Dutch author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the target of death threats for her criticism of radical Islam, says Muslims must demonstrate their anger when terrorism is committed in the name of religion, just as they did last year when newspapers published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims must make a moral choice to defy extremists who use their religion to justify terrorism, the Somali-born former Dutch lawmaker said during a debate late Tuesday in London organized by a think tank, the Center for Social Cohesion.
"Muslims, I believe, should take to the streets when, in the name of their prophet, people are beheaded and passengers are blown up — not only when drawings of Prophet Muhammad are made," she said, referring to last year's mass protests in Muslim countries over Danish newspaper cartoons.
Sitting a few meters (yards) behind her on the stage was a bodyguard, a reminder that she lives under round-the-clock protection since the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.
The location of the debate was kept secret until the last minute, and the audience of policy makers, academics and journalists was carefully selected.
Hirsi Ali and former Islamic extremist Ed Husain, an author, debated the West and the future of Islam, disagreeing mainly over whether Islam was a set of exact, restrictive laws or whether it had many interpretations.
Hirsi Ali, who in her book "Infidel: My Life" wrote of how she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage that led her to flee to the Netherlands, argued some tenets of Islam are inherently violent and must be rejected. After growing up as a devout Muslim, she now identifies herself as an atheist.
Husain argued that he escaped the hold militants had on him as a young man by exploring his Muslim faith more deeply and finding different interpretations. He argued the key to de-radicalizing people lay in the religion itself.