Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a women’s rights activist, champion of free speech, and best-selling author. Ayaan’s journey began in Somalia in 1969 where, as a young girl raised in a devout Muslim culture, she was subjected to female genital mutilation. From very early on, she questioned the subjugation of women she saw all around her. Ayaan’s path led her to places like Saudi Arabia, Ethopia and Kenya, but upon being forced by her father to marry a distant cousin, she fled to Holland and claimed political asylum. Once there, she worked her way up from being a janitor to serving as an elected member of the Dutch parliament. As a member of parliament, she campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation, practices that had followed her fellow immigrants into Holland.
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 left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh’s chest. This tragic event, and Ayaan’s life leading up to it, are all chronicled in her best-selling book, “Infidel.” In 2011, Ayaan wrote, “Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations,” and in 2016 she wrote, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.”
In 2005, Hirsi Ali was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has also received several awards, including a free speech award from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the Swedish Liberal Party’s Democracy Prize, and the Moral Courage Award for commitment to conflict resolution, ethics, and world citizenship. Hirsi Ali has published two autobiographies: in 2006 and 2010.