Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Daughter of the Enlightenment

Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times:

03ali1Last spring, Ayaan Hirsi Ali took her ”Dutch mother” — the woman who taught her the language and cared for her after she arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee in 1992 — to lunch at the Dudok brasserie, near the Parliament in The Hague. As always, Hirsi Ali’s armed security detail was there. They have been her companions since she started receiving death threats in September 2002. Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and has been a member of the Dutch Parliament since January 2003, had endorsed the view that Islam is a backward religion, condemned the way women live under it and said that by today’s standards, the prophet Muhammad would be considered a perverse tyrant. She had also announced that she was no longer a believing Muslim. The punishment for such apostasy is, according to strict interpretations of Islam, death. That day at the Dudok, several dozen vocational students were taking up the main restaurant, so she and her guards parked at two tables near the bar. Hirsi Ali had her back to the restaurant when one of the students, apparently a Dutch convert to Islam, tapped her on the shoulder. ”I turned around,” she recalls in her elegant English, ”and saw this sweet, young Dutch guy, about 24 years old. With freckles! And he was like, ‘Madam, I hope the mujahedeen get you and kill you.’ ” Hirsi Ali handed him her knife and told him, ”Why don’t you do it yourself?”

The story is, like much in Hirsi Ali’s life, an inseparable mix of the terrifying and the tender.

Read on here.

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