Expertise: 

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

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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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The Human Rights Violation Of Women That Rarely Gets Discussed

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Fellow Talks
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

On April 11, 2018, the Hoover Institution hosted a panel on female genital mutilation featuring Mary Wambui, the founder and director of Shelter Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Ngong, Kenya, along with Research Fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Featured

The Anti-Woman Violence Feminists Are Afraid To Confront

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia New York Post
Thursday, May 24, 2018

Virtually every issue has become a partisan football in America’s politicized age of anti-Trump hysteria. Except one. The debate that has bucked this trend is the #MeToo campaign, which has successfully cut across party lines, wealth divides, race and religion.

Analysis and Commentary

Why We Hesitate To Protect Girls From FGM In The United States

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The AHA Foundation
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

One year ago, news broke that an American doctor was charged in Detroit federal criminal court for performing genital mutilation on young girls. Since then, the case has uncovered a web of secrecy and abuse with seven more charged and up to 100 girls potentially victimized. 

Analysis and Commentary

Will Saudi Arabia Free Its Women?

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Imagine the humiliation of a middle-aged mother having to ask a young son’s approval for life decisions.

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The "No Platform" Brigade

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Defining Ideas
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Disinviting speakers like Richard Dawkins is a form of censorship at odds with Western values. 

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The Plot Behind Saudi Arabia’s Fight With Qatar

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The New York Times
Monday, December 4, 2017

In June, Saudi Arabia — along with two other Persian Gulf states and Egypt — picked a fight with Qatar, on the grounds that the country is funding Islamic terrorism. The move was almost satirical, given that Saudi Arabia itself has long funded the spread of fundamentalist Salafi Islam, which is often associated with extremism.

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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.

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