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Ayaan Hirsi Ali
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Hirsi Ali in 2016
Ayaan Hirsi Magan

(1969-11-13) 13 November 1969 (age 54)
  • Netherlands
  • United States
Alma mater Leiden University (MSc)
  • Politician
  • author
Employer Harvard University
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Organization AHA Foundation
Known for
  • Women's rights advocacy
  • criticism of religion
  • criticism of Islam
  • criticism of Islamism
Notable work
  • The Caged Virgin
  • Infidel: My Life
  • Nomad: From Islam to America
Political party
(m. 2011)
Children 2

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (/ˈjɑːn ˈhɪərsi ˈɑːli/; Dutch: [aːˈjaːn ˈɦiːrsi ˈaːli]  ( listen); Somali: Ayaan Xirsi Cali: Ayān Ḥirsī 'Alī; born Ayaan Hirsi Magan, 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, and child marriage. 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.

Early life and education

Ayaan was born in 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her father, Hirsi Magan Isse, was a prominent member of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front and a leading figure in the Somali Revolution. Shortly after she was born, her father was imprisoned due to his opposition to Siad Barre’s Communist government.

After her father escaped from prison, he and the family left Somalia in 1977, going to Saudi Arabia and then to Ethiopia, before settling in Nairobi, Kenya by 1980. There he established a comfortable upper-class life for them. Hirsi Ali attended the English-language Muslim Girls' Secondary School. By the time she reached her teens, Saudi Arabia was funding religious education in numerous countries and its religious views were becoming influential among many Muslims. A charismatic religious teacher, trained under this aegis, joined Hirsi Ali's school. She inspired the teenaged Ayaan, as well as some fellow students, to adopt the more rigorous Saudi Arabian interpretations of Islam, as opposed to the more relaxed versions then current in Somalia and Kenya. Hirsi Ali said later that she had long been impressed by the Qur'an and had lived "by the Book, for the Book" throughout her childhood.

She sympathised with the views of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and wore a hijab with her school uniform. This was unusual at the time but has become more common among some young Muslim women. At the time, she agreed with the fatwa proclaimed against British Indian writer Salman Rushdie in reaction to the portrayal of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses. After completing secondary school, Hirsi Ali attended a secretarial course at Valley Secretarial College in Nairobi for one year. As she was growing up, she also read English-language adventure stories, such as the Nancy Drew series, with modern heroine archetypes who pushed the limits of society.

Also, remembering her grandmother refusing soldiers entry into her house, Hirsi Ali associated with Somalia "the picture of strong women: the one who smuggles in the food, and the one who stands there with a knife against the army and says, 'You cannot come into the house.' And I became like that. And my parents and my grandmother don't appreciate that now—because of what I've said about the Qur'an. I have become them, just in a different way."

Early life in the Netherlands

Hirsi Ali arrived in the Netherlands in 1992. That year she had travelled from Kenya to visit her family in Düsseldorf and Bonn, Germany and gone to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage. Once there, she requested political asylum and obtained a residence permit. She used her paternal grandfather's early surname on her application and has since been known in the West as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She received a residence permit within three or four weeks of arriving in the Netherlands.

At first she held various short-term jobs, ranging from cleaning to sorting post. She worked as a translator at a Rotterdam refugee center which, according to a friend interviewed in 2006 by The Observer newspaper, marked her deeply.

As an avid reader, in the Netherlands she found new books and ways of thought that both stretched her imagination and frightened her. Sigmund Freud's work introduced her to an alternative moral system that was not based on religion. During this time she took courses in Dutch and a one-year introductory course in social work at the Hogeschool De Horst in Driebergen. She has said that she was impressed with how well Dutch society seemed to function. To better understand its development, she studied at the Leiden University (Leiden, Netherlands), where she obtained an MSc degree in political science in 2000.

Between 1995 and 2001, Hirsi Ali also worked as an independent Somali-Dutch interpreter and translator, frequently working with Somali women in asylum centers and at the Dutch immigration and naturalization service (IND, Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst). While working for the IND, she became critical of the way it handled asylum seekers. Hirsi Ali speaks six languages: English, Somali, Arabic, Swahili, Amharic, and Dutch.

Political career

After gaining her degree, Hirsi Ali became a Fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Stichting (WBS), a think tank of the center-left Labour Party (PvdA). Leiden University Professor Ruud Koole was steward of the party. Hirsi Ali's writing at the WBS was inspired by the work of the neoconservative Orientalist Bernard Lewis.

She became disenchanted with Islam, and was shocked by the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, for which al-Qaeda eventually claimed responsibility. After listening to videotapes of Osama bin Laden citing "words of justification" in the Qur'an for the attacks, she wrote, "I picked up the Qur'an and the hadith and started looking through them, to check. I hated to do it, because I knew that I would find Bin Laden's quotations in there." During this time of transition, she came to regard the Qur'an as relative—it was a historical record and "just another book."

Reading Atheïstisch manifest ("Atheist Manifesto") of Leiden University philosopher Herman Philipse helped to convince her to give up religion. She renounced Islam and acknowledged her disbelief in God in 2002. She began to formulate her critique of Islam and Islamic culture, published many articles on these topics, and became a frequent speaker on television news programs and in public debate forums. She discussed her ideas at length in a book titled De zoontjesfabriek (The Son Factory) (2002). In this period, she first began to receive death threats.

Cisca Dresselhuys, editor of the feminist magazine Opzij, introduced Hirsi Ali to Gerrit Zalm, the parliamentary leader of the centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), and party member Neelie Kroes, then European Commissioner for Competition. At their urging, Hirsi Ali agreed to switch to their party of the VVD and stood for election to Parliament. Between November 2002 and January 2003, she lived abroad while on the payroll as an assistant of the VVD.

In 2003, aged 33, Hirsi Ali successfully fought a parliamentary election. She said that the Dutch welfare state had overlooked abuse of Muslim women and girls in the Netherlands and their social needs, contributing to their isolation and oppression.

During her tenure in Parliament, Hirsi Ali continued her criticisms of Islam and many of her statements provoked controversy. A religious discrimination complaint was filed against her on 24 April 2003 by Muslims who objected to her statements. The Prosecutor's office decided not to initiate a case, because her critique did "not put forth any conclusions in respect to Muslims and their worth as a group is not denied".

Film with Theo van Gogh

Working with writer and director Theo van Gogh, Hirsi Ali wrote the script and provided the voice-over for Submission (2004), a short film that criticised the treatment of women in Islamic society. The film's release sparked outrage among many Dutch Muslims.

Hirsi Ali went into hiding, aided by government security services, who moved her among several locations in the Netherlands. They moved her to the United States for several months. On 18 January 2005, she returned to parliament. On 18 February 2005, she revealed where she and her colleague Geert Wilders were living. She demanded a normal, secured house, which she was granted one week later.

In January 2006, Hirsi Ali was recognised as "European of the Year" by Reader's Digest, an American magazine. In her speech, she urged action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. She also said that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be taken at his word in wanting to organise a conference to investigate objective evidence of the Holocaust, noting that the subject is not taught in the Middle East. She said, "Before I came to Europe, I'd never heard of the Holocaust. That is the case with millions of people in the Middle East. Such a conference should be able to convince many people away from their denial of the genocide against the Jews." She also said that what some have described as "Western values" of freedom and justice were universal. But she thought that Europe has done far better than most areas of the world in providing justice, as it has guaranteed the freedom of thought and debate required for critical self-examination. She said communities cannot reform unless "scrupulous investigation of every former and current doctrine is possible." Hirsi Ali was nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize the same month by Norwegian parliamentarian Christian Tybring-Gjedde.

In March 2006, she co-signed a letter titled "MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism". Among the eleven other signatories was Salman Rushdie; as a teenager, Hirsi Ali had supported the fatwa against him. The letter was published in response to protests in the Islamic world surrounding the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark, and it supported freedom of press and freedom of expression.

On 27 April 2006, a Dutch judge ruled that Hirsi Ali had to abandon her current secure house at a secret address in the Netherlands. Her neighbors had complained that she created an unacceptable security risk, but the police had testified that this neighborhood was one of the safest places in the country, as they had many personnel assigned to it for Hirsi Ali's protection. In an interview in early 2007, Hirsi Ali noted that the Dutch state had spent about €3.5 million on her protection; threats against her produced fear, but she believed it important to speak her mind. While regretting Van Gogh's death, she said she was proud of their work together.

A private trust, the Foundation for Freedom of Expression, was established in 2007 in the Netherlands to help fund protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other Muslim dissidents.

Life in the U.S.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali 2006 cropped
Ayaan Hirsi Ali in 2006

In 2006, Hirsi Ali took a position at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.; as the Dutch government continued to provide security for her, this required an increase in their effort and costs.

On 17 April 2007, the local Muslim community in Johnstown, Pennsylvania protested Hirsi Ali's planned lecture at the local campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh imam Fouad El Bayly said that the activist deserved the death sentence but should be tried and judged in an Islamic country.

On 25 September 2007, Hirsi Ali received her United States Permanent Resident Card (green card). In October 2007, she returned to the Netherlands, continuing her work for AEI from a secret address in the Netherlands. The Dutch minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin had informed her of his ruling that, as of 1 October 2007, the Dutch government would no longer pay for her security abroad. That year she declined an offer to live in Denmark, saying she intended to return to the United States.

On April 25, 2013, she became a citizen of the United States.

She was a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at The Harvard Kennedy School from 2016 to 2019.

Al-Qaeda hit list

In 2010, Anwar al-Awlaki published a hit list in his Inspire magazine, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders and Salman Rushdie along with cartoonists Lars Vilks and three Jyllands-Posten staff members: Kurt Westergaard, Carsten Juste, and Flemming Rose. The list was later expanded to include Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier, who was murdered in 2015 in a terror attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, along with 11 other people. After the attack, Al-Qaeda called for more killings.

Brandeis University

In early 2014, Brandeis University in Massachusetts announced that Ali would be given an honorary degree at the graduation commencement ceremony. In early April, the university rescinded its offer following a review of her statements that was carried out in response to protests by the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) and lobbying by Joseph E. B. Lumbard, Head of the Islamic Studies Department, other faculty members and several student groups that accused Hirsi Ali of "hate speech". University president Frederick M. Lawrence said that "certain of her past statements" were inconsistent with the university's "core values" because they were "Islamophobic". Others expressed opinions both for and against this decision. The university said she was welcome to come to the campus for a dialogue in the future.

The university's withdrawal of its invitation generated controversy and condemnation among some. But, The Economist noted at the time that Hirsi Ali's "wholesale condemnations of existing religions just aren't done in American politics." It said that "the explicit consensus in America is ecumenical and strongly pro-religious". The university was distinguishing between an open intellectual exchange, which could occur if Hirsi Ali came to campus for a dialogue, and appearing to celebrate her with an honorary degree.

A Brandeis spokesperson said that Ali had not been invited to speak at commencement but simply to be among honorary awardees. She claimed to have been invited to speak and expressed shock at Brandeis' action. Hirsi Ali said CAIR's letter misrepresented her and her work, but that it has long been available on the Internet. She said that the "spirit of free expression" has been betrayed and stifled.

David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, criticised the Brandeis decision as an attack on academic values of freedom of inquiry and intellectual independence.

Lawrence J. Haas, the former communications director and press secretary for Vice President Al Gore, published an open letter saying that Brandeis' president had "succumbed to political correctness and interest group pressure in deciding that Islam is beyond the pale of legitimate inquiry ... that such a decision is particularly appalling for a university president, for a campus is precisely the place to encourage free discussion even on controversial matters."

Designation by Southern Poverty Law Center

In October 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center accused Ayaan, and the Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz, of being "anti-Muslim extremists", which caused protests in several prominent newspapers. The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice wrote a public letter to the SPLC asking them to retract the listings.

In April 2018, the SPLC retracted the "Anti-Muslim Extremist" list in its entirety after Nawaz threatened legal action over his inclusion on the list.

Australia tour

In April 2017, she cancelled a planned tour of Australia. This followed the Facebook release of a video by six Australian Muslim women who accused her of being a "star of the global Islamophobia industry" and of profiting from "an industry that exists to dehumanize Muslim women" but did not call for her to cancel her trip. Ali responded that the women in question were "carrying water" for the causes of radical Islamists and stated that "Islamophobia" is a manufactured word. She said that the cancellation was due to organisational problems.

Social and political views

Hirsi Ali joined the VVD political party in 2002; it combines "classically liberal" views on the economy, foreign policy, crime and immigration. She says that she admires Frits Bolkestein, a former Euro-commissioner and ideological leader of the party.

Hirsi Ali is the founder and president of the AHA Foundation, a non-profit humanitarian organisation to protect women and girls in the U.S. against political Islam and harmful tribal customs that violate U.S. law and international conventions. Through the AHA Foundation, Hirsi Ali campaigns against the denial of education for girls, forced marriage, and suppression of information about the crimes through the misuse and misinterpretation of rights to freedom of religion and free speech in the U.S. and the West.

Hirsi Ali has praised western liberalism.

Islam and Muslims

Hirsi Ali is critical of the treatment of women in Islamic societies and the punishments demanded by conservative Islamic scholars for blasphemy. She publicly identified as Muslim until 28 May 2002, when she acknowledged in her diary that she knew she was not.

She also explained in an interview that she began a serious reassessment of her religious beliefs after the 9/11 attacks.

In a 2007 interview in the London Evening Standard, Hirsi Ali characterised Islam as "the new fascism":

In a 2007 article in Reason, Hirsi Ali said that Islam, the religion, must be defeated and that "we are at war with Islam. And there's no middle ground in wars." She said, "Islam, period. Once it's defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It's very difficult to even talk about peace now. They're not interested in peace ... There comes a moment when you crush your enemy. ... and if you don't do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed." Adding: "the Christian powers have accepted the separation of the worldly and the divine. We don't interfere with their religion, and they don't interfere with the state. That hasn't happened in Islam."

She reiterated her position that the problem is not just a few "rotten apples" in the Islamic community but "I'm saying it's the entire basket." She stated that the majority of Muslims aren't "moderates" and they must radically alter their religion. Max Rodenbeck, writing in The New York Review of Books, noted that Ali now narrowly criticizes what she calls "Medina Muslims", meaning the fundamentalists who envision a regime based on sharia, and who ignore the more inclusive passages of Muhammad's Meccan period, a small minority of Muslims.

Although Hirsi Ali has previously described Islam as beyond reform, she has stated that the Arab Spring and growing visibility of women's rights activists within Muslim societies has demonstrated to her that a liberal reformation of Islam is possible, and outlines how this could be achieved in her book Heretic by supporting reformist Muslims.

She described Islamic societies as lagging "in enlightened thinking, tolerance and knowledge of other cultures" and that their history cannot cite a single person who "made a discovery in science or technology, or changed the world through artistic achievement".

In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, she compared the responses of Christians and Muslims to criticism of their respective religions. While Christians would often simply ignore criticism, Muslims would instead take offence, display a victim mentality and take criticism as insults.

She insists that many contemporary Muslims have not yet transitioned to modernity, and that many Muslim immigrants are culturally unsuited to life in the West and are therefore a burden. Ali calls upon atheists, Christians, Europeans, and Americans to unite against Muslim extremism in the West. She urges the former to educate Muslims and the latter, especially Western Churches, to convert "as many Muslims as possible to Christianity, introducing them to a God who rejects Holy War and who has sent his son to die for all sinners out of love for mankind".

Speaking in April 2015 on an Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio program, Hirsi Ali said,

It's wrong for Western leaders like [former Prime Minister of Australia] Tony Abbott to say the actions of the Islamic State aren't about religion. I want to say to him 'please don't say such things in public because it's just not true.' You're letting down all the individuals who are reformers within Islam who are asking the right questions that will ultimately bring about change.

When discussing Muslims who become radicalized by Islamic State on the internet, Hirsi Ali argued that many of these people already adhered to fundamentalist Islamic ideas or came from families and communities that followed a literal practice of Islam before ISIS declared a caliphate, and that ISIS now gave them a focus to execute their beliefs. She commented that what the media has come to refer to as radical Islam or extremist individuals are in fact Muslims who become more pious in their beliefs and take both the Quran and examples set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad literally. She concluded that "people who have that mentality and that mindset are not a minority and they are not a fringe minority. Because of the large number of people who believe in this within Muslim communities and families who believe in this, definitely not all, but it is so large that these individuals who want to take action, who want to take it beyond believing and beyond practicing but actually want to kill people, they have a large enough group to hide in."

In a 2016 presentation for the American conservative platform Prager University, Hirsi Ali asserted that a reform of Islam was vital. She elaborated that while the majority of Muslims are peaceful, Islam as a belief-system in its current form cannot be considered a religion of peace as justification for violence against homosexuals, apostates and those deemed guilty blasphemy are still clearly stated within Islamic scripture and that Western leaders need to stop downplaying the link between Islam and Islamic terrorism. She also added that Western progressives have often dismissed reformist and dissident Muslims as "not representative" and accused any criticism of Islam as racist. She argued that instead, Western liberals should assist and ally themselves with Muslim reformists who put themselves at risk to push for change by drawing a parallel to when Russian dissidents who internally challenged the ideology of the Soviet Union during the Cold War were celebrated and assisted by people in the West.

In 2017, Hirsi Ali spoke of how Dawah is often a precursor to Islamism. In an article for The Sun she stated "in theory, dawa is a simple call to Islam. As Islamists practice the concept, however, it is a subversive, indoctrinating precursor to jihad. A process of methodical brainwashing that rejects assimilation and places Muslims in opposition to Western civic ideals. It is facilitated by funding from the Middle East, local charities and is carried out in mosques, Islamic centres, Muslim schools and even in people's living rooms. Its goal is to erode and ultimately destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with Sharia law."

In September 2020, Hirsi Ali compared "Wokeism" and the Black Lives Matter movement to ISIS, saying both reflected the "intolerant doctrines of a religious cult".


Hirsi Ali criticises the central Islamic prophet on morality and personality traits (criticisms based on biographical details or depictions by Islamic texts and early followers of Muhammad). In January 2003 she told the Dutch newspaper Trouw, "Muhammad is, seen by our Western standards, a "tyrant", as he married, at the age of 53, Aisha, who was six years old". Muslims filed a religious discrimination suit against her that year. The civil court in the Hague acquitted Hirsi Ali of any charges, but said that she "could have made a better choice of words".


Hirsi Ali has criticized Western feminists for avoiding the issue of the subjugation of women in the Muslim world.

During the Brandeis University controversy, Hirsi Ali noted that "an authority on 'Queer/Feminist Narrative Theory' ... [sided] with the openly homophobic Islamists" in speaking against her.

Rich Lowry wrote in Politico that while Hirsi Ali had many traits that should have made her a "feminist hero", such as being a refugee from an abusive patriarchy and an African immigrant who made her way to a Western country and became an advocate for women's rights, this did not happen because she was "a dissident of the wrong religion". Feminists instead criticise Hirsi Ali for "strengthening racism" instead of "weakening sexism".

Freedom of speech

In a 2006 lecture in Berlin, she defended the right to offend, following the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark. She condemned the journalists of those papers and TV channels that did not show their readers the cartoons as being "mediocre of mind". She also praised publishers all over Europe for showing the cartoons and not being afraid of what she called the "hard-line Islamist movement". In 2017, Hirsi Ali described the word Islamophobia as a "manufactured term" and argued "we can't stop the injustices if we say everything is Islamophobic and hide behind a politically correct screen."

Political opponents

In 2006, Hirsi Ali as MP supported the move by the Dutch courts to abrogate the party subsidy to a conservative Protestant Christian political party, the Political Reformed Party (SGP), which did not grant full membership rights to women and withholds passive voting rights from female members. She said that any political party discriminating against women or homosexuals should be deprived of funding.

Opposition to denominational or faith schools

In the Netherlands about half of all education has historically been provided by sponsored religious schools, most of them Christian, both Catholic and Protestant. As Muslims began to ask for support for schools, the state provided it and by 2005, there were 41 Islamic schools in the nation. This was based on the idea in the 1960s that Muslims could become one of the "pillars" of Dutch society, as were Protestants, Catholics and secular residents. Hirsi Ali has opposed state funding of any religious schools, including Islamic ones. In a 2007 interview with London-based Evening Standard, Hirsi Ali urged the British government to close all Muslim faith schools in the country and instead integrate Muslim pupils into mainstream society, arguing "Britain is sleepwalking into a society that could be ruled by Sharia law within decades unless Islamic schools are shut down and young Muslims are instead made to integrate and accept Western liberal values." In 2017, Hirsi Ali reasserted her belief that Islamic faith schools should be closed if they are found to be indoctrinating their students into political Islam and that such faith schools often exist in migrant dominated communities where students will have a lesser chance of integrating into mainstream society and that such cultural and educational "cocooning" breeds a lack of understanding or hostility towards the host culture. In 2020, Hirsi Ali stated that children in predominantly Muslim schools are less likely to be taught about the Holocaust and argued that schools should not cave into demands from Muslim parents that children should not be taught to remember the Holocaust in history lessons.

Development aid

The Netherlands has always been one of the most prominent countries that support aiding developing countries. As the spokesperson of the VVD in the parliament on this matter, Hirsi Ali said that the current aid policy had not achieved an increase in prosperity, peace and stability in developing countries: "The VVD believes that Dutch international aid has failed until now, as measured by [the Dutch aid effects on] poverty reduction, famine reduction, life expectancy and the promotion of peace."


In 2003, Hirsi Ali worked together with fellow VVD MP Geert Wilders for several months. They questioned the government about immigration policy. In reaction to the UN Development Programme 2003 Arab Human Development Report, Hirsi Ali requested Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Minister without Portfolio for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne to clarify government policy regarding the Arab world. Hirsi Ali and Wilders asked the government whether the report prompted changes in Dutch cooperation policy with the Arab world and in Dutch policy to reduce immigration from the Arab world to Europe, and in particular the Netherlands.

Although she publicly supported the policy of VVD minister Rita Verdonk to limit immigration, privately she was not supportive, as she explained in a June 2006 interview for Opzij. This interview was given after she resigned from Parliament, and shortly after she had moved to the United States.

In parliament, Hirsi Ali had supported the way Verdonk handled the Pasić case, although privately she felt that Pasić should have been allowed to stay. On the night before the debate, she phoned Verdonk to tell her that she had lied when she applied for asylum in the Netherlands, just as Pasić had. She said that Verdonk responded that if she had been minister at that time, she would have had Hirsi Ali deported.

In 2015, when Donald Trump suggested a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States as part of his presidential campaign, Hirsi Ali responded by saying that such a pledge gave "false hope" to voters by questioning the reality of how such policy would be implemented and in practice it would offer a short-term solution to a long term ideological issue. However, she also praised Trump's campaign messages for highlighting the problems posed by Islamic fundamentalism and said the outgoing Obama administration had "conspicuously avoided any discussion of Islamic theology, even avoiding use of the term radical Islam altogether."

In response to the Trump administration's Executive Order 13769 which imposed a travel ban on and temporarily restricted immigration and visa applications from several Muslim majority countries, Hirsi Ali described the ban as both "clumsy" but also "too narrow" for excluding nations such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who have been implicated in terrorism. However, she also stated agreement with Trump's assertion that some immigrants from Muslim nations are less likely to adapt to a Westernized lifestyle or are harder to screen as potential security risks, citing Ahmad Khan Rahami and Tashfeen Malik as examples of Muslims who entered the U.S. on immigration visas before committing acts of terrorism. She also maintained that as an immigrant herself, she was not opposed to Muslim immigrants coming to America seeking a better life but expressed concern over the attitudes that younger generations of Muslim-Americans bring with them and that society had a limited capacity to change those values. She has also defended the right for Western nations to screen all prospective Muslim immigrants to assess their beliefs and deport or deny residency to those who display sympathetic views to fundamentalism and violence.

In 2020, Ayaan echoed statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron that Muslim immigrant communities, composed of both newly arrived migrants and second generation immigrants, had formed "separatist societies" in some European nations, and that there are "pockets of Europe" where Muslims have limited access to education or jobs and extremist Muslims "come in and take advantage of them." She also argued that many of the problems Europe faces in the twenty-first century with terrorism and parallel societies was born out of "racism of low expectations" in the past, in which European governments did not expect immigrants from Middle Eastern or African backgrounds to become Europeanized or have the capability to contribute positively, but instead out of misguided compassion, multicultural sentiments and political correctness, encouraged immigrants to keep their native cultures or caved into demands from religiously conservative immigrant communities who rejected European culture.

Hirsi Ali discussed her view on immigration in Europe, in an op-ed article published in the Los Angeles Times in 2006.

Regarding unemployment, social marginalization and poverty among certain immigrant communities, Hirsi Ali places the burden of responsibility squarely on Islam and migrant culture.

In 2010, she opposed the idea of preventing immigrants from traditional Muslim societies from immigrating, claiming that allowing them to immigrate made the U.S. a "highly moral country".


"When I speak of assimilation", Ali clarifies, "I mean assimilation into civilization. Aboriginals, Afghanis, Somalis, Arabs, Native Americans—all these non-Western groups have to make that transition to modernity". Sadiya Abubakar Isa criticized these comments in an article for the Indonesian Journal of Islam and Muslim Societies, accusing her of Orientalism.

Israel and the Palestinians

Hirsi Ali has expressed support for Israel:

I visited Israel a few years ago, primarily to understand how it dealt so well with so many immigrants from different origins. My main impression was that Israel is a liberal democracy. In the places I visited, including Jerusalem as well as Tel Aviv and its beaches, I saw that men and women are equal. One never knows what happens behind the scenes, but that is how it appears to the visitor. The many women in the army are also very visible. I understood that a crucial element of success is the unifying factor among immigrants to Israel. Whether one arrives from Ethiopia or Russia, or one's grandparents immigrated from Europe, what binds them is being Jewish. Such a bond is lacking in the Netherlands. Our immigrants' background is diverse and also differs greatly from that of the Netherlands, including religion.

As for Israel's problems, Hirsi Ali says, "From my superficial impression, the country also has a problem with fundamentalists. The ultra-Orthodox will cause a demographic problem because these fanatics have more children than the secular and the regular Orthodox."

On Palestinians:

I have visited the Palestinian quarters in Jerusalem as well. Their side is dilapidated, for which they blame the Israelis. In private, however, I met a young Palestinian who spoke excellent English. There were no cameras and no notebooks. He said the situation was partly their own fault, with much of the money sent from abroad to build Palestine being stolen by corrupt leaders.

When I start to speak in the Netherlands about the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the role of Arafat in the tragedy of Palestine, I do not get a large audience. Often one is talking to a wall. Many people reply that Israel first has to withdraw from the territories, and then all will be well with Palestine.

On the way Israel is perceived in the Netherlands:

The crisis of Dutch socialism can be sized up in its attitudes toward both Islam and Israel. It holds Israel to exceptionally high moral standards. The Israelis, however, will always do well, because they themselves set high standards for their actions. The standards for judging the Palestinians, however, are very low. Most outsiders remain silent on all the problems in their territories. That helps the Palestinians become even more corrupt than they already are. Those who live in the territories are not allowed to say anything about this because they risk being murdered by their own people.

Hirsi Ali has also said Western governments should stop "demonizing" the state of Israel and instead look to the country as an example of how to implement efficient border security and counter-terrorism measures. Hirsi Ali has praised Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leadership in Israel and has said he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

Personal life

Hirsi Ali married British historian Niall Ferguson on 10 September 2011. They have two sons.


  • 2004, she was awarded the Prize of Liberty by the Flemish classical liberal think tank Nova Civitas.
  • 2004, she was awarded the Freedom Prize of Denmark's Liberal Party, the country's largest party, "for her work to further freedom of speech and the rights of women".

In the year following the assassination of her collaborator, Theo van Gogh, Hirsi Ali received five awards related to her activism.

  • 2005, she was awarded the Harriet Freezerring Emancipation Prize by Cisca Dresselhuys, editor of the feminist magazine Opzij.
  • 2005, she was awarded the annual European Bellwether Prize by the Norwegian think tank Human Rights Service. According to HRS, Hirsi Ali is "beyond a doubt, the leading European politician in the field of integration. (She is) a master at the art of mediating the most difficult issues with insurmountable courage, wisdom, reflectiveness, and clarity".
  • 2005, she was awarded the annual Democracy Prize of the Swedish Liberal People's Party "for her courageous work for democracy, human rights and women's rights."
  • 2005, she was ranked by American Time magazine amongst the 100 Most Influential Persons of the World, in the category of "Leaders & Revolutionaries".
  • 2005, she was awarded the Tolerance Prize of Madrid.
  • She was voted European of the Year for 2006 by the European editors of Reader's Digest magazine.
  • 2006, she was given the civilian prize Glas der Vernunft in Kassel, Germany. The organisation rewarded her with this prize for her courage in criticising Islam (1 October 2006). Other laureates have included Leah Rabin, the wife of former Israeli prime-minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • 2006, she received the Moral Courage Award from the American Jewish Committee.
  • 2007, she was given the annual Goldwater Award for 2007 from the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • 2008, she was awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, an international human rights prize for women's freedom, which she shared with Taslima Nasreen.
  • 2008, she was given the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for nonfiction for her autobiography Infidel (2007 in English). The Anisfield-Wolf awards recognise "recent books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and appreciation of the rich diversity of human culture."
  • 2010, she was awarded the Emperor Has No Clothes Award by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
  • 2016, she was awarded the Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education
  • 2017, she was awarded the Oxi Day Courage Award by the Washington Oxi Day Foundation

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ayaan Hirsi Ali para niños

  • Yasmine Mohammed
  • Maryam Namazie
  • Mona Walter
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