Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 37, faced terrible adversity from a young age in her native Somalia and now aims to reveal the “truth” about Islam and its treatment of women.
*first published in the Australian Women’s Weekly, 28/6/07
Her strident views on Islam have earned the Somali-born author, film-maker, politician and human rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali fame. controversy, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination – and countless death threats, writes David Leser.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn’t look or sound dangerous but if her enemies had their way she’d be dead. A public stoning perhaps, or a bomb detonated in the middle of the night, or even an attack in broad daylight, like the one that finished off her friend Theo van Gogh’s three years ago. That’s the degree of hatred she inspires.
Never was this made more apparent than on that chilling Amsterdam morning two and a half years ago when van Gogh, the maverick Dutch film-maker, was cycling to work during rush hour and a Muslim extremist by the name of Mohammed Bouyeri stepped out from the shadows to shoot him eight times.
Van Gogh staggered on for a few metres and then, according to witnesses, twice begged his assailant for mercy. “Can’t we can talk about this,” he pleaded in words that sound today like the dying gasps of the Enlightenment.
Bouyeri, a Dutch-born citizen of Moroccan descent, was not interested in talking. He drew two butcher’s knives from under his jellaba (Middle Eastern outer garment) and with one of them slit the film-maker’s throat. With the other, he impaled a letter on his victim’s chest, addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It read, in part: “You will break yourself to pieces on Islam. You, oh America, will go down. You oh Netherlands will go down … You, oh Hirsi Ali, will go down.”