Ayaan Hirsi Ali
In this interview led by author and journalist Jessica Yellin, we learned about Ayaan Hirsi Ali's extraordinary life and the work that she and the AHA Foundation are doing to transform the lives of Muslim women and girls. Ms. Hirsi Ali discussed the social and cultural realities for Muslim women who have been victimized by female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings, forced marriages, and the complete intolerance of LGBTQ people in Islamic society.
Ms. Hirsi Ali described her odyssey from victim to survivor to advocate, from personally experiencing abuse, to fleeing to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage, and eventually to being elected to the Dutch Parliament. Despite living under a death threat since 2004 for her film Submission, a documentary about women’s rights in Muslim societies, she continues to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Ms. Hirsi Ali discussed with frankness and clarity the motivations of her many critics who want to silence her criticism of Islam. She shared her perspective on the suppression of women and girls under Sharia law, and the devastating effects of politicizing Islam.
Girls and women alive today have been cut (FGM/C) in 30 countries. 26K are at risk annually in Los Angeles.(1)
The estimated number of honor killings around the world annually. 23-27 (one every two weeks) occurs in the US.(2)
Known or suspected forced marriages occurring in the US over a two-year period.(3)
Listen to highlights from our evening with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Ms. Hirsi Ali gave us so much to consider as we navigate some of the most complex, pressing and far-reaching issues of our time: from her understanding of the nuances of Islamism to women's rights and human rights.
Here is a selection of our favorite resources to keep learning, continue the conversation and engage where you are inspired.
THE AHA FOUNDATION, founded by Ms. Hirsi Ali, is the leading organization working to end the honor violence, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and forced marriage that shames, hurts or kills thousands of women and girls in the US each year, and puts millions more at risk. The organization also works to elevate the status of women and girls globally, so they can create peace and prosperity for themselves, their communities and the world. Sign up for their newsletter or learn about how to support their work. (1)
GIRLS NOT BRIDES, of which the AHA Foundation is also a member, is a global coalition of 600 civil society organizations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential. Their site explains the cultural and social background of child marriage, its impact and its scope. Each year:
15 million girls are married before the age of 18.
That is 28 girls every minute.
And one girl every 2 seconds.
TAHIRIH JUSTICE CENTER—winner of a 2012 DVF Award for Leadership—has mobilized a national response to forced marriage with the National Network to End Forced Marriage. With partner organizations like the AHA Foundation who have the expertise and energy to engage deeply on the problem, they aim to stop forced marriages and to put in place better protections and supports for survivors. Read their Fact Sheet on forced marriage in the US and the results of their two-year study. (3)
Dalia Mogahed (L), a Muslim scholar, asks "What do you think when you look at me?" With close to 2M views, she asks us to fight negative stereotypes and choose empathy.
Suzanne Barakat (R) received national attention when her brother and his family were murdered over a traffic dispute, which she called out as hate crimes. In this November 2016 talk she calls on us to speak up wherever and whenever we witness bigotry and discrimination.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER—a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world—compiled several of their reports published in recent years to address some common questions about the Muslim population. In the introduction they note"...most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – say they know little or nothing about Islam."
“The reality for most victims, including victims of honour killings, is that State institutions fail them and that most perpetrators of domestic violence can rely on a culture of impunity for the acts they commit – acts which would often be considered as crimes, and be punished as such, if they were committed against strangers." (2)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay