A Muslim Woman of Valor


Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1969. As a 5-year-old she was subjected to genital mutilation. Her family moved to Saudi Arabia, then Ethiopia and Kenya. Throughout this time she was a fervent Muslim. In 1982, refusing to submit to a forced marriage, she fled to the Netherlands escaping from her family. In 1992 she was granted asylum. She learned Dutch, went to University and became a member of Parliament. She then began to speak publicly against the repression of women under Islam.

In 2004 she collaborated with Theo Van Gogh on the film “Submission” based on the book she had written about the suffering of women, including honor killing in the Muslim world. Van Gogh was assassinated by a radical Islamist who left a letter threatening Hirsi Ali pinned to his chest with a butcher’s knife. Aayan then went into hiding (like Salman Rushdie). The Dutch Government, in an effort to placate its Muslim community, refused to grant her protection.

Eventually she moved to the United States. Here, no liberal institution wanted anything to do with her because of her outspoken criticism of Islam as a whole. She is now a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
In her book Heretic, Hirsi Ali says that Islam is ready for a major overhaul and that it needs to find a way for its vast majority (more than a billion people all over the world) to express their condemnation of a murderous minority.

Because of such utterances, she has been accused of Islamophobia. She says: “If Islam is like any other religion, why can’t people criticize it or leave it? Is it controversial to say that women and men should be equal? Most of the suffering attributable to the religion is visited on Muslims themselves. If you say, for instance, that Mormonism has some ridiculous beliefs, no one will try to kill you. Moderate Muslims hate me because I make them feel uncomfortable.”

Other religions have shed the most barbaric aspects of their creed and have been weathered by humanism, reformation, science and secularism. Ayaan Hirsi Ali believes that Islam, unreformed, when put into practice leads to dystopia.

She has found an admirer in Sam Harris, the author and bio scientist. He says: Ayaan has surveyed every inch of the path leading out of the moral and intellectual wasteland that is traditional Islam. Christopher Cadwell writes in the New York Times: “Voltaire, who spoke out against religion in the 18th century, did not risk his life with every utterance, making a billion enemies who recognized his face and could, via the Internet, share information instantly with people who aspired to assassinate him”. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a brave woman and deserves the support of all thinking individuals.

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  1. This comment came to admin.

    I remember reading about Theo Van Gogh’s assasination, but don’t remember much about her in particular. It’s nice to revisit the topic. I am a big Vincent Van Gogh fan and visited most of the places he stayed in France.

  2. We have seen Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Bill Maher show several times. Not only is she brave beyond comprehension, but she is wonderfully articulate. She is a person who stands out from most of humanity, in my opinion. Thank you for writing about her.

  3. I feel like it’s such an act of cowardice to critique the viewpoint of somebody who has lived with so much terror and overcome. What have these liberal professors done?

    Great story!

  4. It’s funny how the female genital mutilation topic is used to horrify ignorant westerners and imply that those savage Muslims are practicing this throughout the world. That is simply not true. Female genital mutilation is an African problem, not an Islamic problem. Ethiopia and Eritrea, Somalia’s neighbors, have very high rates of female genital mutilation, both heavily Christian countires. Nowhere else is in the Muslim majority world is this an issue. Ayan hirsi Ali is not a good voice to speak on criticizing the Islamic religion. She knows very little about the scripture, and it’s quite clear from her interviews.

  5. Is the first response serious? Theo and Vincent van Gogh, have nothing to do with each other. Vincent is a famous painter who died from his own hand. Theo van Gogh was a well known Dutch controversial interviewer and writer. He was a collector of odd personalities and had a sharp intelligent mind. That’s where Ayan entered the mix. She was creating quite a havoc in Holland and teaming up with van Gogh to create some sort of media campaign to strengthen her political position. They made a film – to artistic of nature to officially count it as anything but a outlet for criticism towards the role of woman within the Islamic culture. All did not end well in the Netherlands for Theo nor Ayan. She lost her political career because of integration regulation that denied political activity when you have no Dutch nationality. Theo was assassinated while he was riding his bike to work. Eight bullets, his throat slit through and a letter was pinned in his spine with death threats for Ayan . At the time, you could feel the anxiety towards Muslims in the streets. Things were different back then some people believe that it was the start of the unstoppable self-censorship that is prevailing in the world press these days. That was eleven years ago and I believe Western people have since then become more aware that minorities of violent activists are infesting this religious faith with acts of crime that are condemned by a vast majority. Ayan is concentrated on her case she recognizes that it is about being able to speak her mind even against all odds, she is willing to risk her life for her cause to stop woman being mutilated and protect freedom of speech. A brave but unwieldy battle.

  6. I think that there is no compulsion in Islam and believe that Islam has not subjugated women but rather uplifted them and gave them their rightful place in society.Read previous civilisations and their treatment of women.There is no any Islamic teaching or creed that is against humanity unless they are misconstrued.Please seek clarification from scholars who know like Dr Zakir Naik to understand Islam

  7. Female Genital mutilation is a custom in African country which has nothing to do with Islam. Islam in fact uplifts women and not degrades, there is no repression of women in Islam, Ayan hirsi Ali case is purely related to customs and practices followed in particular region which surely needs reforms.
    Instead of blaming Islam, she should have diverted all of her energy in learning Quran and Hadees to become a true Muslim.
    She has led herself in wrong direction, she says that Islam is ready for a major overhaul and that it needs to find a way for its vast majority, how come a religion which is complete will change, with her expression it shows that she is ignorant and has no knowledge about Islam. It is an Ignorant talk, I suggest her instead of wasting time at AEI she should go to Al Azhar.

  8. Everybode knows what Islam and quoran speaks of women. They have to tolerate 5 more women as wife to her husband and have to live with the threat of getting divorced instantly without any compensation or chance of fight back. While men’s rules are different and opposite as holding the power to rule women. Its a shame to modern world.

  9. Everybody knows what Islam and quoran speaks of women. Any woman in muslim society may have to tolerate 5 more women as wife to her husband and have to live with the threat of getting divorced instantly by their dirty triple Talaq system without any compensation or chance of fight back. While men’s rules are different and opposite as holding the power to rule women. Its a shame to modern world.

  10. Dear Mohammed, Then why there are so many terrorists, who became terrorists, to defend (or prove superiority of) Islam ? ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-queda, Al-Shabab, Taliban … there are so many … there must be some trouble somewhere . Such urganised terrorising happens ONLY in it !!! WHY ? Why not to introsprct seriously rather than self appraisal !!! Superiority complex lets one down !!!

  11. Dear Ilm,
    I appreciate Ayyan Hirsi Ali as a devout muslim women and NOt you … Any woman in muslim society may have to tolerate 5 more women as wife to her husband and have to live with the threat of getting divorced instantly by their dirty triple Talaq system without any compensation or chance of fight back. While men’s rules are different and opposite as holding the power to rule women. Its a shame to modern world. Be open. Donot see the world only with eyes of religion …..

  12. Another ignorant commentator. Hey guys why not do some HM before diving into scholarly comments about a religion believed and followed by a majority of the human beings on this every planet. Are you guys from any other planet and have an different angle from that of the scholars and believer have for not a day or a century but MORE THAN 14 CENTURIES.
    This woman Ayaan is for sure not an ignorant person but an opportunist. who is out there to fool the western people and gain nationality and fame both at the same time. I feel sorry for this dump/smart NO unlucky woman. Nevertheless, she should be happy with the consolation prize in the form of Sam Harris at least he in his intellectual bankruptcy is on the side of destitute! who has been pillar and post to survive because Somalia as every one must by now know is the state of terrorist, pirates and militant. Ayaan knows very well that asylum is not an easy thing to get so why not sing the most popular parody that is anything Anti-Islamic sell fast and attract may be 1000s of time more attention than anything.

  13. Point of correction – female genetal mutilation is not an African problem. It is practiced widely in muslim countries.

  14. Dear Sajid-bhai, looks like you live in Mars, please come back to earth then we can discuss. Islum is never upto now, had the largest following, its Christianity … Islum is quite far away !!! Others are not very fur away from islum. As regarding scholars, no one appreciated it for allowing six marriages of men, triple talaq system and female genetal mutilation, except islumic scholars, whose views are blurred by religion. Islum had promoted hatred by declaring 1/3 rd of world population as “Kafirs”. Islum has the largest birth rate record, as birth control is not permitted in islum (everyone dislikes this). Islum hate generated so many terrorist group, ISIS, Al-shabab, Taliban Boko Haram, whose job is to kill people and loot women to bring to bed forcibly (Yetzidi women as she is from a kafir religion), just like estimated 130 million kafir Hindu’s were killed in islum’s India invasion and estimated 200 million kafir women are looted like cattles for harems a and producing islamic children. Islamists worldwide come from poor and illeterate countries (without achievement).Islumic woemn have very little advancement in life for science, technology, even sports due to restrictions and poor social norms in islamic societies, outside family life. I understand you are from Pakistan, so hope you donot drink…. so I can just tell you to come out of pakistan live life in another country, where you can see many mixed races !!!! One more point, do not try to insult the great lady Ayyan Hirsi Ali, to make yourself dirty. She is the hope of muslim women of today !!!

  15. Are you serious. I honestly think your the ignorant one. No one is saying Islam is evil but its teachings are obviously easily misinterpreted and is currently the biggest weapon used in the perpetration of the most evil acts all around the world. What Ayaan is saying holds water and rings true as it reflects what we see in any society where muslims reside. It is true that genital mutilation is mostly an african problem but islam really needs at least some form of progression. I am Nigerian and it is plain to see the negative effect Islam has in the lives of my people everyday. The northern part of the country which is predominantly muslim remains the poorest and most undeveloped region of the country because the indigenes choose to foment trouble and resort to violence without due provocation. There’s so much poverty, illiteracy and decadence even with all the religious fanaticism. They also treat women like furniture or items to be used to the mans pleasure. I think islam needs to look within and leave some of its retrogressive and sometimes barbaric practices and decide what the essence of the whole religion is, whether it is truly for the glory or for the perpetration of devilish acts of evil in the name of Religion.

  16. how many examples you have of Muslim husband having more than one wife , Islam has given option to have more wife’s which is conditional and is not a compulsion.
    you need to learn full Islam to understand it , pl don’t comment only on the basis of news feed , divorce rate in Muslims may the lowest as compared to other societies, and Islam is the one pioneer in giving various rites to womens

  17. may bodies representing terrorism have been mentioned here , but what is percentage of Muslim population affiliated to them ? may be less than one percentage, perception of religion should not be built based on activities of these one percent

  18. Many, in Arbaic world(where Islam generated), most husbands has multiple wifes, for your information !!! Giving a gun to someone and wait for his good mind to pull the trigger (7 possible wifes) !!!!Is lower divorce rate not by compulsion ? Given the low education rate among women, lower percentage of women working not the reason ?Looks like keeping the doors closed for them so that they CANNOT go out ? It is at the cost of women’s growth !!!Muslim women has the minimum contribution in science, technology and even sports !!!

  19. Where are u getting your facts from? Please try and learn about islam before speaking wrongly about it. Are you aware that the quran is the only religious scripture that says a man should marry only one? Refer to 4:3.
    As the solution to the problems of humanity, it is only logical that islam allows men who are capable of being just to marry up to four, considering the fact that the population of females in the world is more than that of males..
    It is this simple logic that some people refuse to accept , preferring extra marital affairs, leading the proliferation of immorality as well as STIs.

  20. FGM is not the focal point of Ayaan’s story; at all. Neither does she ever claim all Muslims practice it. Ever. She mainly critiques Islam itself, based on the inherent scriptures, and secondly the impact of those on some followers (violence, suppression of women;in different ways in different cultures, etc.). She was raised Muslim and studied the scriptures. Read her autobiography and or listen to her videos- she describes how in detail. This is not a fly by night chancer and should not be taken lightly. I admire her greatly, as she has been through so much and is very brave. I pray for her!!

    1. It is ok you admire her , but to understand the points , you should study Islam independently from correct source, suppression of women is also an impact of society and not from teaching of Islam. regarding violence , you may mention all Muslim countries are suffering from violence , but pl check what is percentage of Muslim population involved in this , may be less than a percent and reason is political they are taking shelter of religion. Islam is the first religion to give rights to women.

  21. islam is not about overhaul.there is no sinleword in THE HOLY QURAN that needs to be altered.telling the truth is what make people like dislike ISLAM.ALLAHhas said in the HOLY QURAN that, he created human and jinn,not but to worship him.cutting womens genitals is not ISLAM,its her tribal belief,and she shouldn’t associate that with ISLAM.Where I come from in Africa,its a commom practise,and they are not muslims.
    PLEASE DONT MISLEAD people with this false accusation against islam.find a different way to publish yourself,and not islam

  22. from your name it seems that u r a hindu indian. and hindus feel good for muslim bashing. can u reply my two questions
    how many Indian muslim girls are subjected to genitalmutilation.
    how many hinds drink their own urine like their prime minister m desai

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