Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ayaan Hirsi Ali


In my Denver days, I did a lot of reading. One of the books that I came across while wandering through the public library was "Infidel". I had a little familiarity with the book's author because I read a little blip about her when she was mentioned in TIME. After I read the book, I became completely impressed by her. I get into these phases, especially after I finish a good book, where I become totally immersed in the subject matter. This was definitely one of those times for me.




Ayaan is the example of feminism in action. She is beyond courageous and faces very real threats to her life. So much so, she is now exiled to the United States. This however, does not deter her from her mission; to fight for the rights of females everywhere.




Born in Somalia to a Muslim family, Ali faced many challenges. The survivor of genital mutilation (an experience described in horrific detail), forced marriage, abusive surroundings, moving from country to country, the general insecurity of Somalia, and escape to the Netherlands, she has a first hand experience of the life of a Muslim female.  It is her personal experience and doesn't represent all Islamic women, but I can understand why she feels a strong need to speak out for the rights of others who could face the same types of abuses.  The early years of her life where engulfed in uncertainty and instability orchestrated by a system that gave her no voice.   


After gaining asylum in Holland, she began working odd jobs, earned her BA and MA, and eventually a seat on the Dutch Parliament. She also speaks 6 languages.





Her education and position in Dutch society has given her a platform to voice her ideals that oppose the Islamic community. This has caused great danger to her and those around her. Hirsi Ali, along with Theo Van Gogh, created the film Submission, an artistic criticism of the treatment of Muslim women. The film outraged many Muslims and created violent reactions. As a result, Van Gogh was murdered on the street in 2004 and had a death threat to Ayaan stabbed to his chest. After this, the Dutch government ordered secret service protection for her, eventually leading to her move to the United States. (The picture below is a photo from Submission.)






Even with the high stakes against her life and the fury of her critics, Ayaan stands firm in her beliefs. Her organization, The AHA Foundation, is dedicated to working towards the rights of all women. They are outspoken against the Islamic world, circumcision towards females and males, and are working towards keeping church and state separate in all governments. Read more about her foundation here... http://www.theahafoundation.org/index.php.






Ayaan is just so remarkable in her resolve. Even though attempts on her life have not succeeded, she has certainly given all of her being to working towards a better existence for women. Proof that the fight is still very much unfinished in most of our world.






While I admire her so much I do have to admit she has caused some dilemma in my mentality towards the idea of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. How can it be OK for Muslim men in the UK to have their polygamist practices protected? Well, essentially, if they are free to worship how they choose, and polygamy is a part of that, then it should be protected under freedom of religion. Clearly, that doesn't take into consideration the women in the dual marriages, but it is a point that many who oppose Hirsi Ali argue. I also feel conflicted by the idea that Ayaan's beliefs are influenced by her personal experiences, which may not be the experiences of all Muslim women. I trust the work that she is doing, however, and believe she is working for a better world for all women.






Hopefully, I will someday be able to hear her speak, but until then, I plan on keeping myself informed through her foundation and continuing to read her books.

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