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Ayaan Hirsi Ali ( ; ; born Ayaan Hirsi Magan 13 November 1969 in Mogadishumarker, Somaliamarker) is a Dutchmarker intellectual, feminist activist, writer, and politician. She is the estranged daughter of the Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh's movie Submission led to death threats. Since van Gogh's assassination by a Muslim extremist in 2004, she has lived in seclusion under the protection of Dutch authorities.

When she was eight, her family left Somalia for Saudi Arabiamarker, then Ethiopiamarker, and eventually settled in Kenyamarker. She sought and obtained political asylum in the Netherlandsmarker in 1992, under circumstances that later became the center of a political controversy. In 2003 she was elected a member of the House of Representativesmarker (the lower house of the Dutch parliament), representing the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). A political crisis surrounding the potential stripping of her Dutch citizenship led to her resignation from the parliament, and led indirectly to the fall of the second Balkenende cabinet.

She is currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, and has been living in the United States. In 2005, she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has also received several awards for her positions, including Norway's Human Rights Service's Bellwether of the Year Award, the Danish Freedom Prize, the Swedish Democracy Prize (awarded in 2005 by the Liberal Party, which has been working the issues of assimilation of immigrants and the need to resist islam in recent years), the Moral Courage Award for commitment to conflict resolution, ethics, and world citizenship. Recently, in a book review of her memoir Infidel posted on the summer reading list for the Middle East Strategy at Harvard website, Joshua Muravchik described it as "simply a great work of literature," even comparing her to the great novelist Joseph Conrad.



Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia. Her father, Hirsi Magan Isse, was a prominent member of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front and a leading figure in the Somalian Revolution.Shortly after she was born, her father was imprisoned due to his opposition to Somalia's Siad Barre government.

Hirsi Ali's father had studied abroad and was opposed to female genital cutting, but while he was imprisoned, Hirsi Ali's grandmother had the traditional procedure performed on five-year-old Hirsi Ali.

They settled in Nairobimarker, Kenyamarker, where Hirsi Ali attended the English-language Muslim Girls' Secondary School. By the time she reached her teens, Saudi-funded religious education was becoming more influential among Muslims in other countries, and a charismatic religious teacher who had been trained under this aegis joined Hirsi Ali's school. She inspired the teenaged Ayaan, as well as some fellow students, to adopt the more rigorous Saudi Arabian interpretations of Islam, as opposed to the more relaxed versions then current in Somalia and Kenya. Hirsi Ali had been impressed by the Qur'an before she could even read, and had lived "by the Book, for the Book" throughout her childhood.

She sympathized with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and wore a hijab together with her school uniform, which was unusual at the time but gradually became more common. She agreed with the fatwa against British writer Salman Rushdie that was declared in reaction to the publication of his controversial novel The Satanic Verses. After completing secondary school, she attended a secretarial course at Valley Secretarial College in Nairobi for one year. It was in books she read there that Ayaan would be exposed to Western culture and values for the first time, including the Nancy Drew series, which portrayed a fictional female character who solved mysteries and operated freely as an equal to her male counterparts. According to Hirsi Ali, these stories would play a pivotal role in her redefining what it meant to be a Westerner.

Early career

Hirsi Ali arrived in the Netherlands in 1992. There is some lack of clarity about the events leading up to her arrival, and she has admitted to making false statements in her application for asylum to enhance her chances of staying in the Netherlands. Hirsi Ali states that in 1992 her father arranged to marry her to a distant cousin. She also claimed that she objected to this both on general grounds (she states that she dreaded being forced to submit to a stranger, someone with "the Holy Book on his side" who could force himself on her sexually, and on specific objections to this particular cousin, saying that he was a "bigot" and an "idiot".)

It is not disputed that in 1992 she traveled from Kenyamarker to visit her family in Düsseldorfmarker and Bonnmarker, Germany. It was planned that she would join her husband in Canada after obtaining a visa while in Germany. Members of her family have disputed the story of her forced marriage. According to Hirsi Ali, she spent her time in Germany frantically trying to devise a way to escape her unwanted marriage. Ultimately, she decided that she would claim to want to visit a relative in the Netherlands, but once she had arrived, seek help from that relative and claim asylum.

Once in the Netherlands, she requested political asylum and received a residence permit. It is not known on what grounds she received political asylum, though she has admitted that she had lied by devising a false story about having to flee Mogadishumarker and spending time in refugee camps on the border between Somalia and Kenya. In reality, she did spend time in those camps, but in order to help relatives who were trapped there; she was already safely settled in Kenya at the time open warfare erupted in the Somali capital. She gave a false name and date of birth to the Dutch immigration authorities; something she says was necessary in order to escape retaliation by her clan. She is known in the West by her assumed name, Hirsi Ali, instead of her original name, Hirsi Magan. Hirsi Ali received a residence permit within three weeks of her arrival in the Netherlands.

After receiving asylum, she held various short-term jobs, ranging from cleaning to mail sorting. She states that she had been an avid reader from childhood, and access to new books and ways of thought stretched her imagination and frightened her at the same time. She states that Freud's work placed her in contact with an alternative moral system, one that was not based on religion. During this time, she took courses in Dutch and a one-year course in social work. She states that she was impressed with how well Dutch society seemed to function and, in an effort to better understand how this system had developed, studied political science at the Leiden University until 2000.

Between 1995 and 2001, she also worked as an independent Somali-Dutch interpreter and translator, frequently coming in contact with Somali women in asylum centers, hostels for battered women, and the National Migration Service (NMS). While working for the NMS, she saw inside the workings of the Dutch immigration system and became critical of the way it handled asylum seekers. As a result of her education and experiences, Ali speaks six languages: English, Somali, Arabic, Swahili, Amharic and Dutch.

Political career

After earning a master's degree in political science from Leiden University, Hirsi Ali became a fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, a scientific institute linked to the center-left Labour Party (PvdA), of which Leiden University Professor Ruud Koole was steward.

During her studies, she was becoming increasingly disenchanted with Islam. Her identification as a Muslim suffered a strong blow after 9/11. After listening to videotapes of Osama bin Laden citing "words of justification" in the Qu'ran for the attacks, she writes, "I picked up the Quran and the hadith and started looking through them, to check. I hated to do it, because I knew that I would find Bin Laden's quotations in there." She decided that, despite her upbringing, she had to regard the Quran as relative—it was a historical record and "just another book".

The final blow to her faith was her reading of The Atheist Manifesto (Atheistisch Manifest) of Leiden philosopher Herman Philipse. She renounced Islam and became an atheist in 2002. During this period, she began to formulate her critique of Islam and Islamic culture, published many news articles, and became a frequent speaker on television news programs and public debate forums. She wrote up her ideas in a book entitled De Zoontjesfabriek (The Son Factory). It was at this time that she first began to receive death threats.

In November 2002, after some disagreements with the PvdA about her security measures, she sought advice from Cisca Dresselhuys, the editor of the feminist magazine Opzij how to raise funds for protection from the government. Her party having recently lost the election, Hirsi Ali would soon be unable to receive government-funded protection. Dresselhuys introduced Hirsi Ali to Gerrit Zalm, the parliamentary leader of the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), and party member Neelie-Smit Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition. At their urging, Hirsi Ali agreed to switch to the VVD and stood for election to Parliament. Between November 2002 and January 2003, she lived abroad and was put on the payroll as an assistant of the VVD.

During her tenure in Parliament, Hirsi Ali made a number of controversial statements about Islam. In an interview in the Dutch newspaper Trouw she said that by Western standards, Muhammad would be considered a pedophile. A discrimination complaint was filed against her on April 24, 2003. The Prosecutor's office decided not to initiate a case, because her critique did "not put forth any conclusions in respect to Muslims and their worth as a group is not denied".

Going into hiding

Hirsi Ali wrote the script and provided the voice-over for Submission, a film produced by Theo van Gogh, which criticized the treatment of women in Islamic society. Juxtaposed with passages from the Qur'an were scenes of scantily clad actresses portraying Muslim women who are suffering abuse. The film also features an actress that is provocatively dressed in a semi-transparent burqa and has texts from the Qur'an written on her skin. These texts are often interpreted as justifying the subjugation of women. The film's release sparked much furore; the controversy became violent when Mohammed Bouyeri, a member of the Hofstad Group, murdered Van Gogh in an Amsterdammarker street on November 2, 2004. A letter pinned to Van Gogh's body with a knife was primarily a death threat to Hirsi Ali. After this incident, the Dutch secret service raised the level of security that they provided to her. In an interview to journalist David Cohen, Hirsi Ali has said that although she deeply regrets the murder of van Gogh, she is proud of the film and does not regret having made it. "To feel otherwise would be to deny everything I stand for." At his televised funeral, Van Gogh's own mother not only echoed this sentiment, she urged Hirsi Ali to continue the work that she and Van Gogh had done together.

Earlier that year, the group The Hague Connection produced a rap song, "Hirsi Ali Dis", and distributed it on the Internet. The lyrics included violent threats against her life. The rappers were prosecuted under Article 121 of the Dutch criminal code, because they hindered the execution of her tasks as politician. In 2005, they were sentenced to community service and a suspended prison sentence.

After the murder of van Gogh, Hirsi Ali went into hiding. Government security services moved her around to many locations in the Netherlands, and eventually moved her to the United States for several months. On January 18, 2005, she returned to parliament. On February 18, 2005, she revealed the location of herself and her colleague Geert Wilders, who had also been in hiding. She demanded a normal, secured house, which she was granted one week later.

In January 2006, Hirsi Ali used her acceptance speech for the Reader's Digest "European of the Year" award to urge action to prevent Iranmarker from developing nuclear weapons and to say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be taken at his word in wanting to organize a conference to investigate objective evidence of the Holocaust. "Before I came to Europe, I'd never heard of the Holocaust. That is the case with millions of people in the Middle East. Such a conference should be able to convince many people away from their denial of the genocide against the Jews." She also said that "so-called Western values" of freedom and justice are universal; that Europe has done far better than most areas of the world at providing justice, because it has guaranteed the freedom of thought and debate that are required for critical self-examination; and that communities cannot reform themselves unless "scrupulous investigation of every former and current doctrine is possible."

In March 2006 she co-signed a letter entitled "MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism". The most notable of the eleven other signatories was British writer Salman Rushdie, whose fatwa Hirsi Ali had supported as a teen. The letter was published in response to protests in the Islamic world surrounding the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.

On April 27, a Dutch judge ruled that Hirsi Ali had to abandon her house —a highly secured secret address in the Netherlands. Her neighbors had complained that living next to her was an unacceptable security risk to them, although the police had testified in court that it was one of the safest places in the country due to the large number of personnel they had assigned there. In early 2007, she stated that the Dutch state spent about 3.5 million euros providing armed guards for her, and the threats made her live "in fear and looking over my shoulder", but she was willing to endure this for the sake of speaking her mind.

A private trust, the Foundation for Freedom of Expression was established to help fund protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other Muslim dissidents.

Citizenship controversy

In May 2006, the television program Zembla reported that Hirsi Ali had given false information about her real name, her age and the country she arrived from when originally applying for asylum. The program also presented evidence that she was untruthful about the main reason for her asylum application being forced marriage. Hirsi Ali admitted that she had lied about her full name, her date of birth and the manner in which she had come to the Netherlands. However, several sources, including her first book The Son Factory, which had been published in 2002, stated her real name and date of birth, and she had also publicly stated these in a September 2002 interview published in the political magazine HP/De Tijd. and in an interview in the VARA gids (2002). Accordingly, these details were considered by many to be public knowledge. Furthermore, Hirsi Ali has asserted that she made full disclosure of the matter to VVD officials when she was invited to run for parliament in 2002.

Media speculation arose that she could lose her Dutch citizenship because of this "identity fraud", rendering her ineligible for parliament. At first, Minister Rita Verdonk said she would not look into the matter, but after Member of Parliament Hilbrand Nawijn officially asked her for her position, she declared that she would investigate Hirsi Ali's naturalization process. This investigation took three days. The findings were that Hirsi Ali had not legitimately received Dutch citizenship, because she had lied about her name and date of birth. Rita Verdonk moved to outlaw Hirsi Ali by annulling her citizenship, a move that was later overridden on the urging of Parliament.

On May 15, 2006, after the broadcast of the Zembla documentary, news stories erupted saying that Hirsi Ali was likely to move to the United States in September, and was expected to write a book entitled Shortcut to Enlightenment and work for a conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

On May 16, Hirsi Ali resigned from Parliament after admitting that she had lied on her asylum application. On that day, she gave a press conference, in which she restated that, although she felt it was wrong to be granted asylum under false pretences, the facts had been publicly known since 2002 when they had been reported in the media and in one of her publications. In the press conference, she also restated that she had spoken the truth about the reason for seeking asylum, which had been the threat of a forced marriage, despite a claim to the contrary on the Zembla program by some of her relatives. Her stated reason for resigning immediately was not the continuous threats, making her job as a parliamentarian "difficult" but "not impossible", but the news that the Minister would strip her of her Dutch citizenship.

After a long and emotional debate in the Dutch Parliament, all major parties supported a motion, requesting the Minister to explore the possibility of special circumstances in Hirsi Ali's case. Although Verdonk remained convinced that the applicable law did not leave her any room to consider such circumstances, she decided to accept the motion. During the debate, she astonished MPs by claiming that Hirsi Ali still had Dutch citizenship during the period of reexamination. Apparently the "decision" she had made public had been merely a report of the current position of the Dutch government. Hirsi Ali at that point had six weeks to react to the report before any final decision about her citizenship was taken. Verdonk was heavily criticized for not acting more prudently in a case that had so many political implications.

Apart from a Dutch passport, Hirsi Ali retained a Dutch residency permit (similar to a Permanent Resident Card) on the grounds that she was a political refugee. According to the Minister, this permit could not be taken away from her since it was granted more than 12 years ago, in 1992.

In a reaction to the announced move, former VVD leader Hans Wiegel stated that her departure "would not be a loss to the VVD and not be a loss to the House of Representativesmarker". He said that Hirsi Ali was a brave woman, but that her opinions were polarizing. Former parliamentary leader of the VVD, Jozias van Aartsen, was more positive about Hirsi Ali, saying that it is "painful for Dutch society and politics that she is leaving the House of Representatives". Another VVD MP, Bibi de Vries, claimed that if something were to happen to Hirsi Ali, some people in her party would have "blood on their hands."

Christopher DeMuth, President of the AEI, confirmed that this controversy would not affect the appointment. On May 16, he stated that he was still looking forward to "welcoming her to AEI, and to America." United States Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick later stated that "we recognise that she is a very courageous and impressive woman and she is welcome in the US."

On May 23, 2006, Ayaan Hirsi made available to the The New York Times some letters she believed would provide insight into her 1992 asylum application. In one letter, her sister, Haweya, warned her that the entire extended family was searching for her (after she had fled to the Netherlands), and in another letter her father denounced her.

On June 27, 2006, the Dutch government announced that Hirsi Ali would keep her Dutch citizenship. On the same day a letter was disclosed in which Hirsi Ali expressed regret that she had misinformed Minister Verdonk. Hirsi Ali was allowed to retain her name because the Dutch government believes that Somalis are allowed to carry the name of their grandfather according to Somali family law, and her grandfather had used the last name Ali until his thirties and only then switched to Magan. The fact that this grandfather was born in 1845 complicated the investigation (her grandfather was a powerful warlord, and Hirsi Ali's father was the youngest of his children, born when he was close to 70). Also, the issue of the false date of birth was not that important, according to the Minister.

Later the same day, Hirsi Ali, through her lawyer and in television interviews, made a statement declaring that she had signed the letter that was drafted by the Justice Department under duress. She felt she was pressured into signing the statement in exchange for the passport, but that she agreed to do it, swallowing her pride, in order not to complicate her pending visa application for the U.S. Currently, she still carries her Dutch passport. A close friend of Hirsi Ali, Leon de Winter, presented in his weblog a detailed account of the events which took place on June 27 leading to Hirsi Ali signing the statement confirming, in his view, the involuntary nature of her action.

In a special parliamentary session on June 28, questions were raised concerning the alleged coercion of the Hirsi Ali statement by minister Verdonk, the dismissal by the minister of the false date of birth as a relevant issue, and whether Somali law prevails over Dutch law. The ensuing political upheaval on June 29 ultimately led to the fall of the Second Balkenende cabinet.

American Enterprise Institute

Hirsi Ali subsequently took up a position at the American Enterprise Institute, published her autobiography, Infidel, and is currently working on another book, Shortcut to Enlightenment, a philosophical fantasy about a visit by Muhammad to the New York Public Librarymarker, in which he examines the ideas of various Enlightenment philosophers, compares them to the state of Islam today, and then comes to a number of important conclusions. Since her arrival in Washington, D.C.marker, her security had to be upgraded once again. On September 25, 2007, she received her green card.

Since October 2007, she has continued her work for AEI from a secret address in the Netherlands. Her move back to the Netherlands is a result of the ruling of the Dutch minister of Justice, Hirsch Ballin; as of October 1, 2007, the Dutch government will no longer pay for her security while she is abroad. She declined an offer to live in Denmarkmarker, and stated she intends to return to the United States.

Social and political views

Hirsi Ali is a member of the VVD, a Dutch political party that combines conservative views on the economy, foreign policy, crime and immigration with a liberal stance on drugs, abortion and homosexuality. She states that she is a great admirer of one of the party's ideological leaders, Frits Bolkestein, a former Euro-commissionermarker. Ali received substantial criticism as a result of her defection from the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) to the VVD. By way of response she asserted that she would show greater loyalty to the VVD.

She states that her personal views are for the most part inspired by her change from Islam to atheism. Hirsi Ali is very critical of Islam, especially of its prophet Muhammad and the position of women.


Hirsi Ali is very critical of the position of women in Islamic societies and the punishments demanded by Islamic scholars for homosexuality and adultery. She considered herself a Muslim until 28 May 2002, when she became an atheist. In an interview with the Swiss magazine Das Magazin in September 2006, she said she lost her faith while sitting in an Italian restaurant in May 2002, drinking a glass of wine: "...I asked myself: Why should I burn in hell just because I'm drinking this? But what prompted me even more was the fact that the killers of 9/11 all believed in the same God I believed in." Despite that, in the television program Rondom Tien of 12 September 2002 she called it "my religion". She has described Islam as a "backward religion", incompatible with democracy. In one segment on the Dutch current affairs program Nova, she challenged pupils of an Islamic primary school to choose between the Qu'ran and the Dutch constitution.

In an interview in the London Evening Standard, Hirsi Ali characterizes Islam as "the new fascism". "Just like Nazism started with Hitler's vision, the Islamic vision is a caliphate—a society ruled by Sharia law—in which women who have sex before marriage are stoned to death, homosexuals are beaten, and "apostates like me are killed." Sharia law is as inimical to liberal democracy as Nazism." In this interview, she also made it clear that in her opinion it is not "a fringe group of radical Muslims who've hijacked Islam and that the majority of Muslims are moderate. [...] Violence is inherent in Islam—it's a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder."

At the Sydney Writers' Festival in June 2007, she balanced her arguments, saying "I am a Muslim" because she understood why Muslims were silent when the Qur'an was "invoked to behead captured aid workers, journalists and other Western wanderers," as silence is "better than an argument with the author of the Holy Book who has given the command to behead infidels." Hirsi Ali stated that she was also "not a Muslim" as she had lost the fear of the Qur'an and of Hell and lost respect for "its author" and messenger; and that she felt a "common humanity" with those she once "shunned", such as Jews, Christians, atheists, gays, and sinners "of all stripes and colours."


Hirsi Ali criticizes the central Islamic prophet on the grounds of both his morality and personality. In January 2003 she told the Dutch paper Trouw, "Muhammad is, seen by our Western standards, a pervert", as he married, at the age of 52, Aisha, who was six years old and nine at the time the marriage was consummated. These and other statements led to a lawsuit by a number of Muslims in 2005. The civil court in The Hague acquitted Hirsi Ali of any charges, but mentioned that she "could have made a better choice of words".

She also has stated her opinions about his personality. When Trouw asked her about him, she answered, "Measured by our western standards, Muhammad is... a tyrant. He is against freedom of expression. If you don't do as he says, you will be punished. It makes me think of all those megalomaniacs in the Middle East: Bin Laden, Khomeini, Saddam. Do you think it strange that there is a Saddam Hussein? Muhammad is his example. Muhammad is an example for all Muslim men. Do you think it strange that so many Muslim men are violent?" In a 2003 interview with the Danish magazine Sappho, she explains parallels she sees between the personality of Yasser Arafat and that of Muhammad.

Clitorectomy and circumcision

Hirsi Ali opposes not just the genital cutting of girls, but also the practice of circumcision of boys as practiced by Jews and Muslims, as well as the routine infant circumcision practiced in the United States. In her autobiography, Infidel, she writes: "Excision doesn't remove your desire or ability to enjoy sexual pleasure. The excision of women is cruel on many levels. It is physically cruel and painful; it sets girls up for a lifetime of suffering. And it is not even effective in its intent to remove their desire."

A quotation from her on the subject: "girls dying in child birth because they are too young [...] The rise of radical Islam is an important part of this. I feel I have the moral obligation to discuss the source. I think if I think you are enriching the debate if you question it, you are not the enemy of Islam. We can look elsewhere using reason to discover answer to these problems, and we do not have to abolish religion. But we must do it by finding a balance."

When in Dutch parliament, she has proposed obligatory annual medical checks for all uncircumcised girls, who originate from any country where female mutilation is practiced. If a girl turned out to have been circumcised, the state would report this to the police. The protection of the child would in this event prevail over respect for her privacy .

On debate

On August 31, 2006, while addressing the Dutch press on the occasion of her departure for the United States to work for the think tank the American Enterprise Institute, Hirsi Ali said: "...with like-minded people one cannot discuss. With like-minded people one can only participate in a church service, and, as is widely known, I do not like church services."NOS Journaal, official Dutch newsrail, 8 pm, August 30, 2006. "Met gelijkgezinden kun je alleen maar een kerkdienst* houden, en zoals bekend, houd ik niet van kerkdiensten." "Kerkdienst" means church service of a Christian denomination, such as Mass and cannot be used in Dutch to describe a Muslim prayer service.

Freedom of speech

Hirsi Ali is a proponent of free speech. In a 2006 lecture in Berlin, she defended the right to offend, following the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. She condemned the journalists of those papers and TV channels that did not show their readers the cartoons as being "mediocre of mind" and of trying to hide behind those "noble-sounding terms such as 'responsibility' and 'sensitivity'". She also praised publishers all over Europe for showing the cartoons and not being afraid of what she called the "hard-line Islamist movement", and stated "I do not seek to offend religious sentiment, but I will not submit to tyranny. Demanding that people who do not accept Muhammad’s teachings should refrain from drawing him is not a request for respect but a demand for submission."

Political opponents

Hirsi Ali supported the move by the Dutch courts to abrogate the party subsidy to a conservative Protestant Christian political party, the Political Reformed Party (SGP), which did not grant full membership rights to women and still withholds passive voting rights from female members. She stated that "any political party discriminating against women or homosexuals should be deprived of funding."

Hirsi Ali has also stated that she wants the Belgianmarker authorities to ban the Vlaams Belang party, claiming that "it hardly differs from the Hofstad Group. Though the VB members have not committed any violent crimes yet, they are just postponing them and waiting until they have an absolute majority. On many issues they have exactly the same opinions as the Muslim extremists: on the position of women, on the suppression of gays, on abortion. This way of thinking will lead straight to genocide."

Vlaams Belang leaders and press statements reacted to her allegations by denying the party rejects in any way the rights of women or in any way promotes genocidal policies, instead pointing out Vlaams Belang's support for Shoah and Armenian genocide commemorations. Vlaams Belang party leader Frank Vanhecke responded to Hirsi Ali's allegations by writing an open letter to Hirsi Ali, stating that she is "closer to the Vlaams Belang with her viewpoints than to the Flemish Liberals." He also rejected the likeness with the Hofstad Group, saying that his party "has never and nowhere called for violence." The Vlaams Belang reacted to the retirement of Hirsi Ali from Dutch politics by stating that the party has "respect for the way she has conducted and promoted the debate in the Netherlands with respect to Islam, female oppression and failed integration."

Opposition to denominational or faith schools

In the Netherlands about half of all education is provided by sponsored religious schools, most of them Catholic or Protestant, for historical reasons. Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated in November 2003 that no religious school should receive government financing. This brought her into conflict with Hans Wiegel, a prominent former VVD leader.

She went further in an interview with the London newspaper the Evening Standard in 2007, saying "Close the Islamic faith schools today. [...] Britain is sleepwalking into a society that could be ruled by Sharia law within decades unless Islamic schools are shut down and young Muslims are instead made to integrate and accept Western liberal values. [...] We have to show the next generation of Muslims, the children, that they have a choice, and to do that — to have any hope whatsoever — we have to close down the Islamic faith schools." However, she argued, ‘I haven’t seen anybody coming out of a Catholic or Jewish school advocating violence against women or homosexuals, or wanting to murder innocent people in the name of their religion.’

Development aid

The Netherlands has always been one of the most prominent countries that support aiding developing countries. As the spokesperson of the VVD in the parliament on this matter, Hirsi Ali said that the current development aid policy did not work to increase prosperity, peace and stability in the developing countries: "The VVD believes that Dutch international aid has failed until now, as measured by [the Dutch aid effects on] poverty reduction, famine reduction, life expectancy and the promotion of peace."


Public statements

In 2003 Hirsi Ali worked together with fellow VVD MP Geert Wilders for several months. They questioned the government about immigration policy. In reaction to the UNDP Arab Human Development Report Hirsi Ali asked the following question of Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Minister without Portfolio for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne. Together with parliamentarian Geert Wilders she asked the government to pay attention to the consequences for Dutch policy concerning the limitation of immigration from the Arab world to Europe, and in particular The Netherlands.

Although she always publicly supported the policy of VVD minister Rita Verdonk regarding limited immigration, privately she was not supportive, as she explained in an interview for Opzij. given shortly after she had moved to the USA. In parliament, she supported the way Verdonk handled the Pasic case, although privately she felt that Pasic should have been allowed to stay. On the night before the debate, she phoned Verdonk to tell her that she herself had lied when she fled to the Netherlands, just like Pasic. Verdonk responded that if she had been minister at that time, she would have had Hirsi Ali deported. Subsequently, when the matter came to a head in public with Verdonk it led to the challenges over Hirsi Ali's Dutch citizenship and ultimately to her leaving the parliament and the country (see above). One of the issues brought up by this was how Hirsi Ali could embrace policies of response to migration and national identity which, had they been enforced when she arrived in the Netherlands in 1992, would have prevented her from gaining residency or making a living.

In the Opzij interview, Hirsi Ali said she supported a general pardon and the granting of Dutch citizenship for a group of 26,000 refugees, who had spent more than five years in the Netherlands without hearing about the status of their asylum. The VVD forbade her to speak her mind on this issue.

Since leaving the Dutch parliament, Hirsi Ali has made further statements in support of restrictive immigration policies. She made her statements on this subject on 1 November 2006 in the television program Aspekte on the German TV station ZDFmarker. She said that she feared that Muslim immigrants, once in the majority, would introduce Sharia legislation.


Ali has expounded on her view on immigration in Europe, in an article, published in the LA Times in 2006. Noting first that immigrants are over represented "in all the wrong statistics", she sees as consequences of the European Union's current immigration policy, the trade in women and illegal arms, and the exploitation of poor migrants by "cruel employers", to which she adds that "Muslim migrants are receptive to the seduction of the Islamist movement".

She draws the attention to the numbers of illegal immigrants already in the Union. In her view, current immigration policy will lead to ethnic and religious division, nation states will lose their monopoly of force, the islamic law, or sharia, will, in fact, be introduced at the level of neighborhoods and cities, and exploitation of women and children will become "commonplace". To avoid this situation, she proposes three general principles for a new policy:
  • Admission of immigrants on the basis of their contribution to the economy. The current system "is designed to attract the highest number of people with truly heartbreaking stories".
  • Diplomatic, economic and military interventions in countries which risk causing large migrant flows.
  • Introduction of assimilation programs which acknowledge that "the basic tenets of Islam are a major obstacle to integration".

Israel and the Palestinians

"I visited Israelmarker a few years ago, primarily to understand how it dealt so well with so many immigrants from different origins", Hirsi Ali says. "My main impression was that Israel is a liberal democracy. In the places I visited, including Jerusalemmarker as well as Tel Avivmarker and its beaches, I saw that men and women are equal. One never knows what happens behind the scenes, but that is how it appears to the visitor. The many women in the army are also very visible."

"I understood that a crucial element of success is the unifying factor among immigrants to Israel. Whether one arrives from Ethiopiamarker or Russiamarker, or one's grandparents immigrated from Europe, what binds them is being Jewish. Such a bond is lacking in the Netherlands. Our immigrants' background is diverse and also differs greatly from that of the Netherlands, including religion."

As for Israel's problems, Hirsi Ali says, "From my superficial impression, the country also has a problem with fundamentalists. The ultra-Orthodox will cause a demographic problem because these fanatics have more children than the secular and the regular Orthodox."

On Palestinians: "I have visited the Palestinian quarters in Jerusalem as well. Their side is dilapidated, for which they blame the Israelis. In private, however, I met a young Palestinian who spoke excellent English. There were no cameras and no notebooks. He said the situation was partly their own fault, with much of the money sent from abroad to build Palestine being stolen by corrupt leaders".

"When I start to speak in the Netherlands about the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the role of Arafat in the tragedy of Palestine, I do not get a large audience. Often one is talking to a wall. Many people reply that Israel first has to withdraw from the territories, and then all will be well with Palestine."

On the way Israel is perceived in the Netherlands: "The crisis of Dutch socialism can be sized up in its attitudes toward both Islam and Israel. It holds Israel to exceptionally high moral standards. The Israelis, however, will always do well, because they themselves set high standards for their actions.

"The standards for judging the Palestinians, however, are very low. Most outsiders remain silent on all the problems in their territories. That helps the Palestinians become even more corrupt than they already are. Those who live in the territories are not allowed to say anything about this because they risk being murdered by their own people."

Criticism of Hirsi Ali

On NPR's "Talk of the Nation" with Neil Conan, Ali said: "For empirical evidence on whether women and/or the Islamic world is in a crisis, I would like to refer Tony [a caller to the show] to the Arab Human Development report ... in which the writers of that report say the Arab/Islamic world is retarded when it comes to ... three factors: The freedom of the individual, knowledge, and the subjugation of women". Based on the above comment, Islamic columnist Hesham A. Hassaballa criticised Ali for "making sweeping generalizations about Islam and Muslims" as "the Arab Human Development report speaks only of the Arab - and not Islamic - world".

Hirsi has been accused of inconsistency because she obtained permission to immigrate under false pretences while warning against "mass immigration" in public.

In its critique of Ali's autobiography, The Economist called her a "chameleon of a woman", referring to her "talent for reinvention".

Recent activities

On April 17, 2007, a lecture held by Hirsi Ali at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstownmarker took place under tight security, due to a protest by the local Muslim community. One of the protesters, Pittsburgh imam Fouad El Bayly, stated that Hirsi Ali deserves the death sentence, but that she should be tried and judged in a Muslim country.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali attended the 2007 Sydney Writers' Festival, giving an interview on June 2, and the closing address the following day, an extract of which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of June 4. Hirsi Ali described her intellectual and religious journey as one in which she "lost respect not for Muslims but for what they fear." Stating she was accused of hating Muslims, and vilifying the Qur'an and Muhammad, she clarified that she did not hate Muslims, but rather the submission of free will.

In September it was announced that she would take part in the New Yorker Festival in an event with Martin Amis. The event had originally paired Norman Mailer and Amis, but Mailer could not attend. However, it turned out that Hirsi Ali also could not attend, so she was replaced by Ian Buruma.


  • January 2004: awarded the Prize of Liberty by Nova Civitas, a classical liberal think tank in the Low Countries.
  • November 20, 2004: awarded the Freedom Prize of Denmarkmarker's Liberal Party, the country's largest party and government leader, "for her work to further freedom of speech and the rights of women". Due to threats from Islamic fundamentalists she was not at the time able to receive it personally; however a year later, November 18, 2005, she traveled to Denmark to thank Prime Minister and party leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen for the prize, and made an unannounced attendance at Liberal Party's 2006 convention to thank party members.
  • February 25, 2005: given the Harriet Freezerring Emancipation Prize by Cisca Dresselhuys, editor of the feminist magazine Opzij, "for her work for the emancipation of Islamic women".
  • April 18, 2005: listed by American Time Magazine amongst the 100 Most Influential Persons of the World. She was put in the category "Leaders & Revolutionaries".
  • March 7, 2005: awarded the Tolerance Prize of Madridmarker.
  • June 2005: awarded the annual European Bellwether Prize by the Norwegian think tank Human Rights Service. According to HRS, Hirsi Ali is “beyond a doubt, the leading European politician in the field of integration. (She is) a master at the art of mediating the most difficult issues with insurmountable courage, wisdom, reflectiveness, and clarity".
  • August 29, 2005: awarded the annual Democracy Prize of the Swedish Liberal People's Party "for her courageous work for democracy, human rights and women's rights." She received the prize at a ceremony at the Swedish Riksdagmarker from the party leader Lars Leijonborg.
  • Voted European of the Year for 2006 by the European editors of Reader's Digest magazine. At a ceremony in The Hague on January 23, Hirsi Ali accepted this award from EU Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes.
  • May 4, 2006: accepted the Moral Courage Award from the American Jewish Committee.
  • October 1, 2006: given the civilian prize Glas der Vernunft Kasselmarker, Germanymarker. The organisation rewarded her with this prize for her dedication to the integration of migrants and against discrimination of women. Other laureates have included Leah Rabin, the wife of former Israeli prime-minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germanymarker.
  • December 7, 2007: given the Goldwater Award for 2007 from the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, at a dinner attended by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Rep. John Shadegg (R-Arizona), and Steve Forbes.
  • September 11, 2008: presented with the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for nonfiction for her book for Infidel. Due to security concerns because of the death threats, the award was not announced in advance, but was a surprise presentation at the award ceremony in Clevelandmarker, Ohio, presided over by Rita Dove. The Anisfield-Wolf awards recognize "recent books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and appreciation of the rich diversity of human culture."


  • De Zoontjesfabriek over vrouwen, Islam en integratie, translated as The Son Factory: About Women, Islam and Integration. A collection of essays and lectures from before 2002. It also contains an extended interview originally published in Opzij, a feminist magazine. The book focuses on the position of Muslims in the Netherlands.
  • De Maagdenkooi, translated as The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. A collection of essays and lectures from 2003–2004, combined with her personal experiences as a translator working for the NMS. The book focuses on the position of women in Islam.
  • Mijn Vrijheid, translated as Infidel. An autobiography published in Dutch in September 2006 by publisher Augustus, Amsterdam and Antwerp, 447 pages, ISBN 90 457 0112x/ISBN 978 90 457, and in English in February 2007. It was edited by Richard Miniter. Like The Caged Virgin, this work has had respectful but unenthusiastic reviews in the Times Literary Supplement.
  • forthcoming: Short Cuts to Enlightenment, a philosophical fantasy in which Muhammad wakes up in the New York Public Librarymarker and is "challenged by John Stuart Mill, Frederick Hayek and Karl Popper, [Hirsi Ali's] favourite liberal thinkers".

See also

Notes and references

External links

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