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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Research Fellow
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Biography: 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1969. As a young child, she was subjected to female genital mutilation. As she grew up, she embraced Islam and strove to live as a devout Muslim. But she began to question aspects of her faith. One day, while listening to a sermon on the many ways women should be obedient to their husbands, she couldn't resist asking, "Must our husbands obey us too?"

In 1992 Ayaan fled to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage. There she was given asylum, and in time citizenship. She quickly learned Dutch and was able to study at the University of Leiden, earning her M.A. in political science. Working as a translator for Somali immigrants, she saw first hand the inconsistencies between liberal, Western society and tribal, Muslim cultures.

From 2003 to 2006, Ayaan served as an elected member of the Dutch parliament. While in parliament, she focused on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society, and on defending the rights of Muslim women.

In 2004 Ayaan gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, a film about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin, a radical Muslim, left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh's chest.

In 2006, Ayaan had to resign from parliament when the then Dutch minister for Immigration decided to revoke her citizenship, arguing that Ayaan had mislead the authorities at the time of her asylum application. However, the Dutch courts confirmed that Ayaan was indeed a legitimate Dutch citizen, leading to the fall of the government. Disillusioned with the Netherlands, she subsequently moved to the United States.

In 2007, Ayaan founded the AHA Foundation to protect and defend the rights of women in the US from harmful traditional practices. Today, the Foundation is the leading organization working to end honor violence that shames, hurts, or kills thousands of women and girls in the U.S. each year, and puts millions more at risk. 

Ayaan is a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at The Harvard Kennedy School, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ayaan is currently researching the relationship between the West and Islam. She has to live with round-the-clock security, as her willingness to speak out and her abandonment of the Muslim faith have made her a target for violence by Islamic extremists.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named one of TIME Magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2005, one of the Glamour Heroes of 2005 and Reader's Digest's European of the Year for 2005. She is the best selling author of Infidel (2007) and Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (2015).

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March for Every Woman

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 7, 2017

Far too many feminists in the West prove reluctant to condemn practices that harm their sisters in the developing world. 

Analysis and Commentary

Ayaan Hirsi Ali And Asra Q. Nomani Respond To Readers

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asra Q. Nomanivia The New York Times
Friday, June 23, 2017

Last week, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Nomani testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. During the hearing, they weren’t asked any questions about political Islam by the Democratic women on the panel — an experience they argue is emblematic of a troubling trend among progressives to overlook the brutal reality of Islamist extremism.

Featured

Kamala Harris, Speak Up. Don’t Be Silent On Women’s Rights.

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asra Q. Nomanivia The New York Times
Thursday, June 22, 2017

Last week, Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, made headlines when Republican senators interrupted her at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee while she interrogated Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The clip of the exchange went viral; journalists, politicians and everyday Americans debated what the shushing signified about our still sexist culture.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Testimony on Ideology and Terror

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hoover Institution fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali's testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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Is Free Speech Under Threat In The United States?

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Adam J. Whitevia Commentary
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In April, Commentary asked a wide variety of writers, thinkers, and broadcasters to respond to this question: Is free speech under threat in the United States? We received twenty-seven responses. We publish them here in alphabetical order.

Analysis and Commentary

We Must No Longer Turn A Blind Eye To Islamic Extremism But Instead Root Out Radicals Who Hate The West

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The Sun
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Islamism is an ideology incompatible with the values of liberal societies.

Analysis and Commentary

Trump Must Tackle Saudi Fanaticism When He's In Riyadh

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Fox News
Friday, May 19, 2017

As he leaves behind a maelstrom of domestic political troubles, President Trump must be one of the few people in the world who goes to the Middle East for some peace. However, the region badly needs some of Trump’s characteristic disruption.

Analysis and Commentary

Female Genital Mutilation And What We're Really Talking About Beneath The Weasel Words 'Genital Cutting'

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Fox News
Friday, April 28, 2017

The recent news that a grand jury in Michigan has indicted three people, including two doctors, for female genital mutilation is a welcome development. As the first ever prosecutions of this crime in the United States, the case shines much needed light on an underground human rights abuse that has been going on for too long. Female genital mutilation has been deliberately covered up by those practicing it here or sending their daughters overseas during summer break to be mutilated outside of the law.

Analysis and Commentary

Finally, FGM Is On Trial In America

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Daily Beast
Monday, April 24, 2017

Twenty-six states have yet to outlaw female genital mutilation, making the job of law enforcement and prosecutors so much harder.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali On What The Future Holds For Muslim Women

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia National Review
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The noted feminist advocate imagines how Islam's treatment of women could evolve in the years ahead.

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