Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Research Fellow
Awards and Honors:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and founder of the AHA Foundation. She served as a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006.

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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Recent Commentary


What Islamists And ‘Wokeists’ Have In Common

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, September 10, 2020

[Subscription required] Adherents of both pursue ideological purity, refuse to engage in debate and demand submission.

Analysis and CommentaryPolitics

Republicans Should Campaign Hard For Votes Of Immigrants Like Me Who Are US Citizens

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Fox News
Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Republican Party has not done enough to win a significant share of our votes.

Policy InsightsFeatured

Free Speech

by Peter Berkowitz, Richard A. Epstein, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Davenport, Daniel Heilvia PolicyEd
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

While many Americans take free speech for granted, the tradition is far from universal. Many developed nations restrict speech that is deemed hurtful or offensive. And in the United States, there is increasing sentiment that some speech is not worth protecting. Is it time to reconsider the nation’s free-speech orthodoxy?

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Free Speech

by Peter Berkowitz, Richard A. Epstein, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Davenport, Daniel Heilvia Policy Insights | A Guide to Important Policy Questions
Monday, August 24, 2020

While many Americans take free speech for granted, the tradition is far from universal. Many developed nations restrict speech that is deemed hurtful or offensive. And in the United States, there is increasing sentiment that some speech is not worth protecting. Is it time to reconsider the nation’s free-speech orthodoxy?

In the News

Cancel Culture As Collectivist Fragility

featuring Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Independent Institute
Monday, August 24, 2020

A conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the celebrated Somali-born writer and activist based in the United States, has convinced me that “cancel culture” is not just a fleeting academic perversion or a fad for silly Millennials, but the new ideology that threatens liberal democracies.


Democratic Capitalism Exceeds Socialism In Economic Efficiency As Well As In Morality

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Socialism and Free Market Capitalism: The Human Prosperity Project
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

As of 2020, many Americans—particularly but not exclusively the young—remain intrigued by socialism. Indeed, a 2019 survey found that socialism is as popular as capitalism among young American adults. Well-known political figures such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and others describe themselves as “democratic socialists” and advocate tens of trillions of dollars in new spending programs along with a massive expansion of state power over citizens’ lives.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali Responds To Biden's Comments On Islam

interview with Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Yahoo News
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali discusses presidential candidate Joe Biden's comments on encouraging and supporting (even to the point of violence) Sharia Law if he becomes president.

In the News

Biden Is ‘Endorsing And Enforcing Sharia Vigilantism,’ Hoover Institute Fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali Tells Tucker Carlson

featuring Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Daily Caller
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Hoover Institution Fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali said Tuesday that Joe Biden was “endorsing and enforcing Sharia vigilantism” in a recent speech that the former vice president made in support of Islam.


Philadelphia Statement On Civil Discourse And Strengthening Of Liberal Democracy

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Niall Fergusonvia Newsweek
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Social media mobs. Cancel culture. Campus speech policing. These are all part of life in today's America. Freedom of expression is in crisis. Truly open discourse—the debates, exchange of ideas and arguments on which the health and flourishing of a democratic republic crucially depend—is increasingly rare. Ideologues demonize opponents to block debates on important issues and to silence people with whom they disagree.

Analysis and Commentary

Flintstones Without The Nice Tune

by David R. Henderson featuring Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Econlib
Thursday, July 23, 2020
I just finished watching an excellent 45-minute discussion led by my Hoover colleague Scott Atlas. The two participants he questioned were Hoover colleagues Russ Roberts and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.