David Thompson


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March 06, 2007


Francis Sedgemore

I'm no fan of Hirsi Ali's essentialist view of religion, but she is certainly to be defended from the attacks of those who really should know better.

But just to get back to this 'fundamentalist' business, or rather the increasingly widespread abuse of the term, I've just seen it used by so-called 'futurologist' Ray Kurzweil in a comment article published in this week's New Scientist. In this most bizarre piece, Kurzweil lumps secular humanism together with Luddite naturalism, and claims that secular fundamentalists are "capable of as much damage as their religious counterparts"!

Francis Sedgemore

The online version of the Kurzweil article is available to subscribers only, but the first few paragraphs may be read here:


David Thompson


Lalami should indeed know better, but she doesn’t seem to care too much. You can literally Google through her list of “critical thinkers” and add the words “death threat” to each name. The results are eye-widening. And, naturally, her article met with approval among parts of the literary left, which makes the self-refuting nature of her argument all the more surreal.

I struggled to get past Kurzweil’s very first sentence (or his sub editor’s): “Secular fundamentalists don't like the rapid rate of technological progress.” Er, what? Seems some people will redefine fundamentalism or extremism to mean pretty much anything, even made-up stuff, and all in the interests of appearing ‘even-handed’. Oh, the irony.

Francis Sedgemore

I'm afraid the remainder of Kurzweil's "911 words" (spooky!) are no better. If they had been published on a blog, you can almost guarantee that someone would have commented that the article is sub-sixth-form drivel. If you're looking for a critical perspective on future possibilities in science and technology, I'd recommend disembowelling a sheep before reading a Ray Kurzweil essay.

Karen Lofstrom

Um, Kola Boof is an imposter. She has made numerous claims -- having been an Egyptian movie star, having been Osama bin Laden's mistress, having been a guerrilla fighter -- that fail to survive the most cursory critical examination. Yes, critics of Islam have been threatened, but Kola Boof doesn't belong in that illustrious list.

David Thompson


Thanks for that. Do you have more information? Incidentally, I wasn't vouching for the personal merits of everyone on that "illustrious list", but the censoriousness and thuggery remains deplorable nonetheless.

Karen Lofstrom

I worked on the Kola Boof article on Wikipedia. The more I looked, the more I found; however, I believe that KB herself (under pseudonyms) was busy trying to remove anything critical. Have a look at:
That's Bin Laden's biographer dismissing Kola Boof as delusional.

I've quit WP in disgust and the article seems to have been skewed towards acceptance of Kola's claims. However, there's no record on IMDB of any of the films in which she claimed to have starred, no proof that she was ever published in Arabic, no proof that she ever met Bin Laden, no proof that she ever engaged in an LA shootout with jihadis sent to kill her, etc. Her claim to have been removed from the Sudan and adopted by a Washington DC African-American couple is utterly implausible; it reads like a cover story for a garden-variety upbringing in the US. Online, she's talked about her "adoptive" parents and the high school she attended. Any journalist who wanted to scour high school year books could probably find her. It would make an interesting story.

David Thompson


Wamuli Assara

I would direct this to David Thompson.

Exactly what High school in Washington D.C. did Kola Boof ever claim to attend? There is none, because she never made such a claim, although she dated several boys who went to High school. Ms. Boof was in a special program called "OPEN SPACE" for foreign-language students, Mr. Thompson. I was one of her teachers.

That one false statement by you is the type of boomerang mis-reporting that hinders so many arrogant types like yourself. Additionally, only about 40% of the films made on this planet are registered at IMDB. Why do white people just assume they know everything?

Why did you fail to post Kola Boof's response to Peter Bergen's claims? Is it because he's a white guy so whatever he says is automatically true?
It turned out that Peter Bergen lied. http://kolapress.1colony.com/

I have read Kola Boof's autobiography and as an African person from Mali, I believe her story and I believe her claims. I do not believe people like yourself who jot down false information while claiming your very subject is a liar.

David Thompson

Wamuli Assara,

“I would direct this to David Thompson.”

I think your reply would be better directed to Karen Lofstrom, who actually made the comments to which you’ve taken exception. You appear to have confused the contents of my article, with which I assume you agree, with comments made by visitors.

Viewed in this light, you might want to reconsider your remarks about my “false statement” and “misreporting.” I’ll let the “arrogant type” quip stand, though. There may be some truth in that.

Wamuli Assara

Mr. Thompson, I do apologize as I certainly have confused Ms. Lofstrom's comments with yours. Please accept my humble apologies.

As well, I retract the "arrogant" tag as you were so gracious to even respond and so promptly. That's true class.

In regard to Kola Boof, I encourage anyone who has heard the myriad lies about her to simply read her highly acclaimed autobiography "Diary of a Lost Girl" and get the actual details and chronology of her life for yourself. It's almost a decade since she came on the scene and her detractors have not presented any proof that she's a fraud in all this time, though they claim even the most "cursory" investigation discredits her claims. I say hogwash. I found this blog by the way doing a search for Kola Boof's wonderful poem about her friend Theo Van Gogh. I hope we will please not forget the contributions of Theo Van Gogh who was truly a great man and gave his life so that people in Africa will someday have the right to choose their own path in life.

David Thompson

Wamuli Assara,

No problem. Thanks for your comments. I hope you enjoy the rest of this blog.

Suhail Shafi

Leila Lalami's eminently brilliant article on Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an exquisite piece of work and I think when I read it it was the most refreshing article I had read in a long long time. It was the perfect antidote to the self loathing deprecation of the two above named authors and an insight into a more objective view of reality.


what a nonsensical, tendentious, and wilfully obtuse reading of lalami's article!

David Thompson

Logicat and Suhail Shafi,

It’s difficult to respond in a useful way to comments of the kind you’ve made. Rather than simply referring to Lalami’s article as “eminently brilliant” and to my own as “nonsensical”, perhaps one of you would care to present some kind of argument, citing specifics, and explaining what exactly it is you take issue with?

Suhail Shafi

The reason I admire Ms Lalami's articles as being brilliant is that it questions the rigid orthodoxy of the anti establishment mentality of the other two authors while taking a firm stand against the oppression of women in any way shape or form. In other words believing in equality for women without insulting or vilifying anybody's religious sentiments which strikes as being far more constructive than the factually questionable (at best) rant of the likes of Hirsi Ali. Yes, ``eminently brilliant'' is quite an appropriate label for Ms Lalami's work.


Suhail Shafi,

Thanks for the reply.

The problem is that it seems rather difficult to “take a firm stand against the oppression of women in any form” without challenging the specific religious ideas and specific religious laws that are so readily used to justify and perpetuate that oppression.

How, for instance, does one deal with the Andalusian imam, Mohammed Kamal Mostafa, mentioned in the article above? How does one challenge his assertions (and the assertions of others like him) without also challenging the “sacred” ideas being used as an excuse to beat women? And how does take “a firm stand” without suggesting, at least by implication, that those “religious sentiments” are wrong and disgusting on very important issues – with all that entails for literalist believers and religious institutions?

“Believing” in the equality of women is easy and conveniently vague, especially if one is unwilling to challenge the means by which inequality is perpetuated and enforced. It’s hard to see how such evasion is “more constructive” or “objective.” Given the omissions mentioned above, it simply seems woolly and dishonest.

Hm. I may elaborate on this as a post.

Suhail Shafi

I do not know who this imam you mentioned is, but the fact remains if a man wants to treat his wife fairly, he does not need anyone to tell him to do so and if he chooses to be abusive he does not need an imam to tell him to do so either. I do not accept that the majority of wife beaters or abusers of ANY kind need a theological sanction for their behaviour whatsoever.


Suhail Shafi,

Of course. But none of that addresses the issue of religiously sanctioned misogyny and the difficulties of challenging such behaviour. Obviously, religious belief isn’t a precondition for abuse, but the Islamic sanction of abuse is particularly vile, difficult to oppose, and far from uncommon.

If a man believes his religion gives him license to beat his wife – or regards it as a matter of piety and religious observance – then it’s difficult to inhibit that behaviour without also challenging the beliefs that reinforce it and give it “legitimacy”. And moreso when such beliefs are ingrained as a cultural or religious norm and are explicitly sanctioned by religious teaching.

Those who do oppose the beating of women in this context can be – and often are – denounced as “insulting” religious feeling. In many parts of the world, this “insult” can have rather perilous consequences. This is the issue that has to be addressed.

You may wish to share your thoughts over here:


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