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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Research Fellow
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Biography: 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. She 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 misled 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 was a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at The Harvard Kennedy School 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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In the News

Ilhan Omar Lets Rip Another Outburst Of Anti-Semitism

quoting Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Clarion Project
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Congresswomen Ilhan Omar let rip another outburst of anti-Semitism this weekend at a conference in Philadelphia where she was speaking. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar let rip another outburst of anti-Semitism this weekend at a conference in Philadelphia where she was speaking. Commenting at the Netroots Conference on “the situation in Palestine,” Omar declared, “What we are doing now is having hypocrisy in not celebrating non-violent movements there and condemning it [sic].”

Featured

Can Ilhan Omar Overcome Her Prejudice?

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The Wall Street Journal
Friday, July 12, 2019

I was born in Somalia and grew up amid pervasive Muslim anti-Semitism. Hate is hard to unlearn without coming to terms with how you learned it.

In the News

Ramifications Of Folau Case Could Go Far Beyond Rugby

quoting Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Irish Examiner
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

On November 2, 2004, the film-maker Theo van Gogh was shot dead in broad daylight the centre of Amsterdam by a 26-year-old Dutch-born Muslim. Van Gogh, a descendant of the artist Vincent van Gogh, was then stabbed and a knife left pinning a note to his body. 

Analysis and Commentary

Threats To Free And Open Societies

interview with H. R. McMaster, Niall Ferguson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Larry Diamondvia C-SPAN
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Hoover Institution fellows H.R. McMaster, Niall Ferguson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Larry Diamond discuss threats to free and open societies and what can be done to defeat these threats across government, the private sector, academia, and civil society.

In the News

Documentary Explores The Ideological War Against The West

featuring Niall Ferguson, Victor Davis Hanson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bruce Thorntonvia The Epoch Times
Monday, May 27, 2019

With the 2020 elections coming up and campaigns underway, the idea of democratic socialists and socialism has become a major topic of conversation. The Hill states, “A majority of Americans say socialism is incompatible with American values, and only 10 percent of voters in a new poll have a positive view of socialism.”

In the News

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Warns Of Islamic Anti-Semitism

quoting Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The Canadian Jewish News
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Islamic anti-Semitism is of a “scale and scope” that most people in the West do not understand and is therefore all the more insidious, the controversial critic of the Muslim religion, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, told a capacity audience at the Jewish Public Library (JPL) in Montreal on May 13.

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Gimme Shelter

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The definition of a “refugee” dates back decades and has outlived its usefulness. Nations now need a much more rigorous idea of just who deserves refuge.

Windmills in the Netherlands
In the News

Holland Tacks Metropopulist

quoting Ayaan Hirsi Alivia OpsLens
Friday, March 22, 2019
Not many people take Holland, the Netherlands, Dutchland (?), whatever, as a locale of much political interest. Not at least since William of Orange.
Analysis and Commentary

We Need A Better Definition Of ‘Refugee’

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The global asylum and refugee system is no longer fit for purpose. As a beneficiary of that system, I do not make such a statement lightly. The reality is that it is outdated and can no longer cope with the challenges posed by mass violence and global migration today.

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Never Cry “Islamophobia”

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Hoover Digest
Monday, July 9, 2018

Societies learn and grow when they question, challenge—even offend. Islamists are pressuring free people to give up their most basic rights.

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