Atheist of the Month for February 2016: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

There is hardly anyone who has shown more courage in the battle to reform Islam than Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The Somalia-born Ali knows first hand the horrors of religious fundamentalism. At 5 years old, her grandmother had her circumcised. By the time she reached her teens, she was living in Kenya and found her school infiltrated by Saudi Arabia’s religious education program. She, like many students, were persuaded to adopt a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. At the time, she was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and, also, supported the fatwa that had been issued against Salman Rushdie.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In 1992, Ali was enroute to Canada for an arranged marriage when she diverted to the Netherlands and was successful in receiving political asylum. A decade later, she was elected to the lower house of the Dutch parliament. One of her most prominent supporters was a filmmaker named Theo van Gogh, whom she would work with on the short film, Submission (2004), which highlighted the treatment of women in Islamist society. 3 months after its release, Van Gogh was gunned down in the streets of Amsterdam by an Islamist. A death threat to Ali was pinned to his body with a dagger. As a result, Ali went into hiding for quite some time and had to be accompanied by armed bodyguards where ever she went.

She has lived in the United States since 2008. She is the founder of the AHA Foundation and continues to be an outspoken critic of Jihadism, Islamism, and the treatment of women within Islamic society. You can follow her on Twitter @Ayaan.