WWAD – What Would Ayaan Do?

In the aftermath of yesterday’s horrific attacks in Paris the world has come out showing it’s better side. I think so anyway.

But my view might be completely skewed by the fact that I only follow a combination of wonderful Twitter accounts such as “A Bear” along with “Guardian-y liberal” sane folks like Owen Jones, Caitlin Moran, India Knight – with a splash of Media Diversified, Ali Rizvi and Maajid Nawaz on the side mixed with personal friends and lots of fashion stuff.

As you can probably imagine – limiting my twitter exposure to this helps maintain my sanity and limit my (mostly entirely internal) rage attacks against the uneducated, ignorant drivel stemming from other “news sources” and “opinion leaders”. Yes, I am fully aware of how skewed this is and no, I have no intention of changing this whatsoever.

One Opinion Leader that I have admired for many years now and who is speaking out again as a result of yesterday’s brutalities is the one and only Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To me Ayaan’s life story is living proof of everything that is good and right and worth defending and protecting in our liberal world.

Born in a war torn Somalia and arriving in The Netherlands as an asylum seeker, Ayaan not only went on to learn the language and educate herself to post-graduate level – she was then also democratically elected to the House of Representatives in the Dutch parliament. Yes, then there was the huge scandal around her application and she was stripped of her Dutch nationality (that I as a Dutch person am ashamed of) and moved to the US. All this while she also continued to give a voice to the movements against female genital mutilation, Islamism and for women’s rights. For this she has been awarded numerous awards in different countries and also  made a fellow at the Kennedy Government School at Harvard University.

Time and again Ayaan has received death threats and needed police protection and to go into hiding, but she has never let this stop her activism for the causes that she believes in and continues to champion.

Some people believe and say that Ayaan has gone too far, that she causes unnecessary provocation (especially with her work with Theo van Gogh on the “Submission” movie that resulted in his murder), that she is too rigid in her beliefs and not flexible and moderate enough, that she only ever has one message and her own agenda.

Perhaps yes, she might very well be rigid and I do not necessarily always agree with all of her views or how she might choose to express them.

But regardless of this (to me as a female, multi-ethnic person who moved from Asia to Europe) Ayaan remains proof that our world, our beautiful countries are a wonderful place where it is possible for an asylum seeker who is Female, Black and Muslim to access such education and achieve political success through democratic process whilst continuing to speak up for her (to many) controversial causes that other people are afraid to lend their voice to.

Let us not give up our hope on this world or let the horrific deaths of Charb and his team be in vain. Let us continue to grow and nurture a world of positivity, liberalism, opportunity, support, empowerment and freedom of expression. Let us keep a world alive in which we encourage and support many future generations to be their own Ayaan without persecution or fear.

je suis charlie


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