Middle East sexual violence brought to West's attention in new book

Middle East sexual violence brought to West's attention in new book

Hirsi Ali weaves bits of her personal story into Prey, but the book is not about her. It hypothesizes that the wave of refugees entering Europe brought about a spike in sexual assault.


In 2018, the Magazine published an interview with the mother of Susanna Feldman, a 14-year-old girl and daughter of a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union to Germany. Feldman was brutally raped and murdered in 2018 by Ali Bashar, an illegal immigrant from Iraq, and her body was found in a shallow grave by railroad tracks outside her hometown of Mainz. Bashar, who is also facing charges for repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl, was given a life sentence without parole in 2019.

Feldman’s story is one of many in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Prey, in which she examines the phenomenon of refugees from the Muslim world sexually assaulting women in Europe.

Hirsi Ali has a long personal and professional history dealing with the intersection between women and Islam. Born in Somalia, her grandmother subjected her to genital mutilation. She became a radical Islamist, sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood, as a teenager, but ran away to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage, and received political asylum. While in the Netherlands, she received a secular advanced education. After the September 11 attacks, she renounced Islam and began to criticize it publicly, and in 2003 she was elected to the Dutch parliament, partly on a platform of criticizing the government for overlooking abuse of Muslim girls and women. She reached international renown after collaborating with filmmaker Theo Van Gogh on a film criticizing the way women are treated in Islamic society. Van Gogh was assassinated by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamist and a death threat to Hirsi Ali was affixed to his body. Hirsi Ali later moved to the US.

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Hirsi Ali weaves bits of her personal story into Prey, but the book is not about her. It presents the hypothesis that the wave of refugees entering Europe beginning in 2015 brought about a spike in sexual assaults.

“Hard-won gains women have made in liberal societies are being eroded by immigrants from places that do not grant such rights to women,” Hirsi Ali warns.

Instead of protecting women’s rights and denouncing any gender-based violence and abuse, the West is sacrificing women’s safety for other values, Hirsi Ali argues.

For contemporary feminists, she wrote, “the concept of universal women’s rights yielded ground to the new ideals of multiculturalism and intersectionality. Women in Islamic societies who demanded equal rights were told that those were Western values. Western feminists came to believe that imposing their values on the Muslim world was a form of neocolonialism.”

Hirsi Ali admits that the connection between immigration and rape is one that the alt-right makes, and that Russian “troll farms” spread the narrative on social media. Former US president Donald Trump even referred to it in 2017, making a comment about “what’s happening last night in Sweden,” which baffled many, since it had been an uneventful day, but it turned out he was referring to a Fox News segment about violence by refugees in Sweden.

Still, Hirsi Ali argues that just because bad actors have exaggerated the crime wave and used it for their own ends does not mean that it is not happening. She makes a compelling argument, using statistics as well as horrifying stories, that innocent women of all ages and backgrounds are being sexually targeted by a disproportionate number of young asylum-seekers.

She does this not because she wants the West to stop accepting refugees or because she wants to indict all Muslim refugees as sex criminals; in fact, she slammed a New York Times reviewer who inaccurately claimed as much.

Instead, Hirsi Ali’s policy prescription includes better enforcement and tightening of the standards of immigration and granting asylum, along with greater surveillance and stronger policing in trouble spots. At the same time, she admits that there is a “seeming paradox of using illiberal means to achieve liberal ends.”

It may take a paradox to solve the paradox that Prey presents, the “puzzle” that the West has devoted “countless pages and copious airtime 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.”

Hirsi Ali calls on feminists and other liberals to wake up and stop taking women’s safety for granted.

“To me,” she writes, “it looks as though they are busy fixing a leak in the roof of a house while the basement is collapsing into a sinkhole.”