Stories by Tessa Berenson

Tessa Berenson is a sophomore at Yale University.

The GOP Needs To Listen To THIS Hoover

July 22nd, 2011 at 5:18 pm 36 Comments

Many conservative pundits thought the future hope of the GOP would be realized in the “Ronald Reagan in high heels,” as they called Sarah Palin. But maybe it actually will emerge from a smart, sassy descendant of Herbert Hoover.

Margaret Hoover, author of the recently published American Individualism, argues that Republicans can win over both youth and the presidency by learning from the legacy of her great-grandfather, President Herbert Hoover.

The Hoover she urges Republicans to rediscover, however, is not the Hoover who had the bad luck to be hit by the Great Depression. It is the Hoover who – up to 1929 – was regarded as one of the greatest and most successful American leaders of the 20th century.

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Amanda Foreman’s Own World on Fire

July 10th, 2011 at 2:43 am 118 Comments

Amanda Foreman just published A World on Fire, buy a book that aimed to place the American Civil War in international context with particular focus placed on the British.  What people know is that immediately upon its release, medicine the almost-1, sale 000 page book was met with overwhelming praise and critical acclaim.  What people may not know is that Foreman wrote the book while nursing a husband with cancer and raising five children, the youngest of whom was sick as well.

Foreman spoke with FrumForum and described her family circumstances during her time writing the book: “While I was writing A World on Fire my husband had cancer, and I guess what made it slightly different [from other people’s problems] is that I have five children, and my youngest was only one year old when he was diagnosed.”

Though many would view Foreman’s family circumstances as extreme, she was hesitant to classify her situation as anything extraordinary. “Everyone has problems,” she said.  “Everyone has vicissitudes in their life. And I genuinely don’t feel that mine are any different than anyone else’s.”

That being said, she admitted that caring for her husband and children did provide unique struggles in the research and writing of her book, the total of which took 12 years. “There was tremendous pressure coming from every direction,” she said. “But more than that, really, tremendous fear. And I think that was one of the difficulties of writing this book is that every day [there was] fear for the future, fear for the family, fear for my husband, fear for myself.”

The way Foreman dealt with this familial strain while doing the extensive research necessary to complete the book was through sacrificing personal time. “I managed [my time] by not having a private life or a social life,” she said. “I divided my time between… trying to be a good wife, trying to be a good mother to my children, and working. And that often meant that I would get to bed at maybe two or three in the morning and have to be up again at seven.”

Foreman’s hard work and sacrifices certainly paid off. A World on Fire has been championed by critics everywhere. Joanna Bourke from The Times said that Foreman’s book “is as comprehensive as any single study can be.”

Raymond Seitz from The Telegraph referred to A World on Fire as a “tour de force” and said, “Amanda Foreman has dedicated 12 years of impeccable research to mastering the subject. The result is 800 fluent pages that meld great events with colourful characters.” The list of critics who herald Foreman’s book could go on indefinitely.

Foreman, however, was skeptical that another literary success (her biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire won the Whitbread Prize in ’98) would drastically alter her life or her mood. “When I finished the book last September, a part of me felt that so much of the last decade of my life had been sacrificed in…work that I couldn’t really imagine any kind of fame or success that could go towards compensating what had been such a terrible time,” Foreman admitted.

But, as it turns out, success tastes sweeter to Foreman than expected. Laughing, she said, “Funnily enough, now that the book is critically acclaimed, I actually do feel much better.”

College Still Pays Off

July 1st, 2011 at 7:21 am 6 Comments

This is the first part in a FrumForum series on the value of college written by FrumForum’s summer interns.

Recently, there has been a flurry of articles suggesting that the value of a college education is decreasing. James Altucher, one of the crusaders at the forefront of the anti-college movement, has said that college is nothing more than a “scam.” The arguments against the importance of college say that it is too expensive for what it is: that it is impractical and unhelpful in the real world. These arguments are deeply flawed.

The fact of the matter is that it is a rough economy, and not every single graduate is going to be able to find a job worthy of a college grad.  Thus, the horror stories that populate the media about people with Ivy League degrees scrubbing toilets and tending bars.

However, the simple truth is that whether or not it is a tough job market, college grads will come out ahead financially. The data shows that college graduates consistently get more skilled jobs and earn more than non-college grads. Between 1983 and 2008, the inflation-adjusted median wage for people with bachelor’s degrees increased by 34 percent, while the wages for high school dropouts fell by 2 percent.  And, by 2007, 48% of people with bachelor’s degrees were in the top three deciles of income.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2007 that people with college degrees earn an average of $937 per week, while people with only a high school diploma earn only $583 per week.

Paying for college is an investment in the student, and the value of a degree is such that it greatly increases the probability that he or she will be able to return on that investment.

However, in a further jab at the college system in America, Altucher said that many argue that college teaches you how to network, write, and think, but “personally, [he] didn’t learn how to do any of those things in college.”

Maybe Altucher wasted his time during his four years at Cornell, but it is unfair of him to apply his own experience to every American college student. As a rising college sophomore, I have already made connections through my school that will help me land summer internships and future employment. As an English major, I am not only learning how to write analytical essays but how to think critically as well. These shifts in the way I approach my learning and my future have a value in and of themselves which should not be underestimated.

But, for the skeptics, higher education is not important simply for the education itself, but also for the economic opportunities it presents. College is not a “scam” as Altucher asserts, because the knowledge gained during those defining four years is not worthy only for the sake of crystallized intelligence, but has real implications for monetary success later in life.

Endorsements Draw Attention, Not Votes

June 26th, 2011 at 1:12 am 21 Comments

GOP 2012 candidates are nabbing some celebrity support this election season — though adding such star power to campaigns usually wins presidential hopefuls more in the way of headlines and contributions than votes.

A 2007 Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that “political endorsements generally have little impact on voter preference.” In the specific case of Oprah Winfrey supporting Barack Obama for President, 69 percent  of Americans said that her endorsement would not influence their vote.  And, even among the 30 percent who indicated that her endorsement would effect their vote, half of them said it would make them less likely to vote for her candidate.

A 2010 North Carolina State University study corroborated this finding. Michael Cobb, associate professor of political science at North Carolina State, said that “by exposing young people to a celebrity endorsement, they liked the candidate less and were less likely to vote for him.”

That being said, having deep-pocketed and recognizable celebrities backing a campaign certainly helps with fundraising and rally attendance.

In a surprise move, supermodel Cindy Crawford flip-flopped on her 2008 support for Barack Obama and is now backing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  Crawford appeared in a fundraising video for Romney — and the Romney for President Exploratory Committee then raised $10.25 million within a day of its release.  While it would be a stretch to attribute a causal relationship between Crawford’s endorsement and the skyrocketing Romney contributions, her appearance certainly didn’t hurt.  Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, publically advertised Crawford’s support of the campaign through his Twitter account.

Romney is not the only candidate receiving celebrity support. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman gained the backing of Hollywood producer Craig Haffner, a Tony award nominee and Emmy award winner.

“I think [Huntsman] is going to be a candidate people [in the entertainment industry] are going to be interested in,” said Haffner. More significant than the producer’s support in and of itself is the fact that Haffner has already begun arranging California meetings and fundraisers for potential Huntsman Hollywood backers. Huntsman’s first Los Angeles fundraiser will be on Monday, June 27 where he will solicit large contributions that will give the donors special VIP perks at campaign events.

Rep. Michele Bachmann has gained the support of actor Kelsey Grammer, with the former Frasier star contributing a video message to her “Troopathon” fundraiser on Thursday.

Chuck Norris, who famously supported former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee last election season, has thrown his hat in the ring for Rep. Ron Paul.

Norris was influential in garnering support for Huckabee at the outset of his White House bid.  The Los Angeles Times reported that Norris was “a factor in Huckabee’s popularity surge” and said in 2007, “A month ago, few even knew that Huckabee was a former governor of Arkansas, let alone a Republican candidate for president. Then karate-movie tough guy Norris … announced he was in Huckabee’s camp… Suddenly, Huckabee became the presidential example of tough-guy cool.” However, it is unclear how much his support will help the divisive Paul’s campaign this year.

So far Governor Tim Pawlenty and the other GOP candidates seem to be lagging behind in celebrity endorsements, though the pool of Hollywood Republicans is famously small to begin with.

While Hollywood endorsements may not help politically advance the candidates, having a recognizable celebrity in your corner boosts fundraising efforts.  And, in the case of Romney, having a famous supermodel like Crawford on your team will definitely attract attention if not actual votes.

Bahrain Silences Student Voices

June 20th, 2011 at 7:33 pm 3 Comments

University of Bahrain students — who now face expulsion if they don’t sign a loyalty pledge to the embattled regime of King Hamed ibn Isa Khalif — are appealing to human rights groups to take up their cause.

Not only does the university require students to sign the pledge — which states “I acknowledge that not signing this document means I do not wish to continue my education in the University of Bahrain” — but the kingdom’s Education Ministry has also adopted a “zero-tolerance policy” to any sort of political discussion or activism at the school.

The crackdowns on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on the campus come on the heels of ongoing anti-government protests in Bahrain as well as escalating tensions between the Gulf state’s Sunni and Shiite Muslim populations.

Described by Human Rights Watch in 2005 as “a poster child for political reform in the Middle East”, Bahrain has grown increasingly intolerant of dissent since the civil unrest began earlier this year. Newspapers and the Internet are now being routinely censored by the regime and since February more than 60 journalists have been arrested, threatened or fired because of their work.

The loyalty pledges and the ban on student activism were introduced following a violent campus altercation between Shiite protestors and Sunnis in March.

“Many friends of mine had to drop the school because they could not sign this pledge,” said a source familiar with the University of Bahrain who spoke with FrumForum on condition of anonymity.

One student said his family wants him to sign the pledge because “’there are no other universities who will accept me if they kick me out.”

He went on to describe the consequences for refusing to sign the pledge: “If we decide to not sign it, they call us to go to the police station and we can’t get out from there except if we sign it. That has happened to some other students — they were at the police station seven hours until they signed.”

The largest university in the Gulf State kingdom with more than 12,000 undergraduates, the campus had been “relatively tolerant” of political activism until recently say students. And aside from the loyalty pledge and the prohibition on campus demonstrations, the university president has also said scholarships will be stopped if students post “inappropriate” things on social media sites or talk to the press. By inappropriate, he clearly meant comments critical of the government.

“They … have suspended many students who joined anti-government demonstrations or posted anti-government views on Facebook and Twitter,” said the University of Bahrain student.

“University of Bahrain has turned into a big prison,” he continued, adding  the school has installed surveillance cameras, metal detectors and security guards all over campus.

“You can’t even talk about [the government],” another student corroborated. “They put cameras in there to see and hear anybody who talks about the government.”

Faced with the choice between signing away their freedom of speech or having their educations terminated, students hope international human rights organizations will highlight and champion their cause.

“Where are they?” asked a Bahraini expatriate who spoke to FrumForum about the campus clampdowns. “Isn’t there anyone to protect and support these students?”

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) released a statement saying it is “deeply concerned” about the state of affairs at the university. And the Bahrain Center For Human Rights has issued an international appeal to civil liberties and academic groups regarding the crackdown on university students.

“Education is a right that has been reserved, protected and promoted by the United Nations,” said the June 6 appeal. ” … However, as we write this letter, students in Bahrain are being deprived of this universal right. University students are being subjected to arrests and expulsions for merely expressing their political opinions.”

“Therefore, on behalf of the university students in Bahrain, the BCHR urges you to use your global podium to take urgent and forceful actions to put an end to the Human Rights violations against students in Bahrain, in order for them to have the right to education, as well as freedom of speech and expression. Your actions and stand will make all the difference in the lives of youth in Bahrain.”

No international watchdog groups have so far publicly embraced the students’ cause. FrumForum calls to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had not been returned at the time of posting.

Romney: Is His Afghan Stance Really Out Of Step?

June 15th, 2011 at 4:01 pm 8 Comments

Mitt Romney’s cautious remarks about US involvement in Afghanistan during Monday night’s New Hampshire GOP debate continue to draw fire from fellow Republicans.

However, the flak may stem more from from his current frontrunner status rather than his actual position on the American-NATO mission.

“It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can — as soon as our generals think it’s okay,” Romney said in the debate. “One lesson we‘ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.”

This intimation of a US withdrawal sparked an immediate lambasting from more hawkish GOP elements and Romney’s camp has been scurrying to both qualify and clarify his remarks ever since the Granite State face-off between seven of the Republican presidential hopefuls.

“This is not a war of independence, this is a war to protect America’s national vital security interests,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday before going on to draw unflattering comparisons between Romney and the administration of former President Jimmy Carter.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty takes a tougher stance on Afghanistan than Romney. He has said, “We are committed to be there until [the] objectives are met” and he wouldn’t be opposed to sending more troops.

However, other serious GOP contenders have espoused similar views to Romney’s on Afghanistan but have not received the same bad press as the former Massachussetts Governor.

Former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has referred to a drawdown of US forces in Afhanistan as “inevitable”, adding, “I would tell you that we have to evaluate very carefully our presence in Afghanistan, and my inclination would be to say that it is a heavy and very expensive presence we have on the ground. That at a point in time where we need to be looking at our asymmetrical threats, what we have in Afghanistan today is not consistent with how we ought to be responding.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann has also expressed a desire to pull the plug on the decade-long mission : “I’m tired of Afghanistan and Iraq, too,” she said. “I think we need to get out. I think Afghanistan is — on many, many levels, it doesn’t seem we’re gaining any ground. I want to reduce US exposure in Afghanistan. So, let’s get them out as quickly as we can.”

So why is Romney the only candidate getting heat for his views on a possible withdrawal?

Romney has consistently led the pack of GOP presidential contenders, with a June 11 Gallup poll putting him in the lead with 24 percent of Republican support. People expect him to fill the role he already inhabits in the polls: a Republican leader.

Romney’s doveish stance on Afghanistan has upset senior GOP figures — including the more hawkish Lindsey Graham — not because it’s substantively different than that of other candidates, but because he may actually be the party flag-bearer in 2012.

Do New Campus Sex Rules Punish Men?

June 13th, 2011 at 4:43 pm 32 Comments

The U.S. Education Department recently released guidelines which will dramatically lower the standards for sexual assault on college campuses. While this measure was intended to make campus environments safer for women, it may actually make them less safe for men.

In voicing his support for the new guidelines, Joe Biden said, “Rape is rape is rape.”  No one would dispute this. Yet “Sexual assault is sexual assault is sexual assault” doesn’t carry quite the same punch. This term, though often thrown around, is incredibly vague. It is the gray area encompassed in “sexual assault” which makes the new guidelines particularly antagonistic to men.

While the old standards required proving a roughly 98 percent certainty of guilt, the new standards require only a “preponderance of evidence” — or what amounts to proving only slightly more than a 50 percent certainty. I know of a male underclassman whose peers accused him of rape when the reality was very different.  The young woman, an underclassman as well and already drunk herself, plied him with alcohol and repeatedly pressured him to have sex with her. When he eventually did and the story got out, his classmates were furious at him — even though at no point did the girl resist.  Under the new guidelines this boy would probably have been charged with sexual assault.  It is true the girl could not give legal consent because of her inebriation, but neither could he. It would be unfair to brand him as a rapist when he was acting under the influence of alcohol as well.

Yale University is currently enveloped in controversy over Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination at federally funded institutions.  In March, 2011 a formal complaint was filed against the university for ostensibly violating Title IX by failing to adequately address cases of harassment and assault, including the infamous scandal in the fall in which Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity boys chanted “No means yes, yes means anal” outside the Women’s Center on campus.

In response to that complaint and the new guidelines, University President Richard Levin established an Advisory Committee on Campus Climate to advise him on “how sexual harassment, violence or misconduct may be more effectively combated at Yale, and what additional steps the University might take to create a culture and community in which all of our students are safe and feel well supported,” he said in an email to the student body.

I don’t mean to suggest young women casually toss around accusations of “rape” and “sexual assault” at the drop of a hat.  Sexual offenses are a legitimate and serious problem which female students are often made to feel uncomfortable about on college campuses.  Any misogyny present on campuses, however, is a manifestation of our greater culture and lowering college sexual assault standards won’t change that. Rather, it makes it so that in a case of “he said/she said” there is an inherent preference to the “she said” side, regardless of the actual facts of the case.

Sexual assault cases, like those involving any crime, need to protect the defendant against false accusations. The new preponderance of evidence guideline, however, certainly does not qualify for the typical legal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt.” It is precisely because sexual assault is such a serious crime that standards should be higher than 51 percent certainty: being branded a sexual offender is grave — and can destroy a student’s academic career. And maybe his life.

“The Department of Education should not pressure universities to enact a system whereby a student can be found guilty of a major crime by a mere preponderance of evidence,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys. “If the person is guilty, then the suffering is deserved. But what if he is innocent? … Such occurrences could become routine under the [new guidelines].”

Of course there are cases in which females are accused of sexual assault and males are the victims, but, according to the National Institute of Justice, those represent only six percent of campus incidents.  While the rules for dealing with this issue remain gender neutral, the accused will almost unfailingly be men.

The new guidelines are meant to enforce Title IX’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination. But in practice they increase it — just not towards the gender you would expect. Sexual assault cases need to be treated like any other crime: a conviction needs to be made only if there is relative certainty of guilt. Forty-nine percent doubt would not lead to a conviction for another crime — and shouldn’t for sexual assault.

Librarians Defend Teen Gore

June 7th, 2011 at 8:58 pm 75 Comments

An enormous Twitterstorm has arisen over a Wall Street Journal reviewer’s expose of the increasingly gruesome and sensationalistic books being targeted at teenagers–and their ready availability in school libraries.

On June 4, the WSJ’s children’s book reviewer, Meghan Cox Gurdon, published an article in the Journal, noting the shift in teen fiction over the past few decades–a shift that she described as “so dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things.”

“Why is this considered a good idea?” she wondered, before detailing many of the current novels’ obsessions with rape, self-mutilation, meth addictions and murder:

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it. If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.

As soon as the article was published, librarians and teen fiction people immediately cried ‘censorship’, and the debate over the material in Gurdon’s article rocketed to the number 2 topic on Twitter.  FrumForum talked to Gurdon about her article and the ensuing pandemonium.

“I did not expect this degree of hysteria,” Gurdon said. “And I really, really did not expect that people who work in the book industry would be so seemingly incapable of understanding a simple argument. As a critic, I am describing what is in the literature, and the fact that it is different now than it was, say, 30 years ago.  These are cultural developments that are worth acknowledging and worth noticing.”

The most critical review so far appeared in the School Library Journal, in which critics went so far as to slam Gurdon for being “against the very act of reading itself,” and “sensationalistic.”  Even the dame of edgy adolescent books–Judy Blume–took umbrage with Gurdon:

Judy Blume, one of the most banned children’s authors in the United States, says we all need to remember that reading is a good thing and that kids read what interests them. ‘If it makes them uncomfortable, if they’re not ready for it, they’ll put it down.’

But, Blume cautions, there is a danger in Gurdon’s article. ‘It will fuel the fire, encouraging even more adults to challenge books kids want to read,’ she adds. ‘They will wave it around claiming she knows what she’s talking about because she’s a professional book reviewer.’

“I come out ‘anti-reading’ because I have the temerity to criticize what is in some of the books that are being sold to teenagers,” Gurdon retorted. Indeed she believes that one of the roots of the problem in the book industry lies in incomplete and uninformative reviews: “One of the things that I think is missing from a lot of these reviews is that they very, very seldom address some of the more disturbing content that is in books.”

So this begs the question, if one of the fundamental problems is a lack of revealing information about teen novels, why not institute a rating system for books similar to the ones used by other forms of entertainment?

Jewell Stoddard, who works at Politics & Prose, a popular independent Washington, D.C. bookstore, established her own rating system when she created a PG-15 section of the store for those novels that might be too shocking for younger readers.

Movies have been rated since 1966, albums since 1985 and video games since 1994.  It seems only natural that with increasingly graphic novels being marketed to teenagers that a book rating system should be established as well.

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Hey Weiner: Sexting Isn’t Sexy

June 6th, 2011 at 5:14 pm 66 Comments

Two of the lessons constantly drilled into the female psyches of my generation are, cialis saleNothing is private on the internet, especially privates’ and ‘Never sext. Ever.’ The fact that Anthony Weiner and Chris Lee missed these memos points at a fundamental gender difference in the way sexts are perceived.

Men seem to view sexting differently than women do.  Most girls understand the dire consequences of sending a suggestive picture, yet men like Weiner and Lee seem to believe that they are immune from the same judgment that follows around the young women who expose themselves.

Not only does male sexting demonstrate a lack of understanding of consequences, but it shows an extreme arrogance and fundamental lack of understanding of women.  The implication that a woman would want to see an image of Weiner’s erection (insert name joke here) is not just misguided, it is almost predatory. It’s like a modern day version of flashing — pulling open a trench coat on the subway has evolved into adult male sexting. Even if a girl likes a guy she does not want to see explicit images of him. In cases where men solicit random women, perhaps they would be better served texting images of private planes than private parts.

Most girls nowadays learn from a young age that any explicit image sent via Facebook or text can, and probably will, be seen by far more people than the intended recipient.  If maternal lessons in self-respect aren’t convincing enough, most of us have heard sexting horror stories that ensure that we will remain forever chaste on the sexting front.

I know of a girl who sent a naked picture to her boyfriend at the time, and within weeks almost everyone from every neighboring high school had seen it. The picture was saved on computer desktops, shown to others with abandon, and texted around until she had completely lost control of the image. Her infamy served as a warning to us all.

It should be clear to everyone by now that sending explicit pictures of oneself is a categorically terrible idea. Politicians like Weiner and Lee should not only understand that sexting is as dangerous for their reputations as it is for those of young girls, but they should also understand that the implications of their images are much more aggressive.

The experiences of these two men should provide the much-needed sexting horror stories for men that countless middle and high school girls have provided for women.

Hirsi Ali: Honor Killings on the Rise in the West

June 2nd, 2011 at 3:19 pm 37 Comments

Islamic honor killings are making appearances in the West, cure and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is determined to do something about it.

Hirsi Ali is the founder of the AHA Foundation, an organization aimed at spreading awareness about honor violence and defending women’s rights through raising awareness and promoting legislative action.  The AHA Foundation is hosting an honor violence symposium in New York City on June 6. FrumForum talked with Hirsi Ali about the goals of the symposium and what honor violence means for western culture.

“The mission of the foundation is to protect the rights of women from militant Islam and tribal custom,” said Hirsi Ali. “What we would like to do is make professionals aware of the fact that some of these practices are growing in the United States.”

By ‘practices’, Hirsi Ali is referring to the multiple types of honor violence supported by radical Islamism such as forced marriages, honor beatings, female genital mutilation, and honor killings.  Dozens of other examples of honor violence are outlined on the AHA Foundation website.

Most Western government agencies categorize these acts as domestic violence, but Ali says that “this is a specific type of violence, and I think it is important to bring awareness to the people whose job it is to address these issues so that they know, you know, that this is a different form of violence. And that this is culturally sanctioned and religiously sanctioned.”

There have been cases of honor violence in the United States in the past few years that have attracted media attention.  In 2008, teenage sisters Sarah and Amina Said were shot and killed by their father in Texas because he believed they were becoming too Westernized. In 2009, father Faleh Almaleki ran down his 20 year old daughter Noor with his car because she refused to marry the Iraqi man he had selected for her. And, just this year, 20-year-old Jessica Moktad was murdered because her stepfather believed she wasn’t sticking to traditional Muslim customs.

FrumForum asked Hirsi Ali how widespread these honor killings have become in the West. “In no western country is there systematic counting of exactly, you know, how many girls are affected in this way, chiefly because it’s still taboo,” she said. “And so the choice that you then make is to not to talk about and not to connect the dots.”

Through some of her own research, however, Hirsi Ali found that in the UK, based on the number of women who go to police stations to ask for help, there are up to 1,000 forced marriages a year.  She also found that in a very small region in the Netherlands there were up to 16 honor killings a year.

“These are all criminal acts,” Ali said. “These particular crimes have to be tracked and the perpetrators have to be punished…This is pervasive.”

Hirsi Ali has high hopes for the success of the AHA Foundation’s efforts, and believes that the United States is the place to start: “Through awareness and education, hopefully we will be able to eradicate these practices in the US, and hopefully set an example for other countries.”