Byline: DAVID COHEN
AYAAN Hirsi Ali, never one to shrink from controversy, has some words of advice for Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Close the Islamic faith schools today," she says.
"Britain is sleepwalking into a society that could be ruled by Sharia law within decades unless Islamic schools are shut down and young Muslims are instead made to integrate and accept Western liberal values."
Hirsi Ali, 38, the Dutch-Somali human rights campaigner who lives under 24-hour police protection and is in London to promote her provocative new book, Infidel, argues that Catholic and Jewish schools can stay because the values they teach are not a threat to liberal democracy. "I haven't seen anybody coming out of a Catholic or Jewish school advocating violence against women or homosexuals, or wanting to murder innocent people in the name of their religion."
Having grown up within Islam, Hirsi Ali believes she is uniquely placed to warn the British public that they are living under a "great deception" about the true nature of Islam. "They have deceived themselves that the men arrested in the [alleged] beheading plot last week and the 7/7 bombers are a fringe group of radical Muslims who've hijacked Islam and that the majority of Muslims are moderate.
"But they are not. The plot to murder Muslim soldiers in the British Army is consistent with the purest teachings of Islam, which encourages you to kill Muslims who join the infidel army. Violence is inherent in Islam - it's a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder. The police may foil plots and freeze bank accounts in the short term, but the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realise that it's not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself."
But surely she must see, I counter, that the majority of British Muslims are moderates?
Sitting in her publisher's office in an elegant grey-flannel trouser suit and pearl earrings, she fixes me with her lucid brown eyes. "If the majority are moderates, why did the Muslim community never take to the streets to abhor the 7/7 bombers? Why is it that the only time we see Muslims protesting en masse is when Islam is allegedly insulted, like with the Danish cartoons, or the Pope's comments?
"I'll tell you why: because Islam is the new fascism. Just like Nazism started with Hitler's vision, the Islamic vision is a caliphate - a society ruled by Sharia law - in which women who have sex before marriage are stoned to death, homosexuals are beaten, and apostates like me are killed. Sharia law is as inimical to liberal democracy as Nazism.
Young Muslims need to be persuaded that the vision of the Prophet Mohammed is a bad one, and you aren't going to get that in Islamic faith schools."
Suddenly Hirsi Ali halts her no holds barred polemic, a quizzical look creasing her brow. "When will this interview be published?" When I tell her, she breaths a sigh of relief and in a rare moment of caution, says: "Whew!
Thankfully I'll be out of the country!
I don't know what's possessed me, but I've been more forthright with you than in any other interview so far."
It is two years since I last interviewed Hirsi Ali and now, like then, I am struck by the contrast between her physicality - soft voice, waiflike figure, and perfectly manicured long fingernails - and the explosiveness of her rhetoric. If anything, she is more inflammatory and hardline now than she was then.
Yet, as she reminds me, a lot has happened since we met, including the murder of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who made her film, Submission, in which verses from the Koran of a man's alleged right to beat his wife are superimposed on an actress's body.
Van Gogh's assassination in late 2004 propelled Hirsi Ali from being well known to world famous, because plunged into his chest by his Dutch Moroccan killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, was a knife with a letter addressed to her, warning that she was next. …