Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s speaking engagements aren’t advertised – she’s heavily guarded because she is under threat of death. But those of us lucky enough to have gotten wind of a recent talk she delivered heard somebody who appreciates the bracing intellectual freedom of the West much more than those who kicked her out of Holland.

“Clearly, there is something about Ayaan Hirsi Ali that annoys, rankles, irritates. I am speaking as one who does not know Hirsi Ali — the outspoken Dutch-Somali critic of Islam — but as one who, while living in Europe, cannot seem to avoid meeting her detractors,” writes Anne Applebaum in today’s Washington Post.

Interestingly, feminists, who can’t pait a dark enough picture of the West, have complained bitterly that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s picture of the degraded condition of women in the Islamic world is unfair:

“Curiously, what seems to rankle Europeans most is the enthusiasm with which Hirsi Ali has adopted their own secularism and the fervor with which she has embraced their own Western values. Though this continent’s intellectuals routinely disparage the pope as an irrelevant dinosaur, Hirsi Ali’s rejection of religion in favor of reason, intellect and emancipation seems to make everyone nervous. Typical is the British feminist who complained that not only does Hirsi Ali paint ‘the whole of the Islamic world with one black brush,’ she also ‘paints the whole of the Western world with rosy tints,’ which is, of course, far more objectionable.

“Others have compared her unfavorably to the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who argues that Islam can be made compatible with modern European democracy. He, it is said, offers a way forward for millions of pious European Muslims. By contrast, Hirsi Ali’s rejection of religion in favor of Western secularism is said to be a form of integration that works for no one but herself.

“I suppose this latter charge might be true. On the other hand, it might not be: Maybe [her latest book] “Infidel” will inspire a generation of Muslim teenagers to study, work hard, join the mainstream — and then say what they think and spoil the political consensus. Either way, I’m not sure that the impulse to dismiss Hirsi Ali for her lack of utilitarian value reflects well on those who do it. Nor does the underlying assumption: that religious faith must be respected and defended on behalf of the dark-skinned immigrants who live among us, even though we natives no longer seem to require it.”