Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s latest offering, Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights, is an in-depth and superbly reported examination of a subject that Europe’s politicians, media, and law enforcement have been doing their best to ignore and even suppress—that of the victimization of women and girls by Muslim migrants who have been flooding into Europe for years, with a peak influx in 2015 triggering a continental crisis. Until now, the stories of the rapes, grooming gangs, and mass perpetration of sexual violence against European women in places like Cologne—where more than 1,200 women were sexually assaulted and 24 reported being raped during 2015 New Year’s Eve celebrations in Germany—have been sparsely and sporadically reported.
Hirsi Ali’s biography is worth noting, as her life experiences render her uniquely qualified to take on this subject. Born in 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia, Hirsi Ali had lived in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya by the time she reached adulthood. At the age of five, her grandmother hired a man to subject her to female genital mutilation, a process she described in gut-wrenching detail in her memoir Infidel. In 1992, she fled to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage; then worked as an interpreter with Somali women in asylum centers; earned a degree in political science from the University of Leiden; and became an outspoken critic of the treatment of women in Islamic societies. From 2003 to 2006, she served as a Dutch MP.
Famously, she worked with director Theo Van Gogh to produce the short film Submission in 2004. When he was murdered later that year by a Dutch Moroccan Islamist, the killer stabbed a death threat to Hirsi Ali into Van Gogh’s chest. Her criticisms of integration policy made her a target of progressives as well, and after a public debate about the validity of her Dutch citizenship over details on her asylum application, she relocated to the United States. She now serves as a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and is the founder of the AHA Foundation. In addition to her two memoirs, Infidel and Nomad, she has also authored Heretic (2015) and The Challenge of Dawa (2017).
In some ways, Prey is the most inflammatory of them all. Hirsi Ali’s thesis is a straightforward one: the mass migration of men from misogynist Muslim cultures is a threat to the hard-won rights of women in Europe. Since 2015, nearly two million people have arrived illegally; three million since 2009. Two-thirds are male and 80% of those applying for asylum are under the age of 35. Millions of young men arriving in Europe from Muslim cultures is having an impact on the native populations, and it seems ludicrous that saying so is controversial.
It is to Hirsi Ali’s credit that Prey is as even-handed as it is—with this subject material, she could have written a truly incendiary book. She describes the “no-go zones” in major European cities, which women now avoid for fear of being harassed or worse. She does the painstaking detective work necessary to piece together the data on sexual violence—a 17% increase in rapes in France between 2017 and 2018; a 12% increase in Sweden in 2016; a 41% increase in Germany in 2017; a 11.8% increase in sexual offenses in Austria since 2009. In Denmark, non-Westerners made up two-fifths of rape convictions and “between a quarter and a third of groping convictions” despite making up less than 13% of the population.
And then there are the Rotherham rape gangs, which wracked up over 1,500 child victims while most authorities stayed silent for fear of being labeled racist; the mass sexual assaults in Cologne, for which only two men—a 26-year-old Algerian and a 21-year-old Iraqi—were convicted of sexual assault and each given one year probation; and a series of savage, sexually-motivated murders across the continent. These assaults have taken place in malls, fast food bathrooms, and in public. Sentences for the few perpetrators actually brought to justice are generally inconsequential, with the differing cultural values of the assailant sometimes specifically cited. Hirsi Ali says these light sentences actively encourage further offences, and some migrant men spread the word that European women are easy prey, while the consequences of getting caught are often just community service or a short stint in what they consider to be comfortable prison accommodation relative to those in their home countries.
There are many instances in Prey, however, where Hirsi Ali’s book comes across more as a damning indictment of the post-modern West rather than a critique of the values of Muslim migrant men. She highlights, for example, that many of the men have not derived their view of Western women exclusively from their Islamic background, but from the way women are portrayed in Western entertainment and violent pornography. Men raised on a diet of digital pornography, which predominantly features violence, sexual torture, and the degradation of women and girls, are increasingly likely to dehumanize women in their interactions with them—and this phenomenon in no way limited to men from non-Western backgrounds and cultures that repress women.
A growing mountain of evidence, highlighted by feminist scholars such as Dr. Gail Dines, indicates that compulsive consumption of pornography in the West now generally begins around adolescence and is shaping the way a generation of young men view women. A new sexual ideology is being transmitted globally, and several 2021 studies have already contributed to an emerging consensus that violent pornography is poison. In April, a study was published in the British Journal of Criminology that noted that sexual violence is ubiquitous in mainstream porn; researcher Fiona Vera-Gray told the BBC that this material has “eroticised non-consent” and is erasing “the boundary between sexual pleasure and sexual violence” for users. A March study by two Spanish academics stated bluntly that “pornography consumption by youth has been linked to…an increase in sexual aggression perpetration and victimization.”
In short, the eroticization of sexual violence is a global phenomenon perpetrated by the digital porn industry, with men of all cultures and backgrounds being groomed to see women as sexual outlets for increasingly ugly fantasies rather than as partners, peers, and potential leaders. Many Muslim men are being groomed to see women as targets by pornography produced in the West, and it informs their view of Western women when they arrive. If Western men entertain themselves with the degradation and violation of women, many migrant Muslim men seem to think, how can they be blamed for doing the same? Fused with the misogynist views endemic to their own cultures, the effect is a truly toxic ideology.
Hirsi Ali concurs. Pornography pushes “their prejudice against white women or women of the West,” she told me in an interview. “They see women of the West through the lens of pornography. For them, these women are beyond the pale. They don’t really see them as respectable, modest women, but unprotected, literally as prey. What pornography does is it reduces or even eliminates the empathy men should be feeling for women as fellow human beings. Women are objectified. I don’t think the men, when they terrorize and harm the women, really register that they are causing physical and psychological harm to the women. The level of empathy is stunted.”
Worse: men who have grown up on a diet of violent porn frequently find female fear and pain arousing. In fact, it is easy to see how Muslim migrants might conclude that post-Christian Western civilization has bankrupted itself. ‘Woke’ Westerners condemn their own civilization as irredeemably evil and racist, and many believe the West should suffer for her colonial sins. How can migrants and immigrants be blamed for declining to integrate into a civilization that has so utterly lost confidence in itself? How can a culture where authorities turn a blind eye to the systemic rape of young girls for fear of being called racist command respect, much less appreciation?
“The demonizing of Western civilization and white people in particular is extremely dangerous,” Hirsi Ali told me. “If you tell these migrant men that these white guys—they don’t use the term Western, they use the term white—are guilty of slavery, they are guilty of colonization, they are guilty of these wars—they are going to say it’s justified to rape their women, it’s justified to destroy their property. ‘They did it to us; we’re doing it to them. They deserve it.’ Western leaders today, especially those on the Left, feel that they are justified in doing nothing because they are atoning for the bad things that the West did in the past. I’ve said very often: you cannot right the wrongs of the past by being wrong over and over again. You allow the citizens of your country to be gang-raped? That can’t possibly be a good way of atoning for the past.” The high priests of woke, however, have their own perverse versions of penance.
“It’s wrong, in my view, to demonize Western civilization at a time when there are millions of people from other cultures pouring into Western society, looking for an alternative to radical Islam, Marxism, socialism, tribalism—a system littered with dead bodies, -isms that have failed,” she continued. “People come here looking for something to hold on to, the values of freedom, the rule of law, of justice systems that actually work—and you’re telling them: ‘It’s all wrong. It’s all rubbish. You can exploit it.’ What is the alternative to Western civilization? China? Radical Islamism? The autocratic Arab countries? Tribalism? Those are the alternatives, and none of them are good. Unfortunately, many people are coming to the West at a time when the children who inherited the legacy of the Enlightenment are rejecting it.”
In fact, it is difficult not to conclude that women have become collateral damage in our current culture wars. Progressives who loathe the West frequently dismiss the trends Hirsi Ali highlights in Prey, insisting that such observations can only be motivated by racial prejudice. In doing so, they have ceded the discussion of an incredibly pressing and sensitive issue to the populist Right, which has gained credibility in part by being the only political faction willing to acknowledge the lived experiences of many European women. This increases pressure on leftists to ramp up their denial, leaving many liberals feeling abandoned and politically homeless. Hirsi Ali interviewed many who couched every complaint with iterations of their anti-racists bona fides.
Rape victims cannot tell their stories, apparently, without persistently assuring their interlocutors that they feel no prejudice towards their rapists. Some liberals, in fact, have become so fearful of populist right-wing parties winning elections across Europe that one gets the sense that they are almost irritated by the sorts of revelations detailed by Hirsi Ali. In her 2020 book, Twilight of Democracy, historian Anne Applebaum was dismissive of voter fears about mass migration and its effects, giving little credence to the concerns of those facing these profound changes. Reading between the lines, it seemed that while Applebaum and liberals of like mind believe there is some validity to the sorts of concerns laid out in Prey, they simply believe that there are far worse threats and bigger fish to fry: ‘Gang rapes are awful; mass sexual assaults in European cities are awful—but have you heard of the Law and Justice Party’s judicial selections in Poland?’
“Everything that has to do with working class women, who are in many ways more vulnerable than the average woman, is seen as collateral damage,” Hirsi Ali told me. “That’s precisely what it is. I’m a globalist in the sense that I think globalization has been good for millions of people. I’ve benefited from it. But it does have unintended negative consequences, and those have to be addressed. The people who are affected should not be thrown under the bus, and that’s what some of the elites in Europe and America are doing—and they’re surprised when they find out these people can vote. The only people who are addressing the issues that impact the working class are the populists, so they vote for the populists. Why should you be surprised if you’re not offering an alternative? The elites should stop whining and whinging and start listening to people on the ground.”
It is difficult to read Prey and come away with any optimism. Hirsi Ali’s proposed solutions—from better integration policy to heightened surveillance—are well and good, but the problems she uncovers run far too deep to be addressed by politicians. At the heart of Hirsi Ali’s synopsis is the yawning spiritual vacuum left by the death of Christianity, with woke dogmatists, Islamists, and other religious practitioners rushing in to fill the void. The West is being challenged from many sides just after it has abandoned the moral framework that provided the answers to such questions, and what is left is weakness on one hand and ‘wokeness’ on the other. The weakness is what young migrant men wish to exploit; the ‘wokeness’ gives them virtual carte blanche to do so.
The decline of Christianity, Hirsi Ali told me, is at the root what ails the West. “If you eliminate Christianity, you leave a void,” she mused. “What fills that void? People are looking for something to believe in, and in comes woke ideology. This woke ideology, if you pay close attention, has all the features of a religion. The orthodoxy, the rituals, the black and white and good and bad. It’s like Christianity with no redemption, no music, no sense of humor, no sense of irony. It’s a twisted, neo-Marxist faith. These are terrible people. But it’s filling a spiritual need, a religious need.”
What does the West have to offer a young Muslim man raised on a diet of American entertainment and violent pornography? What set of values does it have that can compete with—and conquer—his own? The Enlightenment has fallen on its own sword; liberalism will not defend herself; ‘wokeness’ scorns it all. The answer, then, is as impossible as it is obvious: the post-Christian West must be the pre-Christian West. The Western Man’s search for meaning must, in the eternal words of T.S. Eliot, lead him back to what he lost—to the inheritance his fathers gave away on his behalf:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
Jonathon Van Maren has written for First Things, National Review, The American Conservative, and is a contributing editor to The European Conservative. His latest book is Patriots: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Pro-Life Movement.