Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an internationally known women’s rights advocate and a best-selling author, but now she has some Silicon Valley muscle behind her in her battle to end two of radical Islam’s most barbaric practices.
Ali, a Somali-born activist who went on to become a member of the Dutch parliament and now lives in the U.S., won over Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, along with his personal pledge of $100,000, in her fight to put a stop to female genital mutilation and honor killings.
“I don’t see how anyone who believes in the rule of law and the rights of women could do anything other than support efforts to end female-genital mutilation, forced marriage and honor-killings -- practices that have no place in the 21st century,” Schmidt told Ali after the two met at a recent conference.
Ali, whose courageous fight against radical Islam and the toll it takes on women has earned her a spot on Al Qaeda’s hit list and gotten her disinvited to a Brandeis University ceremony in which she was to have received an honorary degree, said Schmidt’s backing is a huge boost to her AHA Foundation.
“I feel massive gratitude,” Ali told Fox News. “I find him to be incredibly brave when so few people, especially in his league, make this choice. I think he has a very sound understanding of the creed of liberalism.”
Schmidt could not be reached for further comment.
Ali went through female-genital mutilation at age 5, even though her father was against the practice.
“My grandmother went ahead and did it behind his back,” Ali said.
The procedure, called “cleansing” by its practitioners, involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, often performed without anesthesia. It is designed to ensure females remain virgins until marriage.
Ali warns the brutal practice is not just a foreign issue -- it is here in the United States. According to a 2013 census by the Population Reference Bureau, approximately 500,000 women and girls in the United States have undergone, or are at risk of the procedure.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had the door closed for us more times than we’ve had the door opened for us in terms of policy makers and mainstream women’s rights organizations,” human rights attorney Paula Kweskin said. “I think there is a paralyzing political correctness that stifles the discussion on this.”
Kweskin worked with Ali on Honor Diaries, a 2014 film to break the silence on issues of honor violence and female genital mutilation.
Honor killings, in which women are murdered for supposedly bringing “shame” to their families, are another issue women in radical Muslim families and societies face. Although rare in the United States, there have been cases of suspected honor killings, including the 2008 case of a Texas taxi driver who killed his daughters after becoming enraged at their Westernization, and a Buffalo, N.Y., man who beheaded his wife in 2009 after she sought a divorce.
Ali is harshly critical of Western feminists, who she says are often concerned with correcting the wrongs that “their” men commit, yet not engaged in practices that harm women from other cultures.
“It is not universal,” Ali said. “They get tongue-tied when it comes to things that happen to women in the name of Islam.”
Raheel Raza, an Honor Diaries spokesperson and practicing Muslim, blames the silence on fear.
“Not everyone wants to live in a cloud of fear,” she said. “No one wants to speak out against Islam.”
Ali is one of 10 on the Al Qaeda kill list that was released in an Islamic propaganda magazine in 2013 with the subtitle: “A bullet a day keeps the infidel away.” Ali has been under protection since 2002, but refuses to be silenced.
“The worst thing I can do is give in,” she said. “Going into hiding, not publishing, lying, saying I am going back to the faith -- all of that is giving in.”