Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born on 13
November 1969 in Somalia. Her father was a prominent part of the Somalian
Revolution, but was imprisoned after she was born. Her father was heavily
against female genital mutilation, but her grandmother decided she should be
cut anyway. Fortunately Ayaan’s father was able to escape prison, and the
family decided to leave Somalia in 1977. They went to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia
and lastly settled in the capitol of Kenya, Nairobi. There Ayaan attended an
English-speaking secondary school for Muslim girls. Her religious teacher influenced
her to practice a more conservative and strict version of Islam, which lead to
Ayaan choosing to wear a hijab. At the time she also agreed with the Muslim
Brotherhood, an organization in favor of shariah law. But soon she started
reading English novels with female leads, which changed her view on the
position of women in society. After finishing high school Ayaan followed a
secretary course. In 1992 she decided to move to the Netherlands, because she
wanted to escape an arranged marriage. She proceeded to study Political Science
at Leiden University and worked as an interpreter for Somali women. She started
to read books, such as Sigmund Freud’s books, which challenged her beliefs on
morality. This was also a step towards Ayaan’s independent thinking process. The
9/11 attacks were also a turning point for Ayaan’s relationship with Islam, she
realized the Qur’an is just a book, not everything it says should be followed.
She finally renounced her religion when she read the “Atheist Manifesto” by
Herman Phillipse. After graduating from Leiden University she joined the PVDA
and started joining public debates. But in 2002 she decided to leave the PVDA
for the VVD, as the latter party had more room for criticism towards Islam. In
2004 Ayaan and film director Theo van Gogh published the movie Submission, which offered criticism
towards the way women were treated in Islamic societies. This short film
sparked so much outrage that Theo van Gogh was murdered and Ayaan was
threatened. She later went into hiding with Geert Wilders. In 2006 she moved to
the U.S. because of an issue concerning her asylum application. Because Ayaan
had lied about her surname (she used her grandfathers name) and her age.
According to Ayaan this was necessary because she was afraid her family would
find her. But in 2006 minister Rita Verdonk launched an investigation into her
naturalization. In the end Ayaan was allowed to retain her Dutch citizenship,
but she decided to move to the U.S. anyway.
In the United States she founded AHA, a women’s rights organization, and
continued to be a public speaker.
My hagiography is about Ayaan
Hirsi Ali. Even though I don’t agree with everything Ayaan has to say about
Islam, I have chosen to do my hagiography about her simply because her journey
through life has inspired me.