While walking down dark streets in various cities or reading articles in Time and Newsweek, I have often imagined that I heard the muffled screams of the victims of violence. The thought was that if I simply strained a bit more, my ears would hear them better and I would know where they came from. The fact is, those screams have never been quiet, they have only been muffled by the veil of silence I have created to keep me shielded and unaware of a world who’s madness I have tried to compartmentalize and take in by bite-size pieces.

In reading “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who’s story I thought I was familiar with already, the strained voices of the victims burst into the open with a cacophonous wail of pain and despair. While Ayaan would be the first to admit that she wrote not from a position of victimhood, but from responsibility, this is, to me, merely another sign, among so many others, of the treasure she is to humanity. In her struggles to leave family, clan and religious ideology, Ayaan shows us the best of what inner strength, buttressed by reason and carried aloft by a fierce caring for those in plight, can do.

It has become a black mark among liberal elites to speak of cultural practices in the light of western morality, as if there is no means by which a set of behaviors can be juxtaposed with another set to determine the better. This worship of cultural and moral relativity results only in the creation of an apathy to human rights and the better parts of our human natures. We have not survived as a species by moderating ourselves to what is best for a minority, by sheltering a ridiculous and harmful behavior behind a wall of self-righteous sanctimony. Individual rights are only meaningful in the midst of group rights. Just as it is wrong to scream “fire” in a crowded room, so it is equally wrong to promote any idea who’s sole goal is the destruction of the inalienable rights that the founding fathers of this American nation sought to uphold.

Islam has that goal.

By softening our reason and pandering to a false uncertainty, liberalism creates the scenario by which we look upon death with a blind eye and muffle our ears to the screams of the tortured. By promoting merely another set of dogmas equally as oppressive, conservatism would replace the rusty cages of Islam with the gilded cages of capitalism and Christian piety and call it progress.

The screams of every child murdered by their families in the name of Allah, every girl child who’s genitals are mutilated to preserve a despicable practice of male domination, every wife beaten to instill submission, and every person imbued with an abhorrence of critical appraisal, they all cry out to us, the rest of the human beings who share this ever-shrinking planet, to stand not simply for tolerance. It is the catchword of the apathetic, the tool of the fundamentalist, the wall behind which the weak whimper in fear of standing in the middle of a storm. What we must stand for is criticality in our thought, self-appraisal in our morality.

These dogmas, these hideous and deplorable examples of the dark side of human imagination are not simply alternative lifestyles or quaint cultural practices, but vile instruments condemning a vast number of people to a future of pain, despair and a disavowel of all they could be. They are a threat not only to democracy, but to the free exercise of human will and reason.

For these reasons and the others, shored up by the bruises and scars of women who are told submission is their only lot in life, we must not merely bring Islam to modernity but see it utterly wiped away from the ideological landscape, fit only to warn us of the evil are capable of creating.

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