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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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Recent Commentary

Featured

Why Is the Southern Poverty Law Center Targeting Liberals?

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The New York Times
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Since the violence in Charlottesville 10 days ago, when white supremacists left one young woman dead and 19 others injured, the Southern Poverty Law Center has hit the jackpot. The Alabama-based nonprofit is set to receive millions of dollars in donations from some of the nation’s deepest of pockets. Apple pledged $1 million. JP Morgan Chase & Co.: half a million. George and Amal Clooney even got in on the action, promising to donate another $1 million.

Featured

On Radical Islam, Trump Has Lost His Focus

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Wall Street Journal
Thursday, August 10, 2017

There’s no ‘extreme vetting,’ no outreach to moderates, and too much coziness with Riyadh.

Uncommon Knowledge 130x130
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the West, Dawa, and Islam

interview with Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, August 8, 2017

AUDIO ONLY

Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Contain It.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins Peter Robinson to discuss her new book
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali On The West, Dawa, And Islam

interview with Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Contain It.

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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.

Featured

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.

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