'Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West'
Release date: April 05, 2012
Ayaan Hirsi Ali — a former member of the Dutch Parliament, women's rights advocate, and Islamic reformist — will give the Spring 2012 President's Forum talk titled "Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West" on Thursday, April 5, at 8 p.m. in Hyman Forum of the Athenaeum.
This event is free and open to the public, but all attendees must reserve tickets in advance by logging on to www.goucher.edu/tickets or by calling 410-337-6333.
Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1969. The daughter of a political opponent of the Somali dictatorship, she grew up in exile, moving from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia then Kenya.
In 1992, Hirsi Ali was married off by her father to a distant cousin who lived in Canada. But she had begun to question aspects of the Islamic faith, which she had adopted in her youth, and decided to escape the marriage. She fled to the Netherlands, where she was given asylum and, in time, citizenship.
In her early years in Holland, she worked in factories and as a maid. She quickly learned Dutch, however, and was able to study at the University of Leiden. Working as a translator for Somali immigrants, she saw firsthand the inconsistencies between liberal Western society and tribal Muslim cultures.
After earning her M.A. in political science, Hirsi Ali worked as a researcher for the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, a left-of-center think tank in Amsterdam. She then was elected to serve in the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. While in parliament, she focused on further integrating non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and on defending the rights of Muslim women. She campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation, which she had been subjected to as a young child. In her three years in government, she found her voice as an advocate for an "enlightened Islam."
In 2004, Hirsi Ali gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh, who had directed her short film Submission about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin, a radical Muslim, left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh's chest.
In 2006, Hirsi Ali had to resign from parliament when the then minister for immigration decided to revoke her Dutch citizenship, arguing that she had misled authorities at the time of her asylum application. The Dutch courts eventually confirmed that Hirsi Ali was a legitimate Dutch citizen, but disillusioned with the Netherlands, she subsequently moved to the United States.
A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a public-policy nonprofit in Washington, DC, Hirsi Ali is researching the relationship between the West and Islam. Her willingness to speak out and her abandonment of the Muslim faith have made her a target for violence by Islamic extremists, and she has to live with round-the-clock security.
She was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2005, one of the Glamour Heroes of 2005, and Reader's Digest's European of the Year for 2005. In response to ongoing abuses of women's rights in the name of fundamentalist Islam, she established the AHA Foundation in 2007 to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West against militant Islam.
Hirsi Ali has published a collection of essays, The Caged Virgin (2006), and a memoir, Infidel (2007). She published Nomad, the second volume of her autobiography, in 2010 and is working on Shortcut to Enlightenment, a dialogue between Mohammed and three of her favorite 20th-century Western thinkers: John Stuart Mill, Karl Popper, and Friedrich von Hayek.
The President's Forum at Goucher College brings to campus notable figures from various fields and backgrounds for incisive discussions and lively debates on today's most vital issues. The Forum is an open invitation to the members of our community — both on campus and beyond — to participate in the intellectual life of the college through open dialogue on topics both relevant and timely.