It is not particularly difficult to explain what Ayaan Hirsi Ali stands against. She dislikes Islam and is suspicious and critical of people who insist on the possibility of multiculturalism in Europe and America.
What does she stand for? Ali is an evangelist of the modern school of thought that invokes an inherent supremacy of Western civilisation, as defined by them.
This school of thought draws acolytes from different spaces. They include the neuroscientist Sam Harris, psychologist Jordan Peterson, the physicist Richard Dawkins, the late journalist Christopher Hitchens as well as comedian Bill Maher.
Primed by no less a vision than Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, Western civilisation supremacists (for lack of an umbrella term) are bound together, despite differences about faith and science, by the idea that Euro-American way of life is not just different but better than others.
Among such things this group describes as uniquely Western are democracy, modern economics, scientific rationality and the philosophy of individualism.
That being said, Ali’s ideological positions seem like what you would make of any Western libertarian, classical liberal or conservative. But she does not have the story of your everyday Westerner.
Born in Mogadishu on November 13, 1969, Ali suffered the fate of many who were raised up in the arguably failed state of Somalia. Her father was a political prisoner of the Siad Barre government.
The family escaped Somalia as refugees to Kenya via Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia.
In 1992, Ali alone settled in the Netherlands after having run from an arranged marriage. In the Netherlands, she worked and saw herself through school until she attained an MSc in political science in 2000.
In Europe, Ali says she was forced to juxtapose the life she has always known in Africa and with her family as a Muslim.
Apart from the botched arranged marriage, Ali was a victim of genital mutilation and what she describes as an overall subjugation of women. While Europe was freer for a woman, Ali says she noticed Muslim in Europe could not participate in this constitutional guarantee.
After renouncing Islam in 2002, Ali set about critiquing the faith she has always known and identified with.
She says of Islam and the September 11 attacks in New York: “I picked up the Qur’an and the hadith and started looking through them, to check. I hated to do it, because I knew that I would find Bin Laden’s quotations in there.”
Ali explains that after realising Islam was not the eponymous religion of peace, she dismissed the holy scripture as just any other book. However, in her career as a critic of the religion, she claims that Christianity and other faiths are not as violent as Islam.
In 2003, she was elected to the Dutch parliament on the ticket of a center-right party but had to resign a year into her role after accusations that she falsified her immigration documents.
However, everything has been looking up for Ali since settling in the United States in 2006. She has become a bestselling author, a lecturer, public intellectual and one of the fiercest voices against what she describes as “political Islam”.
Ali is not open to a generous immigration policy that would allow refugees from Muslim-majority countries to settle in Europe and America. She is also a supporter of Euro-American political philosophies that appeal to nativist conceptions of identity.
As a result of her identity and views, Ali is a prized ally of Western civilisation supremacists who are more than grateful that a former Muslim is willing to repudiate a culture they are not enthused about.
For the advocates of multiculturalism, Ali is a rather unfortunate adversary. She is almost untouchable for those who centre identity in arguments of power relations.
Conclusively, she has made a lot of Muslims unhappy too. Her critiques of the faith are sharp and pointed as Ali refuses to accept any explanation of the story of Muslims in the West as the result of Western imperialism.