A short biography is here. It’s worth a read.
“I am Ayaan, the daughter of Hirsi, the son of Magan.”
In the first scene of Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a child of 5, sitting on a grass mat. Her grandmother is teaching her to recite the names of her ancestors, as all Somali children must learn to do. “Get it right,” her grandmother warns. “They are your bloodline. . . . If you dishonor them you will be forsaken. You will be nothing. You will lead a wretched life and die alone.”
Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, circumcised as a child, educated by radical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she uncovered her hair, terrible tragedies would ensue. It’s a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hirsi Ali escaped — and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women.
The break began when she slipped away from her family on her way to a forced marriage in Canada and talked her way into political asylum in Holland, using a story she herself calls “an invention.” Soon after arriving, she removed her head scarf to see if God would strike her dead. He did not. Nor were there divine consequences when, defying her ancestors, she donned blue jeans, rode a bicycle, enrolled in university, became a Dutch citizen, began to speak publicly about the mistreatment of Muslim women in Holland and won election to the Dutch parliament.
But tragedy followed fame. In 2004, Hirsi Ali helped a Dutch director, Theo van Gogh, make a controversial film, “Submission,” about Muslim women suffering from forced marriages and wife beating. Van Gogh was murdered by an angry Muslim radical in response, and Hirsi Ali went into hiding. The press began to explore her past, discovering the “inventions” that she had used to get her refugee status. The Dutch threatened to revoke her citizenship; the American Enterprise Institute offered her a job in Washington. And thus she came to be among us.
There’s also this great interview,
What are you working on next?
A book called Shortcuts to Enlightenment. It’s [about] waking up the prophet Muhammad in the New York Public Library and having him have a conversation with Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek, and John Stuart Mill. It’s a philosophical novel.
From her site,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, former Dutch parliamentarian and outspoken defender of women’s rights in Islamic societies, is at risk from a variety of extremist threats in both Europe and the United States. She has needed constant security protection since her life was first threatened in 2002. Up until October 1, 2007, this protection was provided by the Dutch government.
Now a permanent resident of the United States, Ms. Hirsi Ali must raise her own funds to oversee the financing of her costly—but necessary—protection. In response to the numerous private citizens who have expressed interest in helping Ms. Hirsi Ali fund her security detail, the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust has been established.
For more information, visit ayaanhirsiali.org/security.html