This article presents a textual and visual analysis of Hirsi Ali and van Gogh’s controversial short film, Submission: Part 1 [Submission: Part 1. (2004). Dir. Theo van Gogh. Script Ayaan Hirsi Ali.]. It argues that while Hirsi Ali’s stated objective in Submission, as well as in her public statements and more recent writings, has been to combat domestic violence in Muslim communities, the rhetorical strategies she embraces frequently reinforce unproductive orientalist stereotypes of Islam and Muslim women and men.
The article problematizes Hirsi Ali’s strategies by drawing on Uma Narayan’s analysis of the roles played by non-Western academics in debates concerning Third-World women’s issues. And it compares Hirsi Ali’s condemnation of Islam’s abuse of women with feminist critiques of the same articulated by other Muslim academics, such as Leila Ahmed, whose feminist assessment of Islam is historically grounded and is strategically combined with a critique of derogatory Western stereotypes of Muslims.