4th Annual Ray & Mary Giles Symposium on Citizenship and Public Service

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October 27th, 2011 will be keynote speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, the daughter of a political opponent of the Somali dictatorship who grew up in exile.

At age 23, Ali was ordered to marry a distant cousin who lived in Canada. She fled to the Netherlands where she was granted asylum and, in time, citizenship. Ali quickly learned Dutch and studied at the University of Leiden. Working as a translator for Somali immigrants, she observed the inconsistencies between liberal, Western society and tribal, Muslim cultures.

After earning her M.A. in political science, Ali worked as a researcher until she was elected as a member of the Dutch parliament.

She gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh who had directed her short film Submission, about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh’s chest.

In 2006, Ali had to resign from parliament when forces in the Dutch government revoked her citizenship, arguing that she had falsified her asylum application. The courts confirmed her citizenship, leading to the fall of the government. Disillusioned with the Netherlands, she moved to the US.

A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Ali researches the relationship between the West and Islam. Her willingness to speak out and her abandonment of the Muslim faith have made her a target for violence.

Ali was named one of TIME Magazine's “100 Most Influential People” of 2005.

Ali has published a collection of essays, The Caged Virgin (2006), a memoir, Infidel (2007), and presented many speeches. She has just completed Nomad, the second volume of her autobiography, and is working on Shortcut to Enlightenment, a dialogue between Mohammed and three influential Western thinkers: John Stuart Mill, Karl Popper, and Friedrich von Hayek.