Dutch feminist, New York Times best-selling author, and one of Europe’s foremost critics of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali will speak at the Frank J. and Sylvia T. Pasquerilla Lecture Series being held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, in the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center Studio Theatre.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. for security checks. Cell phones, cameras, back packs, bags or containers of any kind are not permitted. No bottles containing any kind of liquids. Purses will be subject to individual inspection. Everyone will be wanded and searched prior to entering the Studio Theatre.
The 38-year-old Dutch citizen is a women’s rights advocate living in Washington, D.C. Born in Somalia into the Majeerteen sub-clan of the Darod clan, her father, Hirsi Magan Isse, was a prominent member of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front and a leading figure in the civil war of Somalia. At six, her family left Somalia for Saudi Arabia, later moving to Ethiopia and then to Kenya, where the family obtained political asylum.
Her recently released memoir, Infidel (titled, My Freedom, in the Netherlands) has climbed on the New York Times best-seller list. In this book, Ms. Hirsi Ali “evokes the details of her early years, and then simply lets these scenes speak for themselves.” The memoir is as much about her political agenda as it is her life, and in between tales of her youth she wedges harsh and uncompromising declarations about Islam. In Infidel she describes herself as a woman who “fights for the rights of Muslim women, the enlightenment of Islam and the security of the West.”
Ms. Hirsi Ali attended secondary school in Kenya. From the middle of the 1990’s she studied political science in Leiden (Netherlands) and at the same time held various jobs, such as cleaning woman and mail sorter.
In 2001-2002 she was an interpreter and translator. In 2002 she joined the think tank of the Dutch Social Democratic Party. In 2003, she switched over to the Dutch right-of-the centre (classical) liberal party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), because of this party’s firm stand on immigration issues and became a Member of Parliament from January 2003 until May 2006. She announced her resignation on May 15, 2006 from Parliament and confirmed her previous statement that she would move to the United States to work at the American Enterprise Institute, a pro-market economics think tank in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Hirsi Ali has an incredible command of the Dutch language and is a sharp debater. She abhors woolly, placating rhetoric, which is so typical of Dutch politics. According to a recent poll she ranks second among the most popular politicians in Holland. And, her political star is still rising.
It was the criticism by the late Pim Fortuyn (the Dutch politician who was killed by animal rights activists) of the impact of Islam on the Dutch society which sharpened her awareness of the threat of Muslim radicalism. Mr. Fortuyn qualified Islam as a backward religion and Ms. Hirsi Ali shares this view. When she was still in the socialist party she wanted to put the issue high on the political agenda. But the party did not support her view, because it was afraid that it would play into Mr. Fortuyn’s hands. Ms. Hirsi Ali is especially critical of the lack of tolerance for dissenting opinions among Muslims, as well as their oppression of women.
According to Ms. Hirsi Ali, the emotions incited by her statements, especially among radical Muslims, underscores the state of Islam. (Radical) Muslims are incapable of self-reflection. Consequently, any critical remark is perceived as an offense.
Ms. Hirsi Ali believes that the Dutch are insufficiently aware of the threat which a rapidly growing radical Islam poses for the basic values and norms of Dutch society. Because of her outspokenness on these issues she has received death threats and needs permanent personal protection.
Book sale and signing to follow the lecture. Free and open to the public. Seating is limited. For more information, call 1-800-846-ARTS (2787) or 269-7200 or visit www.upj.pitt.edu/ArtsCenter.
The Frank J. and Sylvia T. Pasquerilla Lecture Series was established in 1999 to bring speakers of renown in all academic disciplines to the area. Upon announcing the gift, Mark E. Pasquerilla said, “Our endowment for a lecture series should enable large intellectual personalities to visit the area. Imagine Stephen Hawking or a Nobel Prize laureate speaking in Johnstown for the first time. It is important to fill one’s life with inspiring, unforgettable moments. Hopefully, our gift will do this for some of the students at UPJ.”
Past speakers in the lecture include journalist, author, and current editor of Atlantic Monthly, Robert D. Kaplan; economic historian Niall Ferguson; internationally-known author Charles McCarry; best-selling author Robert Kagan; veteran case officer of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and author Robert Baer; author and journalist Peter Bergen; political consultant David Garth, and author and critic Stanley Crouch.
Founded in 1927, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is a four-year, degree-granting college of the University of Pittsburgh with an enrollment of approximately 3,200. The university offers more than 40 majors and is known for its engineering technology, education, humanities, natural and social sciences degree programs. UPJ has been ranked “Third in the North,” among public comprehensive colleges and universities, northern region, by U.S. News and World Report, America’s Best Colleges, 2007.