Wanted Women: That ‘Weird Virgin-Whore’ Bio

by DR. CANDACE DE RUSSY February 23, 2012

In her new dual biography, Wanted Women: Faith, Lies & the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui , journalist Deborah Scroggins works hard at ferreting out what she calls a “weird symmetry” in the lives of the Somali-born Hirsi Ali, an outspoken critic of Islam as well as a champion of Muslim women and Western humanistic ideals, and the Pakistani Siddiqui, an Islamist terrorist known as “Lady Al-Qaeda” and a fanatic  Jew-hater.
By “weird,” Scroggins means to suggest that the two women are uncannily alike. Yet all they basically have in common is their youth, high intelligence, Muslim upbringing, U.S.-education, and bold temperament. Otherwise, what is really weird, in the sense of odd, is Scroggins’s glaringly inappropriate attempt to mesh – find congruity between – the life of the valiant Hirsi Ali and that of the nefarious Siddiqui.
What are Scroggins’s motives for this farfetched, dissonant comparison? Why her eagerness to conjure a sort of mysterious sisterhood between the two women, for example, in gratuitously opining that Hirsi Ali might just as well have morphed into “a militant Islamist,” and the veiled Siddiqui into “a Westernizing feminist”? Why her trumped up insistence that one cannot fathom either of the two without fathoming the other? Hence her catty, insulting likening of Hirsi Ali to “the bikini” and therefore “the whore” when she states, “Like the bikini and the burka or the virgin and the whore, you couldn’t quite understand one without understanding the other.”
Also strange is the Scroggins’s indulgent portrayal of Siddiqui in contrast with her peevish, sometimes venomous depiction of Hirsi Ali.   
The author is lenient in her treatment of the odious life-choices of Siddiqui, who married into the family of a 9/11 mastermind, was designated by the F.B.I. as the only known female operative of Al-Qaeda, was later arrested in Afghanistan when found to be carrying lethal chemicals and bomb-making instructions, shot an American soldier after being captured, and has been sentenced to serve 86 years in prison.
Undermining her own strained analogy, Scroggins does eventually own, but only diffidently, that Siddiqui “was almost certainly plotting murder” and “perhaps prepared to further a biological or chemical attack on the United States on a scale to rival that of 9/11.” Even Dwight Garner, despite his attempt to cast Scroggins’s comparison in the best light in his equivocating review of the book in the New York Times, in the end questions “why this book’s sympathies seem to lie with the woman who hoped to speak through the most destructive weaponry available.”
So how is Scroggins disposed toward Hirsi Ali, who underwent genital mutilation in Kenya and escaped to the Netherlands, where she became a citizen and fought hard to gain a seat in the Dutch Parliament? How does she judge the latter’s ardent activism and well-grounded writings, in which she has denounced Islam as “backward” and insidious in its influence in the West, and for which she has earned multiple death threats?
Hirsi Ali’s harrowing tale and bravery elicit little empathy from Scroggins. In her often petulant and harsh telling, Hirsi Ali is “imperious,” deceptive, and opportunistic in her struggle for safety and fulfillment in the West. Pettily, she even rebukes Hirsi Ali for using an “expensive hairdresser.” Without bothering seriously to examine, much less refute, her critique of Islam, Scroggins also brands her as a hate-mongering “racist” and “Islamophobe.”
Scroggins’s underlying bias is at bottom political and most obvious when she carps that Hirsi Ali is a “neo-conservative” who backed the U.S.- led war in Iraq and has worked with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. (As noted by writer Phyllis Chesler, Scroggins in an earlier essay similarly attacked  Hirsi Ali, specifically painting her as a traitor and reactionary for leaving the Left Labor Party and joining the political center-right in Holland.)
Even where Scroggins does acknowledge Hirsi Ali’s heroic traits, it is in the context of also assigning them to Siddiqui, for example, in her salute to “both” women on their “fearlessness” and “warrior mentality.”
For Eliza Griswold, also writing in the Times, this blending of the two lives is no mere “reductive gimmick” or “facile juxtaposition.” In her view, the dual narrative gives Scroggins, “a thorough reporter and an astute analyst of global events,” the opportunity to enlighten the reader about Islamic theology and politics.
Griswold is wrong. The comparison at the heart of Wanted Women is both reductive and facile. It subtly confuses the two women, and this confusion allows Scroggins to obfuscate – downplay or “reduce” – the true magnitude of Siddiqui’s hateful, twisted mindset and that of her ilk. At the same time, the constant interweaving of Hirsi Ali’s story with that of a rabid murderess taints the former by association. Siddiqui’s bias against Hirsi Ali also results in the sidelining – diminishing, “reducing” the nobility of – the latter’s struggle against tyranny.   
These distortions are compounded by the author’s lopsided disquisitions on Islam itself, leading one to doubt she is so “thorough” and “astute” a judge of international affairs as Griswold would have us believe. In the usual leftist fashion, observes Chesler, Scroggins glosses over “the long and barbaric history of Islamic imperialism, colonialism, racism, slavery, and its practice of gender and religious apartheid.” In addition, Chesler points out, she also echoes the left’s weary maxims wherein the West is blamed for jihad because of “its allegedly imperialist, colonialist, racist, and capitalist policies.”
 Scroggins’s “virgin/whore” juxtaposition is also very much a gimmick or, more specifically, a politically convenient set-up. The Siddiqui-Hirsi narrative provides cover for the author to vent her leftist ideology, and all the more effectively because she is a skilled writer. Despite her book’s veneer of erudition, it is at bottom yet another typical, predictable, leftist political screed.
For this reason, the symmetry between the two women that Scroggins has so elaborately tried to call forth is not after all so peculiar – not really so weird.
Wanted Women is, however, a dangerous book, insofar as it serves to minimize the grave danger that militant Islam poses to both the West and the Muslim world.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Candace de Russyis a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues. She served as an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, and became a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, dedicated to protecting and expanding democracy by winning the global war against terrorism as well as the movements and ideologies that drive it. In 2004 she co-founded and became chairman of Democracy Project, whose mission it is to strengthen the institutions and contentions that support liberty and democratic rule at home and abroad.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Dr. Candace de Russy is a former college professor who was appointed by George W. Bush to serve on the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy from 2002-2005. She currently serves on many education-related boards, and is a nationally recognized writer and lecturer who contributes regularly to such publications as National Review Online.

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