Last night, watching the ever provocative Bill Maher, I heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of his panelists-- whose new book, Infidel, is bringing her increased recognition--speak about the Islamic religion. Naturally, I agree with Maher, all religions are absurd and often preposterous. But her indictment of Islam as practised today in much of the world was as sharp as the knives her grandmother used to cut her genitals when she was five. This woman, recently a member of the Dutch Parliament, star of murdered Van Gogh's film, Submission, deserves our ear , if not our heart. Here are some details:
Photo from her WIKI Entry (click)
Ali, born in Somalia and raised in Kenya became a Dutch citizen and was a Dutch member of parliment from 30 January 2003 until 16 May 2006.
She is under threat from Islamists for her public rejection of the Muslim faith and its cultural practices which subjugate women.
In a BBC World Service radio interview  the week of June 19, 2005 Ali talks about the steps which led up to her rejection of Islam ...
I came to the conclusion [that] I do not believe in the existence of a god or in the hereafter.
She co-produced (with Theo van Gogh) the short film Submission, Part I on the lack of rights for women under Islam. Van Gogh was later murdered by an Islamic extremist in reaction to the film.
And from the current issue of Newsweek:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Fighting Muslim Extremists
Feb. 26, 2007 issue - Ayaan Hirsi Ali moved to the United States last September when she was invited to join the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. Last week her controversial memoir, "Infidel," was published here. With armed guards just outside her office, she sat down with NEWSWEEK's Eve Conant to discuss the Muslim extremists who have threatened to kill her, life in America and whether she's a "colonial feminist":
CONANT: Do you know how many fatwas are out against you right now?
HIRSI ALI: No. There is no official state fatwa, like the one Salman Rushdie had. Thereare simply individuals who think that by killing me they will go right to heaven. I can't live my life looking over my shoulder all the time and thinking, "Oh, my God, am I going to be killed now?"
Do you have to take extreme measures for protection?
The bodyguards [outside] are armed, yes, but I'm not allowed to go into too much detail. The Dutch government is responsible for the armed guards—they pay for them. The Americans provide intelligence gathering. I'm so, so sorry I can't tell you more; you can try talking to the two guys outside, but they won't tell you anything.
Have you felt threatened here in America?
Not threatened, but I've been recognized by some Muslim individuals who let me know they are not pleased with what I'm doing. That also happened in Europe, just people walking up to you and telling you, "Oh, you're that woman, I can't stand you." I just say, "OK, look, I'm eating now, please leave me alone."
You're at a conservative think tank. Does that reflect your position on American politics?
I consider myself a liberal, a classic liberal. The state should provide opportunity but not coddle you. I'm an atheist, but I'm not proselytizing atheism. I'm for equal opportunity for women and for gays. Some of my colleagues here don't agree with me on all issues, but that's good because you can sharpen your own thoughts that way. We agree to disagree.
You've been accused recently of being a colonial feminist.
Yes I have, but I also don't really know what that means. Look—what am I saying about Muslim women? Allow a Muslim girl to finish school, let a Muslim woman be financially independent and let her control her own body. Is that colonial feminism? Then fine, I'm a colonial feminist.
Some accuse you of being critical of Islam because of your rough childhood. What was the moment that transformed you into the person we see now—a woman more likely to wear Prada than a veil?
Let me tell you, I'm not wearing Prada today [laughs]. There are some 150 million women [of different religious backgrounds] who have undergone genital mutilation. When I was living in Africa I was not aware that this was a bad thing, because it happened to all the girls around me. And my arranged marriage: I wanted out of it, but I didn't blame it on Islam. What I tried to do in my book is explain the context in which these things took place. At that time Islam was absolutely not relevant as a source of pain to me. The real moment, for me, was after the 11th of September. I started to download bin Laden's propaganda and compare it to what was written in the Qur'an, just to check if it was really there. It was, and I was really disappointed and deeply disturbed.
Do you want to stay in the United States?
Yes, I'm happy here. The only thing that bothers me is when you go to a restaurant they put ice in your water.
Google her (news): every hit is fascinating...