Ayaan Hirsi Ali lauded by rights group as example of living the "courage of her convictions"

Outspoken critic raises public awareness of civil-rights concerns about Islamic orthodoxy.

Former Dutch parliamentarian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is presented the inaugural, "Ziegler Prize for Courage of Convictions," from Community Advocates human-rights group, led by David A. Lehrer in Los Angeles. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan introduced and presented Ms. Ali with the award.

Ms. Ali describes her courageous transformation from a repressed woman under Islamic culture, to a Western freedom-icon. For exposing the repressiveness of orthodox Islam (including oppressing women, subjugating non-Muslims, and hatred towards Jews), she has been forced to live under constant fear of murder for perceived apostasy. She gives an acceptance speech in this video (runs about 20 minutes):
(Please note that the stage-microphone kicks-in at around 10:55 & adjusts to normal volume at 14:22).

In describing the message Ms. Ali conveys through her auto-biography, "Infidel," Pulitzer-prize winning author, Anne Applebaum wrote in The Washington Post:
Ms. Ali (also) describes how horrified she felt as an adult after Sept. 11, 2001, reaching for the Koran to find out whether some of Osama bin Laden's more blood-curdling statements -- "when you meet the unbelievers, strike them in the neck" -- were direct quotations.
"I hated to do it," she wrote, "because I knew that I would find bin Laden's quotations in there." And there were consequences: "The little shutter at the back of my mind, where I pushed all my dissonant thoughts, snapped open after the 9/11 attacks, and it refused to close again.
I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. . . . And it is a very tribal and Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war."

That moment led Hirsi Ali to her most profound conclusion: that the mistreatment of women is not an incidental problem in the Muslim world, a side issue that can be dealt with once the more important political problems are out of the way.

Rather, she believes that the enslavement of women lies at the heart of all of the most fanatical interpretations of Islam, creating "a culture that generates more backwardness with every generation."

Ultimately, it led to her most controversial conclusion too: that Islam is in a period of transition, that the religion as it is currently practiced is often incompatible with modernity and democracy and must radically transform itself in order to become so.

"We in the West," she writes, "would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life."

That sentiment, when first expressed in Holland, infuriated not only Hirsi Ali's compatriots but also Dutch intellectuals uneasy about criticizing the immigrants in their midst, particularly because both Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh went further than the usual criticism of radical, political Islam: Both believed that even "ordinary" forms of Islam, such as those practiced in Hirsi Ali's Somalia, contain elements of discrimination against women that should not be tolerated in the West.

Thanks to this belief in female equality, Hirsi Ali now requires permanent bodyguards. But having "moved from the world of faith to the world of reason," Hirsi Ali now says she cannot go back.

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