Born in Mogadishu, Somalia and raised in a devoutly Muslim household, Ali grew up in an oppressive Islamic society yet surfaced to tell her tale.
Ali, now in her 40s, has lived a life rarely fathomed anywhere but within the pages of an adventure book. After surviving genital mutilation as a child, fleeing to the Netherlands to escape from an arranged marriage in her twenties, condemning her former faith, and surviving multiple death threats, Ali is now a staunch and outspoken advocate for women and human rights in Islamic countries.
Advocating for justice in the Muslim world has not been easy. After receiving asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, Ali earned a degree in political science at the University of Leiden and served in the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006 — often speaking out passionately about the plight of women in the Muslim world.
In 2004, Ali partnered with director Theo van Gogh to create a film about the Muslim oppression of women, called “Submission.” Several months after the film aired, a Muslim radical named Mohammed Bouyeri murdered van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam, stabbing a note to his body warning Ali that she would be next. Since then, Ali has been in hiding, protected by 24-hour security.
Now living, writing, and speaking out in America, Ali continues to reflect on the life she left behind. In a recent conversation with The Daily Caller, Ali explained that she never realized what a risk she was taking when she left Islam and began speaking out against it.
“When I first started publishing and responding to interviews I didn’t know that my life was in danger,” she said. “And when I got the question, ‘So are you, yourself, Muslim?’ The answer I gave was no, I’m secularized and I realized too late that that answer meant, as a Muslim, I am an apostate and inviting violence.”
“If you look at nations that have adopted Sharia law, you see a number of things: you see an upsurge in the violations of human rights — rights of women, gay people, and religious minorities. You see a dictatorship at all times even though it is sometimes presented as a democracy. For instance, because Islamic law is divine law who ever takes control of government puts himself in the position of God,” she said.
Growing up in a culture that shuns women is incompatible with the ideals of feminism, Ali told TheDC, saying that she got the strength to leave Somalia and the culture in which she was raised from within herself and from circumstances in her life that were unusual for women in her situation — specifically having the opportunity to get an education.
“I was sent to school and there are so many Muslim girls who never go to school or never get to finish it,” she said. “Another circumstance which put me in a lucky position is my father left our family when I was about 10- or 11-years old and he returned when I was 21. And that’s the period when most girls get married off. So, if I had been married off at 16 or 17, I would’ve been much more vulnerable — not as strong. But at 22, after having observed what happens to these young women who are married off and how their lives get shattered, that strengthened me even more to say no to these men.”
Ali says that she never reached common ground with her father and has little idea of where her mother is, saying only that she is “somewhere in Somalia.” CONTINUED
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