Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Four Defenders of the Faith – 2: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

1 January 2024

5.3 MINS

In the first instalment in this series, I noted the contrast and the swift reversal from the situation faced by Christians over the past two decades since the rise of what became known as “The New Atheism”. Then there was weeping and gnashing of teeth because of the onslaught of book after book denouncing Christianity and the God of the Bible.

I then noted that the tide quickly turned, at least as far as Christian responses went. The reality was that their books were, in an intellectual context, more thud and blunder than blood and thunder!

But since then, we’ve seen the rise of a new threat which is far more significant, as it is undermining the whole ethos of Western culture, white-anting it from the inside out, with Christianity the ultimate target.

But as I mentioned in that first instalment, here’s one of life’s great ironies: unlike the opposition to “The New Atheists”, the most public opposition to this current threat is not coming exclusively from Christians, but from the secular world, and in two of the four people I will focus on, from within the ranks of “The New Atheists”!

Those four are Jordan Peterson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray and James Lindsay. And having covered Peterson, I’m now turning my attention to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


Ali’s life has been anything but uneventful. She was born in Somalia in 1969 and had the typically strict Islamic upbringing of that culture, including female genital mutilation at the age of 5 on the insistence of her grandmother, in keeping with her understanding of Islam. In her teens, Hirsi Ali came under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and adopted their radical ideology.

Then, at 22, she was married off — against her will — to a distant cousin. While en route to join him in Canada, she fled to the Netherlands, where she applied successfully for political asylum.

There, she studied political science and graduated with a Masters degree, then gained a position as a researcher with the Centre-Left Labour Party ((Partij van de Arbeid), but later joined the Centre-Right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie). In 2003, she successfully ran for Parliament.

Prior to this, she became disenchanted with Islam after the 9/11 attacks in America, renounced Islam and became an atheist.

Then, according to Encyclopedia Britannica:

“In 2004 she worked with filmmaker Theo van Gogh to create Submission, a jarring, incendiary film depicting Islam as a religion that sanctions the abuse of women. Several weeks after the film aired on Dutch television, van Gogh was murdered — shot and stabbed, with a knife pinning to his body a letter that called for the death of Hirsi Ali also.”

Shortly after (due to her citizenship being challenged, though later reinstated), she moved to the United States, where she ultimately became a citizen in 2013. She is the author of a number of books, only one of which I have so far read, that being her autobiographical Infidel from 2007.

But of greater interest to the subject at hand, she became friends with both Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, and soon became close to the group that became known as “The Four Horsemen”. According to Wikipedia, the genesis of the group came about this way:

On 30 September 2007, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett met at Hitchens’ residence in Washington, D.C., for a private two-hour unmoderated round table discussion. The event was videotaped and titled “The Four Horsemen”… Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a central figure of New Atheism…

Hirsi Ali, originally scheduled to attend the 2007 meeting, later appeared with Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention, where she was referred to as the “plus one horse-woman” by Dawkins. Robyn Blumner, CEO of the Center for Inquiry, described Hirsi Ali as the “Fifth” Horseman.

This brings us to the most dramatic of reversals, that being her recent announcement of conversion to Christianity, in an article in the online magazine UnHerd, titled “Why I am Now a Christian”, a wordplay on the title of the famous 1927 lecture by the atheist philosopher Lord Bertrand Russell entitled “Why I am Not a Christian”.

This article has caused more of a commotion, and produced more commentary from Christian commentators, not to mention a whole spectrum of opinions, than almost any other conversion by a famous identity since that of Bob Dylan 45 years ago. And it’s shocking to see the number of armchair theological critics who have been negative or dubious in their responses.

Extending Grace

A number of those Christian commentators, like Isaac Willour of the American Enterprise Institute, writing for The Gospel Coalition, and Carl Trueman, the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, at First Things, made note of the fact that Ali does not mention Christ in her article, which was the main reason I saw the armchair critics on social media casting doubt on her conversion, but to their credit, they, like a number of others, used that to draw more positive conclusions.

My first thought after I read her article, and then saw all the suspicion and cynicism on social media, was in relation to the limitations she would have been faced with in writing such an article. How much space have you been permitted? Has the editor placed any other limitations on you?

And when I watched this video interview, she did acknowledge that there was a word limit involved.

As an aside, I found this article on Richard Dawkins’ blog site, The Poetry of Reality: “Open letter from Richard Dawkins to Ayaan Hirsi-Ali”, which makes interesting reading from the other side, and one on which I might make an extended comment on at a future date, as it highlights a number of the logical contradictions at the heart of the atheist worldview.

But returning to the matter at hand, by far the best of the many articles I found was one by Perth blogger and author Stephen McAlpine, who, referring to the announcement by an atheist friend of his that he had become a Christian, wrote about how he “finds himself running the Gloryometer over someone who hasn’t signed off on faith the way that I would consider the right path…

… ‘I’ve become a Christian.’

‘Oh really? Let me be the judge of that.’

See the problem? My gut instinct upon his profession of faith was, ‘Only if that’s okay with me.’”

McAlpine notes the repeated charges that Hirsi Ali’s conversion is really only “utilitarian”, and counters with:

“Everyone’s racing off to the kitchen to the third drawer down and fumbling around for their Gloryometer, to run it over her and see if she passes muster.”

He also draws this apt comparison with a convert from atheism of a bygone era:

“… if CS Lewis (by no means an evangelical but who has somehow become our patron saint) had put the start of his conversion story that way, we’d all be sharing it around. Waxing lyrical about it. Using it on Insta and Facebook.”

So true!

But in my mind, I thought of a convert from an even earlier age, and one who may have met with a similar level of incomprehension and suspicion. When I thought about Hirsi Ali’s life up to now, and in particular the incredible challenges and dangerous situations she’s faced, and not least this complete about-face, I was reminded of the former slave trader and God-hater, John Newton, who wrote possibly the best-known hymn of all, Amazing Grace, and in particular this verse:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”

With that in mind, I believe that those who are busy analysing and dissecting her short statement of faith, and demanding more from her before they accept that she is truly “one of us”, need to exercise grace, and patiently wait to hear more, but also silently wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to act, Who Isaiah described this way:

“A bent reed He will not break off and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” (Isaiah 42:3 NASB)

Even more than this, we should all pray that she becomes an even more formidable spokeswoman for the Christian worldview than she was for the atheist worldview and against radical Islam.


Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Kathy Gasper 1 January 2024 at 10:49 am - Reply

    If my memory serves me correctly Charles Colson also faced similar questions about the validity of his conversion. All new believers need to be lovingly discipled in God’s Word to give them a firm foundation.

    • Kim Beazley 1 January 2024 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Kathy. With half a dozen books of his on the shelf I should have remembered him. But I suppose the fact that he had done what he did in Watergate made people cautious. we can only hope that Hirsi Ali is discipled as well as you hope, and that she does similarly great deeds as Colson did.

  2. Warren Brown 1 January 2024 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    A key is in the Lord’s Prayer “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”
    As we are forgiven – we show forgiveness,
    As we have been loved – we show love,
    As we have been given compassion – we give compassion,
    As we have been given grace – we give grace,
    etc. etc
    Also remember Matthew 7 – Judge not that you be not judged….
    “Grace will lead us home”

    • Kim Beazley 1 January 2024 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Warren. Yes, you’ve captured it well.

  3. Kym in Adelaide 5 January 2024 at 9:51 am - Reply

    G’day Kim
    Thanks – well said !

    • Kim Beazley 6 January 2024 at 10:27 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Kym.

      Your support is really appreciated!

  4. Jim Twelves 6 January 2024 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Kim, thank you so much for bringing us Ayaan’s story. I have admired her for many years now, and her way of articulating the world as she sees it. In her interview with UnHeard, the crucial point for me, was her acknowledgement that western civilization ‘is’ superior to any other! That took so much courage and conviction, and I like to think that her faith in Jesus Christ, brought her that revelation.

    • Kim Beazley 8 January 2024 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Jim, strangely, it was the very issue you found crucial, and which is of course a central truth, which her detractors on social media found suspect, claiming that it brought her conversion into question as a cultural convenience. So yes, it did take courage and conviction beyond the intellectual level. Of that there can be no doubt.

      But it’s also been an issue often taken up by her husband, the historian Niall Ferguson. For example, I have the DVD set of his BBC-TV series, “Civilization – Is The West History?”, where a number of the same issues are covered. I had to pay good money back then for the DVD’s. You can now see them for free on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQfmv9fIfu0&list=PLXoujgzuzBV68V2Jg-UbWgkhOrZaC4XBi).

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