Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak at Central Congregational Church's West Lecture

Oct 2, 2013

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the internationally-recognized political figure, activist and writer, will speak on the conflict between Islam and the ideology of the modern Western world at  Central Congregational Church’s annual religion and politics lecture on Friday, October 18 in the church sanctuary at 296 Angell Street on Providence's East Side.

She will give the church’s annual Darrell West lecture on the intersection between religion and politics. The event takes place at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1969. The daughter of a political dissenter  from the Somali dictatorship, she grew up in exile, moving from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia and then Kenya. As a child, she was subjected  to female genital  mutilation. She tried to live as a devout Muslim, but grew to question parts of her faith. In 1992, she fled to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage.

After being awarded her masters’ degree in political science from Leiden University, Ayaan won election as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006, where she focused on defending the rights of Muslim women. She campaigned vigorously to raise awareness of  violence against women, including genital mutilation and honor murders, practices that had followed some Muslim immigrants into Holland.

In 2004, she gained international acclaim after the murder of Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had been the director of her film, `Submission’ which focused on the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin, a radical Muslim, left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh’s chest. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named one of Time Magazine’s `100 Most Influential People’ in 2005.

Ayaan is currently a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank, in Washington, D.C. , where she researches the relationship between Western values and Islam. She also started a foundation to defend the rights of women in the West against militant Islam.

She is also the author of a collection of essays, `The Caged Virgin’ and atwo-part autobiography entitled `Infidel,’ published in 2007 and `Nomad,’ published in 2010. She lives with 24-hour security because her willingness to speak out against militant Islam has made her a target for violence by extremists.

Her lecture is the tenth in the West lecture series. West is a former Brown University political science professor and well-regarded political pollster, commentator and author. He is currently senior vice president at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. When he lived in Providence, West worshipped at and was a member of Central Congregational Church.

Among the previous speakers in West lecture series are Washington Post columnist and Georgetown University professor E.J. Dionne;  Princeton University religious scholar Elaine Pagels; Juan Williams, political commentator at NPR and Fox News;  and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent at NPR.