Ayaan Hirsi Ali: A journey from Somalia and Islam to the Judeo-Christian West
Last updated 11/15/2023 at 4:14pm
Last weekend I was researching the Israel/Hamas war and while researching the history of that region, I came across a recent essay by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an amazing woman who I have followed for several years. I read an essay she wrote for Unherd.com this month where she discussed her past as a Muslim Brotherhood follower, an atheist and now a Christian. She is an amazing pro-western speaker and author.
After living in different countries, suffering under tyranny and living in fear for her beliefs and outspoken activism, she is thankful to live in a Western country where we are fighting to keep our freedoms and protection for our way of life.
She believes in freedom of the press, free speech and the ability to speak openly about her religion or political beliefs. I'm not sure how long that will last, and there are certainly cracks in the foundation, but I am thankful for what we still have.
Today we aren't just fighting against government tyranny, but culturally, we also have to fight against the tyranny of the minority. Girls forced to dress in locker rooms with biological males, compete in women's sports, etc. You can't say anything. You can't disagree. You just have to be accepting or be quiet. I would call that one example of the tyranny of the minority.
Some people haven't self-censored to cater to the tyranny of the minority. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of those people.
She was fascinating to me the first time I heard her speak. She was born and raised in Somalia. I was interested in hearing what she had to say as a woman raised in an Islamic community. She endured forced female circumcision as a 5-year-old girl. When her family arranged a marriage for her, she 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.
She then published an autobiography, "Infidel," with a foreword by fellow atheist Christopher Hitchens.
She escaped to America. She then married and had children of her own, and while her life was in danger, she did not allow it to silence her. She is a staunch defender of the West, where she finally found freedom. Very fascinating indeed.
She speaks globally and has written best selling books, including "Infidel: My Life," "The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam," "Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations," "Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now," and other important works, like "Honor Diaries," which traces the work of nine women's rights advocates who came together to engage in a discourse about gender inequality and honor-based violence.
She works for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the American Enterprise Institute, and was a senior fellow at the Future of Democracy Project at Harvard Kennedy School.
This month she wrote an editorial piece explaining her experiences at Unherd.com, a British online magazine. https://unherd.com/2023/11/why-i-am-now-a-christian/
I wish I had permission to reprint the whole piece. It intertwines personal introspection with global concerns, painting a picture of a journey from Islam to atheism, and finally to Christianity. It does so against the backdrop of post-9/11 world events, an interrogation of the nature of religious violence, and a contemplation on the societal role of religion.
Ayaan grappled with the implications of religiously-motivated terror, initially found solace in atheism after encountering Bertrand Russell's lecture on why he rejected Christianity. She recounts the clarity and fear instilled by the Muslim Brotherhood's teachings in their youth, contrasting it with the freedom from religious doctrine later sought through atheism. This reflection served to outline her transformation over time and the intellectual influences that shaped her beliefs.
She tackles the relationship between Islam and terrorism, highlighting her former struggle to reconcile her religious identity with the acts committed in its name. She also wrote of her regret at how the Jewish people are vilified and she and her Muslim friends were taught everyday to hate Israel and the Jewish people.
She examined the broader societal inclination to rationalize or deny the religious motivations behind terrorism, offering a critical view of Western responses to Islamic extremism, especially the leaders who insisted that the terrorists were motivated by reasons other than the ones they and their leader, Osama Bin Laden, had articulated so clearly.
She said "This excuse-making was not only condescending towards Muslims. It also gave many Westerners a chance to retreat into denial. Blaming the errors of US foreign policy was easier than contemplating the possibility that we were confronted with a religious war. We have seen a similar tendency in the past five weeks, as millions of people sympathetic to the plight of Gazans seek to rationalise the October 7 terrorist attacks as a justified response to the policies of the Israeli government."
Her recent turn to Christianity was framed not just as a personal choice but as a response to global challenges, asserting the value of Judeo-Christian heritage in uniting against threats to Western civilization. She argues for the importance of upholding laws and traditions that have their roots in Judeo-Christian beliefs that have shaped Western history and fostered freedoms, suggesting that secular approaches alone are insufficient to combat ideological threats.
She contrasted the freedom to speak openly against Christianity or the U.S. against the middle eastern countries where that freedom didn't exist. Where other personal freedoms don't exist.
She wrote, "Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin's Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation."
"To me, this freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilization. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities. It was these debates that advanced science and reason, diminished cruelty, suppressed superstitions, and built institutions to order and protect life, while guaranteeing freedom to as many people as possible. Unlike Islam, Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage. It became increasingly clear that Christ's teaching implied not only a circumscribed role for religion as something separate from politics. It also implied compassion for the sinner and humility for the believer."
"Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?"
She critiques the vacuum left by secularism, echoing G.K. Chesterton's notion that the absence of belief in God can lead to susceptibility to irrational beliefs. It proposes that Christianity provides a more robust framework for meaning and community, one that is necessary to counterbalance the divisive forces of extremism and the "woke ideology" that she perceives is undermining Western society and culture.
Ultimately, the essay is a call to recognize and reaffirm the foundational narratives that have historically underpinned Western culture and the United States. Ayaan Hirsi Ali presents her embrace of Christianity as both a return to spiritual roots and a strategic imperative for preserving and strengthening Western civilizational values in the face of multiple global threats. This reflection seeks to offer insight into the powerful role that belief systems play in personal identity and collective resilience, positioning Christianity as a bulwark in these tumultuous times.
While many people oppose Christianity and the freedoms of the U.S., I am thankful that we can discuss all these things openly, and can act on our freedoms. With Veteran's Day still fresh on my mind, I pray our military will remain strong, not so much to fight foreign wars on foreign soil, but to defend the U.S. and keep our way of life rooted in Judeo-Christian values. And those who disagree with those values and principals are free to express themselves and work against it.