Ali, Ayaan Hirsi 1969- (Ayaan Hirsi Magan)

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Ali, Ayaan Hirsi 1969- (Ayaan Hirsi Magan)


Born November 13, 1969, in Mogadishu, Somalia; immigrated to the Netherlands, 1992; married c. 1992 (left husband, c. 1992, then divorced c. 2002). Education: Attended the University of Leiden.


Office—The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1150 17th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036. E-mail[email protected]


Writer and activist. American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, fellow, 2006—; served in the Dutch Parliament, 2003-06. Previously worked as a cleaning lady, translator, drug salesperson for GlaxoSmithKline, and Labor Party think-tank researcher.


Person of the Year, Volksrant, 2004.


De Zoontjesfabriek: Over Vrouwen, Islam en Integratie, Augustus (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2003.

De Maagdenkooi, Augustus (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2004.

Insoumise, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 2005.

Ayaan Verzameld: Essays En Toespraken, Augustus (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2006.

The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam (essays and other writings), Free Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Infidel (memoir), Free Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Also writer and director of the eleven-minute film Submission Part 1.


Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a prominent defender of women's rights in Islamic societies. Born in Somalia, Ali was made to participate in an arranged marriage by her father and then subsequently fled to the Netherlands in 1992. Ali became a prominent figure in the Netherlands as she promoted Muslim women's rights and was voted to the parliament in 2003. The following year, she wrote a short film titled Submission Part 1. Shortly afterwards, the film's director, Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamic extremist because of the film's exploration of women under oppression in some Muslim societies. Ali also received numerous death threats and had to go into hiding before coming to the United States to work as a fellow in the American Enterprise Institute.

As a result of her experiences, Ali has written two books. The first, titled The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, is a collection of essays, columns, lectures, interviews, and autobiographical sketches previously published in the Netherlands. The primary focus of the writings are the liberation of Muslim women who are under oppression due to certain beliefs held by both moderate and radical members of Islam, according to the author's claims. "Throughout the book, Hirsi Ali draws upon her experiences as a Somalian girl who was raised as a Muslim, educated in religious schools, circumcised at an early age, and forced into an unwanted marriage with a distant cousin," wrote Kathy Davis in the Women's Review of Books, "She makes a passionate and convincing argument for the necessity of freeing women from the constraints of tradition and religion, which rob them of their self-determination, turning them into little more than ‘production plants for sons.’" Among the topics the author discusses are female circumcision and domestic violence, education, and legal equality.

Most reviewers gave high praise to The Caged Virgin. Writing in the Library Journal, Anna M. Donnelly called the book a "thought-provoking collection of essays." America contributor David Pinault called the author "the most controversial—and courageous—thinker to address the status of Muslims in Western societies today." Despite the laurels heaped by most reviewers, many also sounded a note of caution. For example, Women's Review of Books contributor Davis noted: "Read The Caged Virgin less as a contribution to understanding the complexities of multiculturalism or the complicated realities of the lives of Muslim women than as a manifesto or wake-up call. You will not always agree with what Hirsi Ali says, but she has managed to get the most important and troubling issues of the day on the agenda."

Ali followed The Caged Virgin with her memoir, Infidel. The author begins by providing the reader with a look at her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya as she lives with a strict Muslim family and receives beatings for her free-thinking ways. The book then follows Ali's decision to flee oppression and obtain citizenship in the Netherlands, where she becomes a prominent activist, politician, and ultimately the target of Islamic radicals who make plain their intention to kill her. The author also details how her commitment to radical Islamic views was strengthened by the attacks of 9/11 in the United States, which helped draw her into the political arena.

"Crammed with harrowing details, Hirsi Ali's account is a significant contribution to our times," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor of Infidel. Bill Williams, writing in America, noted: "Infidel succeeds both as compelling memoir and as timely social, political and religious commentary. Ali's blunt critique may help educate Western readers about a darker side of one of the world's major faiths." Once again, some reviewers questioned the "fairness" of Ali's take on Islamic life for women. Nevertheless, most commented that the book is a valuable look at some important issues for Islamic women. For example, Weekly Standard reviewer Abigail Lavin wrote: "You can take issue with Hirsi Ali's contributions to the debate over Islamic values and practices, but far more important is her unwavering commitment to the debate itself."



Ali, Ayaan Hirsi, Infidel, Free Press (New York, NY), 2007.


America, October 2, 2006, David Pinault, "Wronged and Wronged Again," p. 28; May 28, 2007, Bill Williams, "Living to Tell …," review of Infidel, p. 23.

Booklist, February 15, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Infidel, p. 30.

Colorlines, September-October, 2006, Falguni A. Sheth, "Fall of the ‘Muslim Atheist’: Hirsi Ali's Journey from Dutch Politician to Failed Asylum Seeker Reveals Much about Europe's Retreat from Multiculturalism," p. 11.

Daily Variety, December 1, 2004, Marlene Edmunds, "Scribe Carries on Van Gogh Trilogy," p. 14.

Economist, February 10, 2007, "Dark Secrets; a Critic of Islam," p. 88.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006, review of Infidel, p. 1206.

Library Journal, June 15, 2006, Anna M. Donnelly, review of The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, p. 90.

Marie Claire, February, 2007, Lisa Henricksson, "What We Talk about When We Talk to … Ayaan Hirsi Ali: This Month, the Former Dutch Parliamentarian, 37, Publishes a Memoir, Infidel, and Reveals What It's like to Be a Controversy Magnet," p. 180.

Nation, June 27, 2005, Deborah Scroggins, "The Dutch-Muslim Culture War," p. 21.

National Review, August 28, 2006, David Pryce-Jones, "Europe's Loss, America's Gain: The Story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali," p. 23.

New Statesman, July 24, 2006, Fareena Alam, "Enemy of the Faith: Are Muslim Women Really Caged Virgins, Victims of an Inherently Misogynistic Theology? In Claiming This, Ayaan Hirsi Ali Is Guilty of Grossly Misrepresenting Islam, Writes Fareena Alam," p. 54.

New York, February 12, 2007, Boris Kachka, "The Infidel Speaks: Ayaan Hirsi Ali Fled Fanaticism in Africa—and Holland. So What Does She Make of Her New Conservative Friends in D.C.?," p. 78.

New York Times, April 3, 2005, Christopher Caldwell, "Daughter of the Enlightenment," profile of author; February 4, 2007, Laurie Goodstein, "Rebel without a Veil," interview with author.

Newsweek, February 26, 2007, Eve Conant, "A Bombthrower's Life; Threats and Armed Guards Have Followed Provocateur Ayaan Hirsi Ali to America. But That Suits Her Just Fine," p. 39; February 26, 2007, Lorraine Ali, "Only One Side of the Story; One of Europe's Foremost Critics of Islam Is Drawing Attention Stateside with Her Controversial New Memoir, ‘Infidel,’ but How Fair Is the Book?," p. 38.

Progressive, April, 2007, Nina Siegal, "Holland Wrestles with Immigration," p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2006, review of Infidel, p. 57.

Report, February 3, 2003, Colby Cosh, "One Who Got Away," p. 4.

Vogue, February, 2007, Rebecca Johnson, "The Unbeliever; an Outspoken Critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali Lives in Fear for Her Life—and Refuses to Be Silenced," p. 226.

Washington Post, March 7, 2007, Neely Tucker, "True Unbeliever," profile of author, p. C01.

Weekly Standard, March 5, 2007, Abigail Lavin, "Out of the Hijab; One Woman's Problem with Islam."

Women's Review of Books, November-December, 2006, Kathy Davis, "You're Next," review of The Caged Virgin, p. 6.


AEI (July 24, 2007), brief profile of author.

BBC News, (December 23, 2002), "Moving Stories: Ayaan Hirsi Ali"; (June 29, 2006), "Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali."

Jerusalem Post, (May 7, 2007), Caroline Glick, "Our World: Hirsi Ali's Challenge to Humanity," interview with author., (December 16, 2006), Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "Why They Deny the Holocaust."

OpenDemocracy, (June 3, 2007), K.A. Dilday, review of Infidel.

Opinion Journal, (March 10, 2007), Joseph Rago, "Free Radical," interview with author.

Slate, (May 8, 2006), Christopher Hitchens, "The Caged Virgin Holland's Shameful Treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali."

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Ali, Ayaan Hirsi 1969- (Ayaan Hirsi Magan)

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