Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former member of the Dutch Lower House, a Somali born feminist and a political refugee from Kenya. She grew up within the oppressive Islamic community of Somalia, where she was witness to the suppression of women within the clan heirachy, as well as the political oppression carried out by the government which her father opposed and was jailed for his activities. After escaping prison, he moved his family to Saudi Arabia, where they lived until they were expelled three years later. Moving from there to Ethiopia, then finally Kenya, Ayaan was exposed to the views of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Sunni organization in the world and a supported of the establishment of a new Caliphate in the Muslim world. She sympathized with these views, choosing to wear a hijab and supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Forced to maintain a low profile due to her father’s status as a political refugee, Ayaan took up reading as a hobby, where she was exposed to western culture through book series such as Nancy Drew.
In 1992, at the age of twenty three, Ayaan found herself subject to an arranged marriage to a distant cousin living in Canada. Traveling to Germany initially to transfer flights, she applied for and was granted (although she had to falsely exaggerate her story) refugee status within the Netherlands. It was there that she found herself captivated by the freedom’s and opportunities offered by the west, and where she began her transformation into a fully westernized feminist, an Atheist, and after obtaining her master’s degree in political science, eventually an MP in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch Lower House.
Her story is easily one of the most fascinating and insightful narratives on the subject of Islamic culture and the conflict between the west and Islam. Marked by tragedy at times (she was working with Theo van Gogh when he was brutally slain while filming a documentary on the abuses against Muslim women), by difficulty, and by hope; her story stands out in this time of great conflict as an example of how reason can and does prevail. I’m posting a two part video so you can hear her tell her story, and answer questions from the audience in part two. Watch it all the way through, it’s really a fascinating experience.