Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch-American feminist filmmaker and political writer. She is author of several books, the latest of which is Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She is also founder of the AHA Foundation, a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Dutch parliament.
Ali is a vocal critic of Islam whose writings often focus on the religion's subjugation of women. Her work is controversial and has resulted in numerous death threats. In 2004 Ayaan gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, a film about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh's chest. This tragic event, and Ayaan’s life leading up to it, are all chronicled in her best-selling book, Infidel.
Question: Where do you see yourself fitting in?
Transcript:We as Muslim women now . . . When I was a Muslim woman, we were brought up to believe in our own submission – submission to the will of God, submission to the will of your parents, submission to the will of your husband. And submission to the will of the husband is absolute except when he asks you to forsake Allah. Now if we have been indoctrinated to believe that, then that’s how we act. That’s how we behave. But not all of us . . . and that’s I think what’s so fascinating about the human mind – is that you cannot enslave the human entirely. Many of us have been exposed to other ideas. We have our own personalities, seek freedom. We can’t, I think, wake up to the programming and de-program ourselves. And if we become aware of the fact that what we are programming our kids from generation to generation is repressive, we can decide not to do that and to take on alternative ideas. We can be, for instance . . . We can wake up to the fact that the God that says in Chapter 4 verse 34 . . . tells the husband “you have the right to beat your woman”, is the same God that after we are beaten and bruised, that we pray to for comfort. Just waking up to that dissonance alone will, I think, create a platform for change. It will create the grounds for change.