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 November 13, 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.


  • [W]ith 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.
  • 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 (March 21, 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 (March 21, 2009)

The Caged Virgin (2004)

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan - The Caged Virgin_ An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam-Simon and Schuster_Atria Books (2008_2006)
  • In countries such as Pakistan and Iran, and to a lesser extent in parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, after the introduction of Islam, a significant regression occurred in individual freedom, the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and the rights of women.
    • Chapter 3, The Virgins’ Cage
  • Perhaps the writer who has best identified the problems within the Muslim world is the philosopher Ibn Warraq, of Pakistani origin, author of Why I Am Not a Muslim. That this courageous man writes under a pseudonym shows that even in the West he does not feel safe.
    • Chapter 3, The Virgins’ Cage

Infidel (2007)

  • 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
  • Women like this never pressed charges. The prospect of making their way alone seemed to them impossible. They were convinced that by accepting systematic, really merciless abuse, they were serving Allah and earning a place in Heaven. They always went back to their husband.
    • 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]
All quotes from the trade paperback edition published in 2011 by Vintage Canada, ISBN 978-0-307-39851-2 (1994 printing)
All italics as in the book. All ellipses added, for the sake of continuity.
  • The Prophet said, “I looked at Paradise and found poor people forming the majority of its inhabitants; and I looked at Hell and saw that the majority of its inhabitants were women.”
    • Epigram (p. vii)
  • As I learned Dutch I began to formulate an almost impossibly ambitious goal: I would study political science to find out why this society, although it appeared to me to be godless, worked when every society I had lived in, no matter how Muslim it claimed to be, was rotten with corruption, violence, and self-centered guile.
    • Introduction (p. xii)
  • I believe that the dysfunctional Muslim family constitutes a real threat to the very fabric of Western life.
    • Introduction (p. xiv)
  • The “problem family”—people like my relatives—will become more and more common unless Western democracies understand better how to the newcomers into our societies: how to turn them into citizens.
    I see three main barriers to this process of integration, none of them peculiar to my family. The first is Islam’s treatment of women….
    The second obstacle, which may seem trivial to some Western readers, is the difficulty many immigrants from Muslim countries have in dealing with money. Islamic attitudes toward credit and debt and the lack of education of Muslim women about financial matters means that most new immigrants arrive in the West wholly unprepared for the bewildering range of opportunities and obligations presented by a modern consumer society.
    The third obstacle is the socialization of the Muslim mind. All Muslims are reared to believe the Muhammad, the founder of their religion, was perfectly virtuous and that the moral strictures he left behind should never be questioned. The Quran, as “revealed” to Muhammad, is considered infallible: it is the true word of Allah, and all its commands must be obeyed without question. This makes Muslims vulnerable to indoctrination in a way that followers of other faiths are not. Moreover, the violence that is endemic in so many Muslim societies, ranging from domestic violence to the incessant celebration of holy war, adds to the difficulty of turning people from that world into Western citizens.
    I can sum up the three obstacles to the integration of my own family in three words: sex, money, and violence.
    • Introduction (pp. xvi-xvii)
  • The West tends to respond to the social failures of Muslim immigrants with what can be called the racism of low expectations. This Western attitude is based on the idea that people of color must be exempted from “normal” standards of behavior. A well-meaning class of people holds that minorities should not share all of the obligations that the majority must meet.
    • Introduction (p. xviii)
  • I believe there are three institutions in Western society that could ease the transition into Western citizenship of these millions of nomads from the tribal cultures they are leaving. They are institutions that can compete with the agents of jihad for the hearts and minds of Muslims.
    The first is public education. The European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century gave birth to schools and universities run on the principles of critical thinking. Education was aimed at helping the masses emancipate themselves from poverty, superstition, and tyranny through the development of their cognitive abilities.…This public education was geared toward grooming citizens, not preserving the separateness of tribe, the sanctity of the faith, or whatever happened to be the prejudice of the day.
    • Introduction (pp. xviii-xix)
  • The second institution that can and must do more is the feminist movement. Western feminists should take on the plight of the Muslim woman and make it their own cause. Their aim should be to help the Muslim woman find her voice. Western feminists have a wealth of experience and resources at their disposal. There are three goals they must aspire to in helping their Muslim sisters. The first is to ensure that Muslim girls are free to complete their education; the second is to help them gain ownership of their own bodies and therefore their sexuality; and the third is to make sure that Muslim women have the opportunity not only to enter the workforce but also to stay in it.
    • Introduction (p. xix)
  • Right now, there are two extremes in Christianity, both of which are a liability to Western civilization. The first consists of those who damn the existence of other groups. They take the Bible literally and reject scientific explanations for the existence of man and nature in the name of “intelligent design.” Such fundamentalist Christian groups invest a lot of time and energy in converting people. But much of what they preach is at odds with the core principles of the Enlightenment. At the other extreme are those who would appease Islam—like the spiritual head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who holds that the implementation of Shari’a in the UK is inevitable. Those who adhere to a moderate, peaceful, reformed Christianity are not as active as the first group or as vocal as the second. They should be.
    • Introduction (p. xx)
  • The message of Nomad is clear and can be stated at the outset: The West urgently needs to compete with the jihadis, the proponents of a holy war, for the hearts and minds of its own Muslim immigrant populations. It needs to provide education directed at breaking the spell of the infallible Prophet, to protect women from the oppressive dictates of the Quran, and to promote alternative sources of spirituality.
    • Introduction (p. xxi)
  • The Muslim veil, the different sorts of masks and beaks and burkas, are all gradations of mental slavery. You must ask permission to leave the house, and when you do go out you must always hide yourself behind sick drapery. Ashamed of your body, suppressing your desires—what small space in your life can you call your own?
    The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons. The veil sets women apart from men and apart from the world; it restrains them, confines them, grooms them for docility. A mind can be cramped just as a body may be, and a Muslim veil blinkers both your vision and your destiny. It is the mark of a kind of apartheid, not the domination of a race but of a sex.
    • Chapter 2, “My Half Sister” (p. 16)
  • We who are born into Islam don’t talk much about the pain, the tensions and ambiguities of polygamy. (Polygamy, of course, predates Islam, but the prophet Muhammad elevated it and sanctioned it into law, just as he did child marriage.) It is in fact very difficult for all the wives and children of one man to pretend to live happily, in union. Polygamy creates a context of uncertainty, distrust, envy, and jealousy. There are plots. How much is the other wife getting? Who is the favored child? If security, safety, and predictability are the recipe for a healthy and happy family, then polygamy is everything a happy family is not. It is about conflict, uncertainty, and the constant struggle for power.
    • Chapter 3, “My Mother” (pp. 24-25)
  • I thought, I am feeble in faith because Allah is full of misogyny. He is arbitrary and incoherent. Faith in him demands that I relinquish my responsibility, become a member of a herd. He denies me pleasure, the adventure of learning, friendships. I am feeble in faith, mother, because faith in Allah has reduced you to a terrified old woman—because I don’t want to be like you.
    • Chapter 3, “My Mother” (p. 35)
  • We make our sons. This is the tragedy of the tribal Muslim man, and especially the firstborn son: the overblown expectations, the ruinous vanity, the unstable sense of self that relies on the oppression of one group of people—women—to maintain the other group’s self-image.
    • Chapter 4, “My Brother’s Story” (p. 58)
  • Life is not about projecting onto others your inability to cope, nurturing hatred and then going off either to self-destruction or to annihilate those who have been more successful than you.
    • Chapter 5, “My Brother’s Son” (p. 71)
  • Yet both the immigrants from the tribe and bloodline and the activists of prosperity share a common delusion: they believe that it is possible to make this transition without paying the price of choosing between value. One side wants change in their circumstances without letting go of tradition; the other, overcome with guilt and pity, wants to help newcomers with material change but cannot bring themselves to demand that they excise traditional, outdated values from their outlook.
    • Chapter 6, “My Cousins” (p. 80)
  • I too was ill prepared for the West. The only difference between my relatives and me is that I opened my mind.
    • Chapter 6, “My Cousins” (p. 81)
  • As a tribe we are fragmented; as clans, scattered; as families, dysfunctional.
    • Chapter 6, “My Cousins” (p. 83)
  • Gone with you is that bloodline, for better for for worse, and gone is the idiot tradition that meant you cherished mares and she-camels more than daughters and granddaughters.
    When a boy was born into the family you rejoiced. Your eyes twinkled, you smiled, and with a burst of energy you would weave impossible numbers of grass mats to give away as gifts. As you wove you would tell us your warrior legends—about courage, resistance, conquest, and sharaf, sharaf, sharaf. Honor, honor, honor.
    When we heard news of the birth of a girl in the family you clicked and pouted and sometimes sulked for days. Squatting under the talal tree in Mogadishu, on the huge straw mat, you wove, your fingers orange with henna, working away with your muda needle. You would chase us away and speak of ominous events. Then, when you have been quiet for days, you would tell us endless tragedies of the misfortunes that befall a family of too many girls—gossip, betrayal, bastard children, and a’yb, a’yb, a’yb. Shame, shame, shame.
    • Chapter 7, “Letter to My Grandmother” (p. 86)
  • Grandmother, I have compared the infidels’ morals to those that you taught us, and I must report that they have, in practice, a better outcome for humans than the morals of your forefathers.
    You taught us the virtues of suspicion and distrust, and Islam taught us to survive by taqqiyah, pretending to be something you are not….
    The infidel does not see life as a test, a passage to the hereafter, but as an end and a joy in itself….
    Because the infidel trusts and studies new ideas, there is abundance in the infidel lands. In these circumstances of peace, knowledge, and predictability, the birth of a girl is just fine. There is no need to pout and sulk and every reason to celebrate and rejoice. The little girl sits right next to the little boy in school; she gets to play as much as he does; she gets to eat as much as he does; she gets the same care in illness as he does; and when she matures she gets the same opportunity to seek and find a mate as he does….
    The bloodline is tired and impotent; adhering to it leads only to violence. It is no strategy for unity and progress….
    Grandma, fevers and diseases are not caused by jinn and forefathers rising from the dead to torment us, or by an angry God, but by invisible creatures with names like parasites and bacteria and viruses. The infidel’s medicine works better than ours, because it is based on facts, inquiry, and real knowledge….
    Grandmother, I no longer believe in the old ways. The world began changing in your lifetime, and by now the old ways are not useful to me anymore. I love you, and I love some of my memories of Somalia, though not all. But I will not serve the bloodline or Allah any longer. And because the old ways hamper the lives of so many of our people, I will even strive to persuade my fellow nomads to take on the ways of the infidel.
    • Chapter 7, “Letter to My Grandmother” (pp. 89-92 passim)
  • American liberals appear to be more uncomfortable with my condemning the ill treatment of women under Islam than most conservatives are. Rather than standing up for Western freedoms and against the totalitarian Islamic belief system, many liberals prefer to shuffle their feet and look down at their shoes when faced with questions about cultural differences.…
    Even though their predecessors had once agitated for the rights of workers, the rights of women, and the rights of blacks, American liberals today are hesitant to speak out against the denial of rights that is perpetrated in the name of Islam. So Brookings said no to me and the AEI said yes.
    • Chapter 8, “Nomad Again” (p. 106)
  • I quickly felt that I belonged at the American Enterprise Institute. The week I arrived in Washington I was introduced to a man I had long hoped to meet, Charles Murray, who in 1994 cowrote The Bell Curve. When his book was published I was still a student at the University of Leiden, where it seemed everyone was talking about this horribly racist book that argued that black people were genetically of lower intelligence than white people. I read it, of course, and I found it to be the opposite of racist, a compassionately written book about the urban challenges that confront black people more than white. All black people should read it.
    When I as introduced to Murray, I couldn’t help thinking that even his head was shaped like a precise bell curve. While we exchanged greetings, I mentioned that I recognized his name from reading his book, at which point he gritted his teeth, no doubt bracing himself for another attack from an offended black person. When I said how great I thought his book was, his smile was so broad and so surprised. We became instant friends.
    • Chapter 9, “America” (p. 110)
  • People often ask me what it’s like to live with bodyguards. The short answer is that it’s better than being dead.
    • Chapter 9, “America” (p. 113)
  • In a way these threats motivate me. They have given my voice more legitimacy.
    • Chapter 9, “America” (p. 114)
  • Certainly much nonsense passes for culture in the United States, including an obsession with celebrities of all kinds. But that is scarcely representative of the vast wealth of extraordinary art, literature, and music produced by Americans in the almost two and a half centuries of the country’s existence.
    • Chapter 9, “America” (p. 119)
  • Most American audiences reacted, first, with astonishment, and second with compassion to stories of the routine horrors of a Muslim woman’s life, even as they struggled to believe it was happening in their own country. There was one exception to this reaction. This was on college campuses, exactly the kind of environment where I had expected curiosity, lively debate, and, yes, the thrill and energy of like-minded activists.
    Instead almost every campus audience I encountered bristled with anger and protest.
    • Chapter 10, “Islam in America” (p. 130)
  • The argument that by criticizing Islam you defame believing Muslims is specious. If I criticize George Washington, I am not defaming Americans; if I deplore Abraham’s lying to Pharaoh about his wife being his sister I am not slandering other Jews—or, for that matter, Muslims, who also recognize Abraham as a Patriarch. But a religion, Islam, based on a book, the Quran, that denies women basic human rights is backward, and to say so is not an insult but an opinion.
    • Chapter 10, “Islam in America” (pp. 132-133)
  • On campus after campus I would stare in despair at these confident young men and women, born in the United States, who had so manifestly benefited from every advantage of Western education yet were determined to ignore the profound differences between a theocratic mind-set and a democratic mind-set.
    • Chapter 10, “Islam in America” (p. 133)
  • There are activist groups of every stripe on campus, yet nothing for girls fleeing Islam, no group fighting for the rights of Muslim women. When violence is committed in the name of Islam these student activists are silent.
    • Chapter 10, “Islam in America” (p. 134)
  • If your goal is to seek the truth, which education is supposed to do, then we cannot deny that a strict interpretation of Islam is preparation for bigotry, violence, and oppression.
    • Chapter 10, “Islam in America” (p. 134)
  • Amira and Muna, like so many Muslim girls, were seen by their families as little more than incubators for sons.
    • Chapter 10, “Islam in America” (p. 137)
  • In a clan society, every kind of human relationship turns on your honor within the clan; outside it, there is nothing—you are excluded from any kind of meaningful existence.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (p. 152)
  • Controlling women’s sexuality and limiting men’s access to sex with women are the central focus of the code of honor and shame. Muslim women are chattel, and every Muslim girl must be a virgin at marriage.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (p. 153)
  • An element as powerful and potent as a Muslim girl’s virginity also has great commodity value, which means that virginity is above all a man’s business. Daughters are bait for attracting alliances, or they can be reserved for the highest bidder. Power, wealth, and the solidifying of clan relations may hinge on marriage alliances, so raising daughters of quality who are modest and docile is important. Using velocity to ensure their obedience and to warn them against straying is a perfectly legitimate reminder of the law in a system of values in which women have only a little more free will than livestock.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (pp. 153-154)
  • The fundamentalists seem haunted by the human body and neurotically debate which fractions of it should be covered, until they declare the whole thing, from head to toe, a gigantic private part.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (p. 154)
  • Even today virginity is the linchpin of a Muslim girl’s education. Growing up, I was taught that it is more important to remain a virgin than it is to stay alive, better to die than be raped. Sex before marriage is an unthinkable crime. Every Muslim girl knows that here value relies almost wholly on her hymen, the most essential part of her body, far more important than her brain or limbs.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (p. 155)
  • To claim that the oppression of women has nothing to do with Islam and is “only” a traditional custom is intellectually dishonest, a decoy. The two elements are interwoven. The code of honor and shame may be tribal and pre-Islamic in its origins, but it is now an integral part of the Islamic religion and culture. Honor killing asserts what Islam also asserts: that women are subordinate to men and must remain their sexual property.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (p. 163)
  • In the text of the Quran and in Shari’a law, men and women are self-evidently not equal. Muslim women are considered physically, emotionally, intellectually, and morally inferior to men, and they have fewer legal rights.
    • Chapter 11, “School and Sexuality” (p. 163)
  • In the madrassa, questions were not welcome; they were considered impertinent.
    • Chapter 13, “Violence and the Closing of the Muslim Mind” (p. 186)
  • If there is an infallible mark of an advanced civilization it is surely the marginalization and criminalization of violence.
    • Chapter 13, “Violence and the Closing of the Muslim Mind” (p. 191)
  • It is not only the prohibition against criticizing the Quran and the Prophet that closes the Muslim mind, and not only the life-long socialization of learning by rote. It is also the continuous construction of conspiracy theories about enemies of Islam who are determined to destroy the one, true religion.
    The chief enemy is the Jew.
    • Chapter 13, “Violence and the Closing of the Muslim Mind” (p. 197)
  • When I reflect back on this particular strand of anti-Semitism, I see three distinct features. The first is demographic power: increase the number of people who believe that Jews are their enemies. The second is to use Islam as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism. The third is psychological: present the Muslim as an underdog fighting a powerful and ruthless enemy.
    • Chapter 13, “Violence and the Closing of the Muslim Mind” (p. 199)
  • Islam is not just a belief; it is a way of life, a violent way of life. Islam is imbued with violence, and it encourages violence.
    Muslim children all over the world are taught the way I was: taught with violence, taught to perpetuate violence, taught to wish for violence against the infidel, the Jew, the American Satan.
    I belong to a small group of lucky people who have escaped the permanent closure of my mind through education.
    • Chapter 13, “Violence and the Closing of the Muslim Mind” (p. 201)
  • The intellectual tradition of the European Enlightenment, which began in the seventeenth century and produced its greatest works in the eighteenth, is based on critical reasoning. It employs facts instead of faith, evidence instead of tradition. Morality in this worldview is determined by human beings, not by an outside force.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 206)
  • This is exactly how minds are opened: through honest, frank dialogue. Tears may be shed, but not blood.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 209)
  • So this, in a nutshell, was my Enlightenment: free inquiry, universal education, individual freedom, the outlawing of private violence, and the protection of individual property rights.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 212)
  • 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. It is part of Muslim culture to oppress women and part of all tribal cultures to institutionalize patronage, nepotism, and corruption. The culture of the Western Enlightenment is better.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind (pp. 212-213)
  • In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn’t translate into a rich mosaic of colorful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance, and abuse.
    Many people genuinely feel pain at the thought of the death of whole cultures. I see this all the time. They ask, “Is there nothing beautiful in these cultures? Is there nothing beautiful in Islam?” There is beautiful architecture, yes, and encouragement of charity, yes, but Islam is built on sexual inequality and on the surrender of individual responsibility and choice. This is not just ugly; it is monstrous.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 213)
  • No doubt there was one poetry in Somali clan culture; people dressed in colorful garments; they had a dark and biting sense of humor; they knew strategies for surviving a harsh desert environment that perhaps the world could have learned from. But the multiculturalist belief that Somali clan culture should somehow be preserved, even when its products move to Western societies, is a recipe for social failure. Multiculturalism helps immigrants postpone the pain of letting go of the anachronistic and inappropriate. It locks people into corrupt, inefficient, and unjust social systems, even if it does preserve their arts and crafts. It perpetuates poverty, misery, and abuse.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 213)
  • I strongly believe that the Muslim mind can be opened. Yet when I have criticized the teachings of the Quran, as Enlightenment thinkers once challenged the revealed truths of the Bible, I have been accused of blasphemy. Muhammad says my husband can beat me and that I am worth half as much as a man. Is it I who am being disrespectful to Muhammad in criticizing his legacy, or is it he who is disrespectful to me?
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 214)
  • Free speech is the bedrock of liberty and a free society. And yes, it includes the right to blaspheme and offend.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 215)
  • (Hirsi Ali has just given a page of examples of Islamic terrorism) Fear has an effect.
    Thus slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, people begin to get used to not saying certain things, or they say them but certainly won’t write them. The thin fingers of self-censorship begin to tighten around individual minds, then groups of people, then around ideas themselves and their expression. When free speech crumbles in this way, when Westerners refrain from criticizing or questioning certain practices, certain aspects of Islam, they abandon those Muslims who seek to question them too. They also abandon their own values. Once they have done that, their society is lost.
    • Chapter 14, “Opening the Muslim Mind: An Enlightenment Mind” (p. 217)
  • When Muslim women face not just oppression but violent death, why aren’t the feminists out protesting these abusers?
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 224)
  • When slavery divided their nation, American feminists grasped the immorality of the arguments used by the slaveholders. They denounced slavery, but they took their reasoning one step further to also indict the values that justify the treatment of women as property. It is ironic that many educated Muslim women are so well able to condemn the principles used by foreign imperialists a century ago to dominate colonized countries but shy away from addressing the moral framework that underpins injustices against their own Muslim sisters.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 227)
  • All these were conflicts of principle. All of these struggles addressed the consequences of denying men and women their freedom. All these struggles were won essentially by revealing the immorality of the opposing arguments, whether they involved the Bible or long-held feudalistic traditions. (Those who wanted slavery, civil rights abuses, and misogyny to continue all used religious arguments.) These arguments were revealed, reviled, and ridiculed, and eventually the laws that institutionalized inequality were repealed.
    Yet, paradoxically, because the struggles were all fought against white men they helped fix in the minds of most people the simplistic notion that blacks, women, and colonized peoples can be victims only of white male oppression. Having sided with other movements of social revolution, such as the movements for national independence in southeast Asia and minority rights of all kinds, particularly the fight against apartheid and for the Palestinians, feminists began to define white men as the ultimate and only oppressors. White men had engaged in the slave trade, apartheid, and colonialism as well as in the subjugation of women. Nonwhite men were, almost by definition, seen as members of the oppressed.
    As a result, the plight of Muslim women—indeed all third-world women who are oppressed in the name of a moral framework of custom or creed created and maintained by men of color—has largely gone unchallenged. A few nonprofit organizations address it, to be sure; the World Bank, for one, has grown more self-confident in condemning the subjugation of Muslim women. But the massive public effort to reveal, ridicule, revile, and replace old views has not begun.
    In fact a certain kind of feminism has worsened things for the female victims of misogyny perpetrated by men of color. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Christina Hoff-Sommers, calls this “the feminism of resentment.” This is the position of “feminists who believe that our society [read, Western society] is best described as a ‘male hegemony,’ a ‘sex/gender system’ in which the dominant gender [read, white male] works to keep women cowering and submissive.” These feminists of resentment refuse to appreciate the progress Western women have made, from the right to vote to the punishment of those who try to harass women at work. They see only the iniquity of the white man and reduce such universal concepts as freedom of expression and the right to choose one’s own destiny to mere artifacts of Western culture. Thus they provide the men of color with an escape route. If the king of Saudi Arabia is questioned about the laws in his land pertaining to women, he merely demands respect for his faith, culture, and sovereignty, and apparently this argument suffices.
    Because these Western feminists manifest an almost neurotic fear of offending a minority group’s culture, the situation of Muslim women create a huge philosophical problem for them.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (pp. 228-229)
  • Virginity is the obsession, the neurosis of Islam.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 229)
  • The fact that honor killings can occur in Texas, New York, and Georgia makes the virtual silence of Western feminists on this subject all the more bizarre and deplorable.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 230)
  • If feminism means anything at all, women with power should be addressing their energies to help the girls and women who suffer the pain of genital mutilation, who are at risk of being murdered because of their Western lifestyle and ideas, who must ask permission just to leave the house, who are treated no better than serfs, branded and mutilated, traded without regard to their wishes. If you are a true feminist, these women should be your first priority.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 230)
  • But the more pressing business is what feminists can do to prevent an alien culture of oppression from taking root in the West.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 231)
  • Ignoring the problem means abandoning the next victims to their fate; even worse, it means abandoning the core values that sustain Western society.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 232)
  • I believe the honor-and-shame culture can be discarded. To think otherwise is to define Muslims as as incapable of growth and adaptation, and I can’t think of anything more pejorative and racist.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 232)
  • The liberation of women is like a vast, unfinished house. The west wing is fairly complete….
    Go to the east wing, however, and what you find is worse than unfinished.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (pp. 233-234)
  • That is my dream. But frankly, I do not know if Western feminists have the courage or clarity of vision to help me realize it.
    • Chapter 15, “Dishonor, Death, and Feminists” (p. 235)
  • Contempt for women is inscribed in the works of Saint Paul.
    • Chapter 16, “Seeking God but Finding Allah” (p. 241)
  • When I’m told to be careful not to impose Western values on people who don’t want them, I beg to differ. I was not born in the West and I did not grow up in the West. But the delight of being able once I came to the West to let my imagination run free, the pleasure of choosing whom I want to associate with, the joy of reading what I want, and the thrill of being in control of my life—in short, my freedom—is something I feel intensely as I manage to extricate myself from all the shackles and obstacles that my bloodline and my religion imposed.
    I am not the only one who feels and thinks this.
    • Chapter 16, “Seeking God but Finding Allah” (p. 242)
  • The multiculturalism and relativism so rampant in Western institutions of learning remind me of my Aunt Khadija’s imposing and beautiful antique cabinet in Mogadishu. One day, when she moved the huge wooden cupboard to clean behind it, the whole thing came down with a shocking crash. An infinite army of termites had ensconced themselves in the rear of the cabinet and had slowly, inch by inch, eaten almost the whole thing. No one had suspected it, and now only the exterior skeleton of the frame was left.
    I want nothing more than that pro-Enlightenment, free-thinking atheists should spontaneously organize themselves to combat the comparable gnawing threat of radical Islam.
    • Chapter 16, “Seeking God but Finding Allah” (pp. 242-243)
  • A mosque is an island of gender apartheid.
    • Chapter 16, “Seeking God but Finding Allah” (p. 252)
  • In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn’t translate into a rich mosaic of colorful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance, and abuse.
    • Conclusion: The Miyé and the Magaalo (p. 261)
  • Beware of zealots of any flavor. Beware of proselytizers of religious utopias. And beware of professors who confuse teaching students how to think with teaching them what to think.
    • Epilogue: Letter to My Unborn Daughter (p. 273)


  • 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.