everyone else fears to. You have to give them that. But their promises to expel immigrants or “stop the boats” is usually not the humane approach, and it’s easier said than done in any case (in Europe anyway; it’s easier to enforce in America). Europe, says Hirsi Ali, must face facts and create the right incentives for immigrants and native populations to succeed together.
Reform: To emphasize again — especially since critics have misrepresented Hirsi Ali on this point, including the New York Times reviewer — she advocates a humane approach: “I have been a beneficiary of the asylum system and of a successful integration program. I have emigrated twice in my life. I would be a monstrous hypocrite if I lent support to the proponents of deportation and immigration restriction. What I want to see is many others like me enjoying the same opportunities that I have enjoyed and contributing to the health of the West’s open societies. But without drastic reforms of Europe’s immigration and integration systems, that is not going to happen.” (p 256)
Indeed, if leaders continue to bury their heads in the sand, then Hirsi Ali is probably right: within a decade or two at the most, there will be a serious rollback of women’s rights in Europe. Public spaces will look very different. Women will no longer walk about confidently, unaccompanied, in the streets or taking the public transit alone.
Specifically, Hirsi Ali proposes six measures of reform:
1. Repeal the Existing Asylum Framework. The global asylum and refugee system is outdated and ill equipped to cope with the challenges posed by mass violence and global immigration today. The distinction between migrant and asylum seeker has become blurred so that’s no longer useful. Rather than focus on where people come from and their motivations for leaving, Hirsi Ali suggests that the main criterion for granting access should be how far they are likely to abide by the laws and adopt the values of their host country. Those who can demonstrate their ability to adapt, and who will most likely enter the labor market (instead of the welfare state), would be those who qualify. Officials should ask migrants what they know about the culture and laws of the society they wish to join, and what the migrant envisions for him or herself in the west. Then, instead of being thrown in a reception center for years (to wait while asylum applications and appeals are assessed), the migrant will be given a reasonable time frame to prove a willingness to adapt to the west — a probation period of say one or two years — and if unsuccessful, the migrant will be ordered to leave or be deported.
2. Address the Push Factors… She suggests that western countries need to invest more resources into examining the problems in countries that cause migrants to flee to begin with. Trade agreements, developmental aid, diplomatic pressure should be used to help stabilize the Muslim world, instead of leaving everything to the United States.
3. … as well as the Pull Factors. The original welfare state was predicated on a notion of reciprocity, but to immigrants it looks more like a universal basic income. There must be meaningful limits on what outsiders can claim. The Austrian government has been demonized for trying to inject reciprocity back into its welfare system. The Austrians should be lauded. The threat of penalties and deportation works; it gets migrants to register for courses and language training.
4. Reinstate the Rule of Law. European national governments need to reform their criminal justice systems. As they stand, they are way too lenient on violent offenders, and they make outrageous exceptions for immigrants on grounds of “cultural sensitivity”.
5. Listen to the Successful Immigrants – not to the Islamists or the wokes. Rather than pander to Islamist spokesmen and white wokes, western governments should reallocate their resources to support the ideas of the successful Adpaters — the immigrants, that is, who have adopted the values of the country that has given them sanctuary, and come out as well-adjusted liberal Europeans. In other words, listen to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
6. Provide Sex Education to all Children. The only way to crack the shell of those who live an honor-shame framework of sex (in which clit-cutting, honor killings, sexual repression, and treating women as commodities are the norm) is to have mandatory sex education.
The Road to Gilead
It’s fitting that Hirsi Ali ends her book with reflections on The Handmaid’s Tale. I have said myself that the scenario envisioned in the novel/TV series evokes Islam far more than a hypothetical Christianity that takes over the state. Hirsi Ali writes:
“Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985 to warn that American Evangelical Christians might one day succeed in establishing a patriarchal regime in the United States — or at least part of it, as ‘Gilead’ is supposed to be New England. Most of her readers appear to have missed the fact that something very like this had already happened in the Muslim world as religious ideologues seized power in the 1970s and ’80s in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. Islamic dystopias completely changed the circumstances of women in these countries — particularly better-off women in the large cities, who, in the 1950s and ’60s, had enjoyed at least some of the freedoms of women in the West. Islamists turned back the clock for women by claiming the public space for men with a religious fiat. Women were reduced to the role of mere breeders of sons.”
“I am not predicting that European women will meet exactly the same fate. History is unlikely to move as far back in time in Sweden or Germany as it has done in Iran and Somalia. It would be hyperbolic to suggest that Europe is sliding toward sharia law. Yet the recent wave of sexual violence and harassment in Europe is subtly but undeniably changing the nature of female life in Europe for the worse. Do we want a Europe in which photographs of female life taken before 2015 become objects of fascination, like the pictures in the books that the central character censors in Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments? If we wish to avoid it, we must imagine Old Europe as Gilead. It is already a closer fit than New England.”
I hope it’s not too late, for Europe’s sake.