Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and raised throughout Africa and Saudi Arabia. As a young woman she found herself on a plane to Canada, being forced by her father into a marriage to a cousin she had never met. When her plane had a stopover in Germany, she left the airport, boarded a train to the Netherlands and became a refugee.
After gaining asylum, she became an interpreter for other Somalis at battered women's shelters and abortion clinics. Seeing the difficulty her fellow people had in adapting to Western culture, she began studying political science at a Dutch university and then became a member of Dutch Parliament, fighting for the rights of Muslim women and the integration of Islam into the West.
Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, Ayaan denounced Islam. She went on to create works that were critical of Islam, including a short film about the status of Muslim women entitled "Submission." When her co-filmaker, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered by a radical young Muslim, Ayaan found that her life was being threatened as well. She was forced to live with round the clock security details and left behind "normal life." She left Dutch politics and moved to the United States, continuing her work of fighting crimes against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour violence.
Nomad is the follow-up to Ayaan's 2007 memoir, Infidel. Nomad picks up from when she moved to the United States, and begins with details of those closest to her, and how their lives influenced hers. She speaks of how Islam clashed with Western culture in their lives, and for many led to poverty, violence and for some, death. She looks at how most were forced to make a decision between Islam or Western culture and how very few were able to find a balance.
This leads to her current work and views on Islam and the West. She writes of the mistakes that European countries have made in underestimating radical Islam and calls upon pillars of the West to become involved assisting Muslim immigrants to overcome the challenges they face. She gives specific action points that she feels will help to fight fundamentalism and terrorism.
In looking at three specific issues - sex, money, violence - Ayaan helps readers to understand why Muslims face the specific challenges they do when entering Western society. But she doesn't just call on the West to solve these problems, she calls on Muslim cultures and people to look at their faith and culture from a Western view, not the other way around. Her own story illustrates how Islam clashes with Western society and what needs to be done to make the two compatible.
When one thinks of the right to freedom of speech, they should think about Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is risking her life to get out a message that many don't want the world to hear. But at the same time, she receives validation from the many Muslim women who appreciate her work and agree with her, but don't feel that they could speak out the way she does. Many Muslims feel that apostasy is punishable by death, which is why Ayaan remains under constant watch of security.
No matter what your faith or political alignments, Ayaan's story is one to read. Her words will challenge you to examine your beliefs and what you can do to help oppressed people around the world. It is Ayaan's firm belief that minds need to be changed in order to keep our world and every person safe.