Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the most forceful and provocative feminist critics challenging Islam today, will discuss her views on the state of Muslim women in the United States and around the world during a visit to the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service on January 20.

Above: Feminist critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali will discuss her views on the state of Muslim women in the United States and around the world on January 20.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Discuss the State of Muslim Women at the Bob Graham Center

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the most forceful and provocative feminist critics challenging Islam today, will discuss her views on the state of Muslim women in the United States and around the world during a visit to the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service on January 20.

A resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Hirsi Ali is the author most recently of Nomad, a memoir of her political awakening. She will speak in Pugh Hall’s Ocora at 6 p.m.

In 1992, at age 22, the Somali-born Hirsi Ali was living in Nairobi, Kenya, when she was suddenly informed that her father had married her off to a distant relative in Toronto. En route to Canada, she decided to flee and boarded a train in Germany that took her to the Netherlands, where she claimed refugee status.

She earned a political science degree and briefly served as an MP in the Dutch parliament before her role in a controversial film ended in a horrifying tragedy that made her an international figure. The movie, “Submission,” dealt with the subjugation of Muslim women. After it aired, director Theo Van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic extremist in Amsterdam. Hirsi Ali faced death threats that forced her out of office and into exile again in the United States.

In the U.S., she has authored two books that, along with her speeches, have stirred further controversy for their strong condemnations of certain practices in Islam. Hirsi Ali herself is a victim of genital mutilation, a ritual imposed on young girls in Africa and parts of the Middle East, and has campaigned forcefully against it. She has called the burka, the traditional garment that covers a woman’s hair and body in traditional Islam, a form of “female apartheid.” She also has suggested that Christian churches should play a stronger role in the Islamic world as a modernizing influence. Though she has often been labeled a conservative in the United States, Hirsi Ali considers herself a traditional liberal and is in fact pro-choice and a strong supporter of gay rights.

"I believe that the subjection of women within Islam is the biggest obstacle to the integration and progress of Muslim communities in the West," Hirsi Ali writes in Nomad. "It is a subjection committed by the closest kin in the most intimate place, the home, and it is sanctioned by the greatest figure in the imagination of Muslims: Allah himself."

This event will also be streamed live on Jan. 20 from the Bob Graham Center website, www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu.

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service is a community of students, scholars and politically engaged citizens, devoted to enhanced citizenship; the training of current and future public and civic leaders who can identify problems and spearhead change; and the development of policy on issues of importance to Florida, the United States and the global community.

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Vicki Gervickas, vgervickas@ufl.edu, 352-846-1575

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