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


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.

Analysis and Commentary

Broader Focus Needed To Tackle Fundamentalism

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Daily Telegraph
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

[Subscription Required] Reports this month that students at Punchbowl Public School are acting out radical Islamic ideology is worrying but not a surprise. At the school, children as young as 10 have threatened teachers with violence, bullied other children into reading the Koran and professed their sympathies for those fighting for the Islamic State.


Confronting Political Islam

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Washington Times
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Without a U.S. counterstrategy, the violent ideology will spread.

islam, sunset
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How To Counter Political Islam

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Defining Ideas (Hoover Institution)
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The Western focus on "terror" and "violent extremism" has failed. 

The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Hoover Institution Press
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The purpose of this report is to suggest the basis for a new anti-dawa strategy, designed to check the advance of political Islam as an ideology and a movement. In the first part, I describe the constitution of political Islam: the foundational principles, terminology, and objectives of Islamist ideology. In the second part, I analyze the infrastructure of political Islam, in particular the institutions and techniques of dawa. In the third part, I propose a number of policies that I believe will, if properly implemented, halt the spread of political Islam in the United States and perhaps also abroad.

Analysis and Commentary

On This ‘Day Without A Woman,’ Don’t Leave Women Oppressed By Sharia Law Behind

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Daily Beast
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Too many feminists in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm women.

Analysis and Commentary

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sharia?

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia The Australian
Friday, February 17, 2017

[Subscription Required] Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford, and the founder of the AHA Foundation, which exists to protect women and girls ...


Trump’s Immigration Ban Was Clumsy But He’s Right About Radical Islam

by Ayaan Hirsi Alivia Huffington Post
Thursday, February 2, 2017

I was once a refugee, but I fear the storm over Trump’s executive order is distracting us from the threat that radical Islam poses within our borders.