If ever there was a walking, talking exemplar of courage today, then surely that description befits Somali born Ayann Hirsi Ali.
As a victim of female genital mutilation and former Islamist sympathiser, Ali has dared to incur the wrath of both Islamists and their many apologists as she fearlessly calls out the breathtaking double standards of mainstream Western politics. Hounded by both those outside the law as well as those who make it, Hirsi Ali has fearlessly campaigned for the reform of Islamic doctrine, particularly in relation to the issue of women's rights. She is also a thorn in the side of a contemporary feminist grievance culture as she constantly calls out their hysterical denunciation of an incorrect word or an advertising campaign, while highlighting their hypocritical silence when it comes to women's rights in Islamic communities.
Fleeing to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage, Hirsi Ali has lived under constant threat of violence from one source or another for the better part of twenty years. That threat became all too real when her colleague Theo Van Gogh was murdered in 2004. Hirsi Ali had written the script for his controversial film entitled Submission (2004), which is a short but hard hitting critique of the condition of women in Islamic societies.
Despite living with constant security, Hirsi Ali has continued to highlight the repressive conditions endured by many women across the Islamic world and increasingly in the West, while fearlessly calling out the sustained conspiracy of silence involving far too many over-privileged women's advocates.
In recent years, she has been the target of persistent lawfare and political assassination campaigns by several groups which have taken issue with her uncompromising and logically consistent stance on women's rights in the Islamic world. This campaign has seen her banned from speaking at various venues, as well has having to cancel numerous engagements for security reasons. She was even classified as an anti-Islamic extremist by the influential Southern Poverty Law Centre, although the SPLC withdrew that designation following protests by a number of well known newspapers.
Undeterred, Hirsi Ali has been reaching new audiences on the intellectual dark web in recent years, having been interviewed by a number of prominent alternative journalists and political analysts. Her sit down with Dave Rubin has netted close to 200,000 views, while her famous presentation for Prager University has netted a whopping six million plus and counting.
A modern heretic in the truest sense, Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes us uncomfortable because she says what we know to be true deep down, but still wish it wasn't. She disturbs because she reminds us that the world is not made better by simply looking the other way and not wanting to cause offence. She highlights how that offence, whether genuine or politically expedient, is a vital ingredient for personal and societal development. She reminds us that our privileged position here in the secular West is not some inevitable destination on history's journey, but a shining exception in an otherwise dark and rather bleak world of repression and injustice...especially if you're a woman.
No matter how much we might like to pretend we stand for something, Ayaan Hirsi Ali reminds us that fighting for justice isn't about online petitions or sharing memes on Facebook; it's about having the courage to tell uncomfortable truths in the face of concerted opposition and real danger to life, limb and livelihood.
In a world of Twittersphere outrage and safe, cosy online activism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the real deal.