Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Out of this world
I was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
on Saturday night, watching the Brooklyn Philharmonic
work its way through a program on stargazers and others (Holst's The Planets
was performed, with film from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
playing on a screen above the orchestra).
To my surprise, sitting in the row in front of us in the balcony was Ayaan Hirsi Ali
, the Somali-born Dutch human rights activist, whose courageous stance in favor of freedom of speech and tolerance in a film about women and Islam
cost filmmaker Theo van Gogh
his life, led to numerous death threats against her and the removal of her Dutch citizenship over a technicality, and, finally, exile in the United States, where she works at the American Enterprise Institute
She was in town, she told us, after we'd introduced ourselves and thanked her for her courageous work, recording the audiobook version of Infidel
, which currently sits at #51 on the bestseller list on Amazon.com. Reading from your own book is not exactly taxing, and running for your life it isn't, but it had taken her three hours to produce forty pages, she said, and her publisher had put her in a small room in Manhattan and told her to get on with it. Ah publishers: What sweet, understanding souls!
I found it hard to say anything, since Ms. Ali is even more beautiful in real life than in photos or on film, and I didn't want it to look like I was stalking her. The one thing she asked me, immediately, was whether I was Dutch. "No, I'm English," I said. Our conversation didn't go much further than that, since she then went downstairs with her companion and disappeared into the night. Next time this kind of thing happens, I'm going to say I'm Swedish. Who flees the Swedes?