Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2016.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (born 13 November 1969) is a Somali-born Dutch-American activist and former politician. She is a critic of Islam and advocate for the rights and self-determination of Muslim women, opposing forced marriage, honour killing, child marriage, and female genital mutilation. Hirsi Ali has founded an organisation for the defense of women's rights, the AHA Foundation. She works for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the American Enterprise Institute, and was a senior fellow at the Future of Democracy Project at Harvard Kennedy School. She currently hosts The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast and is a columnist for UnHerd, a British online magazine.

In 2003, Hirsi Ali was elected a member of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the States General of the Netherlands, representing the centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). A political crisis related to the validity of her Dutch citizenship, namely the accusation that she had lied on her application for political asylum, led to her resignation from parliament, and indirectly to the fall of the second Balkenende cabinet in 2006.

Hirsi Ali is a former Muslim who became an atheist. In 2004, she collaborated on a short film with Theo van Gogh, titled Submission, which depicted the oppression of women under fundamentalist Islamic law, and was critical of the Muslim canon itself. The film led to death threats, and Van Gogh was murdered several days after the film's release by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Moroccan-Dutch Islamic terrorist. Hirsi Ali maintains that "Islam is part religion, and part a political-military doctrine, the part that is a political doctrine contains a world view, a system of laws and a moral code that is totally incompatible with our constitution, our laws, and our way of life." In her 2015 book Heretic, Hirsi Ali called for a reformation of Islam by countering Islamism and supporting reformist Muslims.

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. Christopher Hitchens regarded her as "the most important public intellectual probably ever to come out of Africa." Critics accuse Ali of being Islamophobic and question her scholarly credentials "to speak authoritatively about Islam and the Arab world". Her works have been accused of using neo-orientalist portrayals and of perpetuating a "civilizing mission" discourse. Hirsi Ali married Scottish-American historian Niall Ferguson in 2011, migrated to the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 2013.

Genital Mutilation

Hirsi Ali is an opponent of female genital mutilation (FGM), which she has criticized in many of her writings. When in the Dutch parliament, she proposed obligatory annual medical checks for all uncircumcised girls living in the Netherlands who came from countries where FGM is practised. She proposed that if a physician found that such a girl had been mutilated, a report to the police would be required—with protection of the child prevailing over privacy. In 2004, she also criticised male routine infant circumcision, particularly as practiced by Jews and Muslims, which she regarded as being another variant of mutilation practiced without the consent of the individual.

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