Inside the ListAyaan Hirsi Ali
By: Gregory Cowles
(The New York Times) – The Reformer: At least since the frenzied days after 9/11, some pundits have called on moderate Muslims to criticize the more extreme elements of their faith from within. Ayaan Hirsi Ali would seem to fit the bill: Born in Somalia to a Muslim family, she fled to the Netherlands rather than submit to a forced marriage, and has since been vocal in chastising radical Islam for its embrace of violence as well as its treatment of women, gay people and nonbelievers; in short, she’d like to see Islam evolve to become more secular and ecumenical. (She outlined much of this agenda, along with her life story, in the 2007 book “Infidel,” which spent seven months on the hardcover and paperback nonfiction lists.) So it’s been interesting to see just how polarizing Hirsi Ali — whose new book, “Heretic,” enters the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 8 — has turned out to be. A professed liberal, she applied for work with left-leaning think tanks when she moved to America in 2007, but found no takers. “They didn’t say it to my face, but I got the feeling that they were uncomfortable with what I had been saying about Islam,” she told the author Sam Harris last year. Instead she found a home with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which seems at peace with her message that Islam is a religion of war. “Muslims regard any ‘insult’ to the Prophet or the Quran as deserving the ultimate penalty,” she writes in “Heretic” — which makes the case for an Islamic Reformation — “and this is not an extreme position.” To her critics, Hirsi Ali may lack nuance: In fighting fervor with fervor, she can seem less like a moderate Muslim than an immoderate anti-Muslim. (In fact, as she explained in “Infidel,” she is now an atheist.) Then again, lack of nuance has never hurt a book’s success. Isn’t that part of Hirsi Ali’s argument, after all?
Death Parade: Bill O’Reilly and his co-writer Martin Dugard continue marching on. Their “Killing .?.?. ” franchise, about famous deaths in history, currently claims two spots on the hardcover nonfiction list: “Killing Patton” is No. 7 in its 27th week, and “Killing Jesus” No. 13 in its 40th. Considering O’Reilly’s status as a media figure and the unrelenting popularity of this series, it’s hard to believe it’s taken so long for a satirist to jump into the fray. But the wait is over: “Killing O’Reilly: A Parody,” by Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman, was published (by Vintage) as an e-book in mid-March. Chapters include “Killing Dinosaurs,” “Killing Lennon” and the appropriately bombastic “Killing! Killing! Killing! Killing!” My favorite, though, puts its finger on the curious air of injury and grievance beneath O’Reilly’s bluster: “Killing Those Losers Who Thought I’d Never Amount to Nothing.” It begins: “Well look at me now! Thousands of newspaper columns! Tens of best sellers! A television show! Does this look like a B- in chemistry, Father O’Malley? I didn’t think so.”