Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a supporter of atheism who rejected her Muslim faith as anti-women and anti-tolerance, told a group of guests at the home of Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni last Thursday evening, “One day I hope to convert to Judaism.”
“I tried it but it was very difficult,” she said at the outset of an hour-long discussion at an “Intellectual Salon,” part of a series of programs hosted by Aharoni and his wife, Julie.
It was difficult to tell if Hirsi Ali, 45, the Somali-born free speech activist, writer and former politician, was serious about converting. (Later in the evening she raised the topic again, laughingly noting that life as a Jew could be “a permanent quarrel” because of the many points of view Judaism encompasses.)
But the author of a new book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now,” was quite serious in asserting that Islamic extremists need to be defeated rather than engaged in dialogue aimed at reconciliation. She said President Obama was naïve in his approach to Iran over nuclear arms, failing to recognize that in the Islamic mindset, compromise equals shame. “Their minds are frozen in the Middle Ages,” she said. “Change will only come from the heretics.”
Interviewed by legal expert and author Thane Rosenbaum at the salon, Hirsi Ali criticized Obama for calling Islam a religion of peace. “Why, Mr. President, do you insist on [speaking of] what Islam should be instead of what it is?”
Asked her reaction to being disinvited as a speaker at last spring’s Brandeis University graduation, charged by some faculty and students as being an “Islamaphobe,” she said, “Brandeis didn’t do me wrong, they did themselves wrong.” She added that she would never let herself be characterized as a victim.
Hirsi Ali became a household name in 2004 when, having immigrated to the Netherlands, death threats were made against her and Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, for the short film they collaborated on, called “Submission,” which was critical of Islam. After van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch Muslim, she fled to the U.S., and works at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. She remains outspoken, despite her belief that she is still on an Islamic “hit list” because, she says, she is “a woman, an apostate, a lover of Israel, and a lover of Zion,” admiring the Jewish state for asserting and fighting for its right to exist.
“I hope and pray I die in bed of old age at 100,” she told her admiring audience. “But if they get me before then, please, I beg of you, do not give in.”