Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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[O]utrage and clear, critical thinking seldom go hand in hand.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (born Ayaan Hirsi Magan on 13 November 1969) is a Somali-born American liberal politician and feminist. She was an MP for the Dutch liberal People's Party for Democracy between 2003 and 2006. She currently works for a conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.


  • There is a huge difference between being tolerant and tolerating intolerance.


  • ...with like-minded people one cannot discuss. With like-minded people one can only participate in a church service, and, as is widely known, I do not like church services.
    • NOS Journaal, official Dutch newsrail, 8 pm, August 30, 2006. "Met gelijkgezinden kun je alleen maar een kerkdienst* houden, en zoals bekend, houd ik niet van kerkdiensten." "Kerkdienst" means church service of a Christian denomination, such as Mass (liturgy) and cannot be used in Dutch to describe a Muslim prayer service.
  • Where there is no freedom of speech, there is no conscience.
  • Every accommodation of Muslim demands leads to a sense of euphoria and a conviction that Allah is on their side. They see every act of appeasement as an invitation to make fresh demands.
    • "Author, activist condemns Muslim faith at Palm Beach talk", Palm Beach Daily News (21 March 2009)
  • The most pressing question of our time is this: Is European society to be taken over by a radical invasion of Muslim immigrants?
    • "Author, activist condemns Muslim faith at Palm Beach talk", Palm Beach Daily News (21 March 2009)

Infidel (2007)[edit]

  • People ask me if I have some kind of death wish, to keep saying the things I do. The answer is no: I would like to keep living. However, some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.
    • Introduction
  • In a sense, my grandmother was living in the Iron Age. There was no system of writing among the nomads. Metal artifacts were rare and precious. … The first time she saw a white person my grandmother was in her thirties: she thought this person's skin had burned off.
    • Chapter 1: Bloodlines
  • The man, who was probably an itinerant traditional circumciser from the blacksmith clan, picked up a pair of scissors. With the other hand, he caught hold of the place between my legs and started tweaking it, like Grandma milking a goat. "There it is, the kintir," one of the women said. Then the scissors went down between my legs and the man cut off my inner labia and clitoris. I heard it, like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs, indescribable, and I howled. Then came the sewing: the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia, my loud and anguished protests, Grandma's words of comfort and encouragement. "It's just this once in your life, Ayaan. Be brave, it's almost finished." When the sewing was finished, he cut the thread off with his teeth.
    • Chapter 2: Under the Talal Tree
  • This was Saudi Arabia, where Islam originated, governed strictly according to the scriptures and example of the Prophet Muhammad. And by law, all women in Saudi Arabia must be in the care of a man. My mother argued loudly with the Saudi immigration official, but he merely repeated in an ever louder voice that she could not leave the airport without a man in charge.
    • Chapter 3: Playing Tag in Allah's Palace
  • With our grandmother staying behind in Somalia, my mother had nobody with whom to share tasks and plans. She could do nothing on her own. She wasn't supposed to go out on the street without these new guardians of ours, our uncles, and neither were we. To phone them she had to scuttle down to the corner grocer, with my ten-year-old brother in tow acting as her protective male.
    • Ch. 3
  • We had already learned part of the Quran by heart in Mogadishu, although of course we had never understood more than a word or two of it, because it was in Arabic. But the teacher in Mecca said we recited it disrespectfully: we raced it, to show off. So now we had to learn it all by heart again, but this time with reverent pauses. We still didn't understand more than the bare gist of it. Apparently, understanding wasn't the point.
    • Ch. 3
  • In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap stopped running, the Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. Later, when we went to school, our teachers lamented at length all the evil things Jews had done and planned to do against Muslims. When they were gossiping, the women next door used to say, "She's ugly, she's disobedient, she's a whore--she's sleeping with a Jew." Jews were like djinns, I decided. I had never met a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)
    • Ch. 3
  • On September 16, 1978, there was an eclipse of the moon in Riyadh. Late one afternoon it became visible: a dark shadow moving slowly across the face of the pale moon in the darkening blue sky. There was a frantic knocking on the door. When I opened it, our neighbor asked if we were safe. He said it was the Day of Judgement, when the Quran says the sun will rise from the west and the seas will flood, when all the dead will rise and Allah's angels will weigh our sins and virtue, expediting the good to Paradise and the bad to Hell. Though it was barely twilight, the muezzin suddenly called for prayer--not one mosque calling carefully after another, as they usually did, but all the mosques clamoring all at once, all over the city. There was shouting across the neighborhood. When I looked outside I saw people praying in the street.
    • Ch. 3
  • [In Ethiopia,] Abeh enrolled all three of us in school, which was taught in Amharic. We spoke only Somali and Arabic, so everything was completely foreign again for a little while. It wasn't until I could communicate that I came to a startling realization: the little girls in school with me were not Muslims. They said they were Kiristaan, Christian, which in Saudi Arabia had been a hideous playground insult, meaning impure. I went bewildered to my mother, who confirmed it. Ethiopians were kufr, the very sound of the word was scornful. They drank alcohol and they didn't wash properly. They were despicable.
    • Chapter 4: Weeping Orphans and Widowed Wives
  • Numbers were a mystery to me. I was so far behind. It was only in Nairobi, at age ten, that I figured out anything at all about the way time is calculated: minutes, hours, years. In Saudi Arabia the calendar had been Islamic, based on lunar months; Ethiopia maintained an ancient solar calendar. The year was written 1399 in Saudi Arabia, 1972 in Ethiopia, and 1980 in Kenya and everywhere else. In Ethiopia we even had a different clock: sunrise was called one o'clock and noon was called six. (Even within Kenya, people used two systems for telling time, the British and the Swahili.) The months, the days--everything was conceived differently. Only in Juja Road Primary school did I begin to figure out what people meant when they referred to precise dates and times. Grandma never learned to tell time at all. All her life, noon was when shadows were short, and your age was measured by rainy seasons. She got by perfectly well with her system.
    • Chapter 5: Secret Rendezvous, Sex, and the Scent of Sukumawiki
  • My mother saw herself as a victim. Once upon a time she had shaped her future and made decisions -- she had left Somalia for Aden, divorced her first husband and chosen my father--but at some point, it seemed, she lost hope. Many Somali women in her position would have worked, would have taken control of their lives, but my mother, having absorbed the Arab attitude that pious women should not work outside the home, felt that this would not be proper. It never occurred to her to go out and create a new life for herself, although she can't have been older than thirty-five or forty when my father left. Instead, she remained completely dependent. She nursed grievances; she was resentful; she was often violent; and she was always depressed.
    • Ch. 5
  • Drinking wine and wearing trousers were nothing compared to reading the history of ideas.
    • Chapter 13: Leiden
  • Islam was like a mental cage. At first, when you open the door, the caged bird stays inside: it is frightened. It has internalized its imprisonment. It takes time for the bird to escape, even after someone has opened the doors to its cage.
    • Chapter 15: Threats
  • In October 2002, I flew to California. It was the first time I had ever been in the United States, and I realized almost immediately that my preconceptions of America were completely ludicrous. I was expecting rednecks and fat people, with lots of guns, very aggressive police, and overt racism – a caricature of a caricature. In reality, of course, I saw people living perfectly well-ordered lives, jogging and drinking coffee.
    • Ch. 15
  • Of course, I also encountered hostile reactions in campaigning. People called me names, even spat at me; I received more threats. The most remarkable people, to me, were those who apparently approved of everything I said but nonetheless wouldn't dream of voting for the Liberal Party. It reminded me of Somalia: they wouldn't vote outside their clan.
    • Ch. 15
  • Many well-meaning Dutch people have told me in all earnestness that nothing in Islamic culture incites abuse of women, that this is just a terrible misunderstanding. Men all over the world beat their women, I am constantly informed. In reality, these Westerners are the ones who misunderstand Islam. The Quran mandates these punishments. It gives a legitimate basis for abuse, so that the perpetrators feel no shame and are not hounded by their conscience or their community. I wanted my art exhibit to make it difficult for people to look away from this problem. I wanted secular, non-Muslim people to stop kidding themselves that "Islam is peace and tolerance."
    • Chapter 16: Politics
  • I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim.
    • Epilogue: The Letter of the Law


  • I cannot think of a system of law that dehumanizes & degrades women more than Islamic Law.
    • 7 News Sydney, (April 4, 2017)
  • Today you have this horrible alliance between the far left and the Islamists and they’re using the modern media tool to shut people like me out by smearing us.”
    • Quoted in “Ayaan Hirsi Ali slams protesters who prevented her visit to Australia,” Emily Ritchie, The Australian, (April 5, 2017) [1]

Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (2010)[edit]

  • Here is something I have learned the hard way, but which a lot of well-meaning people in the West have a hard time accepting: All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not. A culture that celebrates femininity and considers women to be the masters of their own lives is better than a culture that mutilates girls' genitals and confines them behind walls and veils or flogs or stones them for falling in love. A culture that protects women's rights by law is better than a culture in which a man can lawfully have four wives at once and women are denied alimony and half their inheritance. A culture that appoints women to its supreme court is better than a culture that declares that the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man.
  • This is exactly how minds are opened: through honest, frank dialogue. Tears may be shed, but not blood.
  • Free speech is the bedrock of liberty and a free society. And yes, it includes the right to blaspheme and offend.


  • What the media also do not tell you is that America is the best place on the planet to be black, female, gay, trans or what have you. We have our problems and we need to address those. But our society and our systems are far from racist.
  • I came to the U.S. in 2006, having lived in the Netherlands since 1992. Like most immigrants, I came with a confidence that in America I would be judged on my merits rather than on the basis of racial or sexual prejudice. There’s a reason the U.S. remains, as it has long been, the destination of choice for would-be migrants. We know that there is almost no difference in the unemployment rate for foreign-born and native-born workers—unlike in the European Union.
  • Time was, Americans were renowned for their can-do, problem-solving attitude. Europeans, as Alexis de Tocqueville complained, were inclined to leave problems to central authorities in Paris or Berlin. Americans traditionally solved problems locally, sitting together in town halls and voluntary associations. Some of that spirit still exists, even if we now have to meet on Zoom.
  • The problem is that there are people among us who don’t want to figure it out and who have an interest in avoiding workable solutions. They have an obvious political incentive not to solve social problems, because social problems are the basis of their power. That is why, whenever a scholar like Roland Fryer brings new data to the table—showing it’s simply not true that the police disproportionately shoot black people dead—the response is not to read the paper but to try to discredit its author.
  • [D]ebate the challenges we confront—not with outrage, but with the kind of critical thinking we Americans were once famous for, which takes self-criticism as the first step toward finding solutions.

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