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Coming in July — an online only interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born Dutch author, filmmaker, former politician, and critic of fundamentalist Islam.

"We have to start with the little babies who are born now, socialize them in freedom and critical thinking. We don't have to throw away their faith. People confuse the two, thinking if you are enlightened that means apostasy. It doesn't."
-- Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The daughter of a famous Somali opposition leader, Ali and her family were forced to flee Somalia for Saudi Arabia when Ali was 6. They eventually settled in Kenya. In 1992, at the age of 31, Ali traveled to the Netherlands, where she was granted political asylum by the Dutch government and later became a Dutch citizen.

Although raised a Muslim, Ali renounced Islam in the early 2000s and became an atheist. Shortly after, she published her first book, THE SON FACTORY (2002), a series of essays criticizing the treatment of women in Islamic society. In 2003, she was elected to the lower house of the Dutch parliament, due in part to her public comments about the negative impact of Muslim immigration to the Netherlands.

In 2004, while still a member of parliament, Ali teamed with Dutch director Theo Van Gogh, writing the script and providing voice-over narration for SUBMISSION, a film that explored man's relationship with God through the eyes of five Muslim women and again focused on the mistreatment of women in Muslim society. Following the film's debut on Dutch public television in August 2004, both Ali and Van Gogh received death threats. Three months later, Van Gogh was shot and killed on an Amsterdam street.

With her 2006 book, THE CAGED VIRGIN: AN EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION FOR WOMEN AND ISLAM, Ali continued to highlight abuses of women in Islamic cultures and urged Western governments to do what they can to stop the practices. Not long after its publication, she announced her resignation from the Dutch parliament amid allegations she had provided false information on her applications for Dutch asylum and Dutch citizenship.

Ail was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and Readers Digest's European of the Year in 2006.

She now plans to move to Washington, DC, to work for the American Enterprise Institute think tank.

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listenAyaan Hirsi Ali & Philip Gourevitch on the Golden Age of Islam at the PEN Festival (mp3)

listenMore from the PEN World Voices Festival Archive

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