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Deconstructing Ayaan Hirsi Ali: On Islamism, Neoconservatism, and the Clash of Civilizations

Oudenampsen, Merijn

The Somali-born Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been one of the world's most influential voices in present debates on the role of Islam in Western societies. Particular to Hirsi Ali's role as a public figure is that her political views are largely expressed in biographical writing. This has led many to believe that Hirsi Ali's views on Islam are simply a reflection of her personal experiences. This article aims to deconstruct her biographical narrative. It situates Hirsi Ali's writing in relation to two formative intellectual influences: Sunni Islamic fundamentalism and neoconservatism. Hirsi Ali became part of the Islamic fundamentalist movement in her teenage years, and joined an influential circle of neoconservative intellectuals after her arrival and study in the Netherlands. The paper will show how Hirsi Ali has sought to consciously transpose the fundamentalist image of Islam, known to her from her youth, unto Islam as a whole. It will trace the development of Hirsi Ali's views on Islam, which are of decidedly Western extraction, deriving from the Western tradition of Orientalism. And it will show how these adopted views are—in important respects—in open contradiction with her personal life story, as told in her biography, Infidel.
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