Ayaan Hirsi Ali: From Muslim ‘Infidel’ to Mother
When she was a devout Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali supported a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. When she later became an atheist, death threats were again made - this time, against her. To say it has been an improbable road from Mogadishu to D.C. for the intellectual, author, activist and former politician would be an understatement. When her family arranged a marriage for her, Ms. Hirsi Ali fled to the Netherlands and within a decade was a member of Parliament. After her staunch criticism of Islam in a film, her colleague Theo van Gogh was murdered and she was forced into hiding. Five years ago, she published her autobiography, Infidel, with a foreword by fellow atheist Christopher Hitchens. Today she works for a Washington-based think tank, and at 42, Ms. Hirsi Ali has also embarked on a new challenge: motherhood. She and her husband, noted historian and author Niall Ferguson, welcomed their son, Thomas, in December. Ms. Hirsi Ali spoke with The Globe and Mail recently in Vancouver about her life under death threats, the Shafia honour killings, and how she plans to raise her child.
It has been more than seven years since Mr. van Gogh was killed and the threat against you was made. Do you still take death threats as seriously as you did then, or, in some way, have you gotten used to it?
You don’t really get used to it, because there’s a security team and they don’t let you get used to it. When your life is threatened, whether it’s by human beings or by disease or whatever, you come to appreciate life. I was thinking when I become old and retire, that’s when I would take up this or that hobby. Now you just don’t postpone those things. You appreciate life more fully, you live it more fully. This is the paradox. The threat enriches your life, in a way.
Are there things that you’ve had to give up because of the heightened security?
No. Actually, whatever it is I wanted to do, I want to do it even more.
Do you still get threats when you speak at events?
It’s not a threat in the sense, “I will come and kill you.” Normally you have a horde of men with long beards shouting all kinds of things. But between them and me are people carrying guns. That makes a huge difference. And then there’s - I’m not supposed to talk about security - but then there are Secret Service who are also doing their job.