Yesterday, I had the very great privilege of attending the Pacific Research Institute’s annual Sir Antony Fisher Freedom Awards dinner. The honoree and keynote speaker was the luminous Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Because it would have been inappropriate to take notes at this posh, Ritz Hotel affair, I’ll try to reconstruct from memory as best I can what Ali said. Everything she said was worth hearing and I hope I can do her justice.
In order to appreciate the impact of Ali’s words, it helps to begin with her presence. She is a tall, slender, poised woman, whose manner is almost, but not quite, self-effacing. She understands her worth, but realizes that she is not the only hero in the never-ending fight to preserve individual liberties. Her voice is quiet, but strong; her accent gentle; and her grasp of the vernacular, while superb, is endearingly imperfect at times (as was the case when she referred to the Europeans’ smug belief that all Americans are fat “potato couches”).
Ali’s presence — quietly powerful and manifestly fulfilled by the role in which she finds herself — exemplifies the two points that underpin her every utterance: each individual’s value and the fact that freedom is necessary to enable individuals to reach their highest and best purpose in life — even if that purpose isn’t elevated in and of itself.
The other thing one needs to know about Ali in order to appreciate the important message she delivers is the event that catapulted her from being a Dutch politician to being a world figure. Ali had been working with Theo van Gogh (Vincent’s great-grand nephew) on Submission, a film exploring how Islam abuses and subjugates women. Mohammed Bouyeri took umbrage at this exercise of free speech and voiced his objection so savagely that, when he slaughtered van Gogh in the street, he left von Gogh almost completely decapitated. He then pinned a note to van Gogh’s body (by stabbing a knife through both the note and van Gogh’s chest) warning that Ali was next.
Others who shall not be named have gone into hiding after learning that sharia-inspired assassins are targeting them. Not so Ali. She went the other way, making it her life’s mission to expose tyranny in all forms, with special emphasis on Islamic tyranny, something she knows all too well.