Rohit E David
July 3, 2017
Hirsi Ali is one of the world’s most forceful feminist critics of extremist
Islamism, senior fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard
Kennedy School, member of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of
several books including ‘Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now’. She spoke to Rohit E David
on US President Donald Trump’s recent outreach to Saudi Arabia, the recent
change of guard within the Saudi royal family and its impact on radical Islam
and Middle East politics:
is your view of US President Donald Trump courting Saudi Arabia during his
One of President Trump’s campaign promises
was to eradicate the ideology of radical Islam and to kick start the economy.
It’s absolutely true that you have to go to Saudi Arabia because that’s where
the heart of radical Islam lies. The trade relationship is a contradiction. If
the US wants to have trade relations with Saudi Arabia then they should
pressurise them to change their stand on radical Islam. I feel that Saudi
Arabia can eradicate radical Islam from within the country on its own because
they fund their ideology. Saudi Arabia and US have no values in common. This
relationship is unworkable.
hopes do you have from Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman?
I hope he succeeds and takes on the
clerical establishment of Saudi Arabia. The new crown prince wants to modernise
the Saudi economy. He seems to want to make Saudi Arabia like UAE. If he
succeeds then radical Islamists would have to take a back seat. The institution
of clergy in Saudi Arabia is very strong. I feel there will be a fight between
the young prince and clergy. I hope he wins and Salman definitely has Donald
Trump on his side.
this US-Saudi realignment a big break from the Obama administration?
When Saudi Arabia quarantined Qatar, US was
not convinced that Qatar was the only black sheep. Former US President Barack
Obama had empowered Iran by having a deal with them. Now, we are back to having
a relation of hostility between Iran and US.
do you think of Trump’s talk of a Sunni coalition with Israel to take on Iran?
This is much more complex than Trump
believes. America has relations with other nation-states and there are tribes
and sects within the Middle East. The idea of a Sunni coalition taking on Iran
is easier said than done. Egypt wants Saudi Arabia as its Muslim ally to fight
against Iran. The Egyptian government is terrified of radical Islamists. No one
is talking about Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey has
Islamised the entire country. He is seen as the caliph of all Muslims. He is a
Sunni and his relationship with Saudi Arabia and Egypt is really bad.
you feel that Trump’s visit has revamped US Middle East policy?
What was that policy? It has always been a
very chaotic relationship after the fall of Soviet Union. Till now, it was a
one-sided relationship where the US gave these countries what they wanted. In
return, America didn’t get much back.
I think the Saudi visit was a transactional
gesture by President Trump. During his campaign Trump had said that he is a
deal-maker. I think at this point he feels that he can make a deal with the
Saudis. We should wait and watch to see when the deal is made.
has urged Muslim leaders to lead the fight against radicalisation. Your
Muslim leaders will fight and some are
fighting radical Islamists only when it threatens their own power.
is the primary problem with radical Islam?
Radical Islamists are promoting a global
world view which is destabilising us. Look at all the civil wars which radical
Muslims have started. Bangladesh is well in the frame to become a serious
democracy. There are established madrasas in Dhaka where a lot of money is
coming from Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. These seminaries produce people
who hack people to death simply because they don’t agree with them. The
reaction by the Bangladeshi government is to silence the ones who are speaking.
Pakistan has not made up its mind where it stands on radical Islamists. Compare
Pakistan to India. India is a thriving economy but Pakistan has made itself a
backward country because of radical Islamists.
triple Talaq stay in Islam?
It is glaringly unfair to women. India
being a democracy should reject this completely and all other aspects of
do you respond to those who call you anti-Islam?
It is nonsense. I reject Sharia.