Humanitarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali added to Vail Symposium
Vail CO, Colorado
Ayaan Hirsi Ali embodies the notion that freedom of discourse and expression is vital to the survival and vitality of liberal democracy. Ali’s 2007 internationally-bestselling memoir, “Infidel,” emerged as one of the most electrifying texts of the decade, detailing the violence and oppression she experienced as women growing up in a devout Muslim culture.
“Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s story is compelling and eye-opening. We are thrilled to be bringing her to this community,” said Fraidy Aber, executive director of the Vail Symposium. Ali was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2005, one of the Glamour Heroes of 2005 and the Prix Simone de Beauvoir in 2008.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1969, Ali had a traditional Muslim upbringing. She embraced Islam, regularly studied the Quran and admired the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. Her father, a political opponent of the Somali dictatorship, raised the family in exile, bringing them from Somalia to Saudi Arabia, then to Ethiopia and Kenya.
In 1992, she was forced into an arranged marriage by her father in a ceremony that she refused to attend. To escape, she fled to the Netherlands. There, she first realized the inconsistencies between the Western society that embraced her and the Muslim culture in which she was raised. Ali earned a degree in political science and served in the Dutch parliament for three years. She began focusing on the challenges of integration for Muslim immigrant groups in the West and advocating for women’s rights in a campaign to reform Islam.
In 2004, Ali acquired an international spotlight following the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the director of “Submission,” a short film about the oppression of women under Islam. Van Gogh was assassinated by a radical Muslim, who left a death threat for Ali pinned to Van Gogh’s chest.
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A target of violence because of her willingness to speak out against her abandonment of the Muslim faith, Ali refuses to be silenced. Now, Ali lives with round-the-clock protection. She is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C., researching the relationship between the West and Islam, women’s rights in Islam and violence against women propagated in the name of religious and cultural arguments.
“One of the recent goals of the Vail Symposium is to bring one high-profile speaker to our deserving community each season,” Aber said. “We expect a great response from the community and are seeking supporters for this effort.”
The Vail Symposium is a non-profit organization dedicated to year-round lifelong learning, through diverse cultural and educational programs that are thought provoking, diverse and affordable. For more information, visit http://www.vilarcenter.org.